La Tonnel, andeyo na la morn

lakay dokte

In mid-December 2001 I vwayaj'd up country to La Tournelle (tonnel en kreyol?), the little village above Leogane and Darbonne where Bob Corbett supports some activities.

I went with Dokte' Phillip, who was dispatched to La Tonnelle five years ago or so. Dok Phillip has not left Hayti since arriving nine years ago. His passport has expired, he has no visa, and is a real back country dude. I met Dok Phillip four years ago at St Josephs Home for Boys, whence he gets his mail. Luckily he was arriving at Delmas to pick up mail shortly after I visited there. I was hoping that my gift of Avicenna's medical text from the high Islamic empire would have arrived in time, but that shipment was slow to arrive thru the Lynx Air maze.

So, I arranged to meet up with Dokte' Phillip in Darbonne at 7am on friday morning. As this is quite a ways from Centre Ville Lucienne and I drove my haitian motocycle to Leogane to stay in a local hotel the night before.

Ah... No hotels in Leogane, incredibly. Stayed in a nice Haytian beach hotel back up the coast about 10 klicks. Cost 95 $ht.

We met up at the donkeys in Darbonne, just 100 meters from the nice new soviet sugar plant which has been sitting idle since one test run in the summer. They say that the haytians did not like the sugar. Too 'dirty'. I assume that means not white enough.

fig Met up with Phillip and Tomas and Clotilde. Tomas works with Phillip, learning animal husbandry and medicine.

Up the river we go, Phillip and I on the moto, crossing the river twice and drying it out afterwards. There is a house at the bottom of the mountain which we are to ascend where Tomas keeps a bicycle. I park the moto there, along with helmet and tool kit and chain. Much weight left there.

Luckily my backpack is going up with a donkey train, along with a new treadle sewing machine, four 55 gallon barrels and many other supplies. The gwoupman which Phillip works with now owns 11 donkeys ( used to be 12, but the pregnant one fell off the side of the mountain, incredibly ) and one horse.

The machine part of the sewing machine goes up on a donkey, but the table part of it is too awkward to load, and goes up on a gentlemans head. We meet up with him later. He walked four hours up the mountain, hauling a treadle sewing machine base on his head, for 10 $ht: 50 gourdes, which is 2 U$D.

the highway up the morne

From the well and little settlement on the river we commence walking. Up. UP, that is. Three hours sees us arriving at the front gate of La Tonnelle. A short lunch break at a nice shady saddle of the mountain was in there. Pig tongue sandwich. Bon Appetit!

The 'front gate' of La Tonnelle is actually quite nice, a well shaded crest on the mountain, with a dozen or more houses within a hundred meters. The roots of a tree make a very appropriate chaiz. Bon chaiz.

The front gate is, however, still two crests and hundreds of meters below the hillock where Dok Phillip and Tomas make their abode. The house of Mama Tomas it is. Clotilde has come down from Morne Boutton to be miz Tomas.

Oh, Leogane has Haitel cell phone service now, with a signal up on the morne. My ComCell phone does not work at Phillips house, but a climb up to Morne Boutton gives a view over Morne Opak and a clear Comcell signal. We called Michel Geilenfeld from there to check it out.

More later, running out of time at this cyber cafe....

As I was saying last week... ( been away from internet cafes )

The day after the trek up the morne to latonnel (I'll adopt a kreyol spelling of the way moun pronounce it) we sat on the hill all day. The hill with the house where Phillip and Tomas live, avek grann, Clotilde and assorted children. Sometimes it is difficult to tell exactly how many people live in a house in Hayti, you know?

Well, many folks come to lakay Dokte Phillip each day. Down in lavil folks say that Phillip is a hermit. Noo, not exactly. There are always people around in a back country doctors office. Even if it is the packed earth in front of the house.

Lessee, there was the goat that had her chest ripped open by wild dogs. As the attack happened two days previously, Phillip was furious with the negligent owners of the unfortunate Cabrit. She died, after spending cent dolla of materiels on the operation. The Dokte said it was mostly for practice for Tomas.

praktis medisin more medisin

Numerous Cheval and Mules got vacinations. The old folks that make their way up the hill with untreatable old folks complaints. An 85 year old man who complains that he cannot see very well. Oops. Not much that Dokte Phillip can do about that. The nursing woman, about 30 years old, complaining of weakness. She has a heart murmur. Bad valve. She will not see another year.

Morne Kompon Real country doctor/veterinarian work goes on all day, every day. The hospital in Leogane is St Croix, with a good reputation. Folks on la morne don't like to go there tho. They say that it is too expensive and go into PauP to general hospital. I can't figure this, as St Croix says they have a pov ward.

On Tuesday we climbed up to Fort Compon at the top of the morne. Tomas, Clotilde, Lucianne and I made the sortie for market day. The Dokte didn't want to go.
An hour or so of climbing brings us to the fort. No maps that I have seen show the existance of this fort, and the only government presence that this back country ever sees is the registrar of titles for animal sales who shows up at the weekly market. He has a nice chrome whistle and a pad of paper.

market at market A book which I discovered at La Presse Evangelique (The Haitian People, Mr Leburn; original printing 1941) does mention that this fort is one of the ones ordered to be built by Dessalines for the planned retreat of the population up country, along with the destruction of all of the cities. Dessaline was removed, with prejudice, before the plan to evacuate the coasts could be implemented. The forts were, however, built according to his plans.

top of morne at the fort

blacksmith blacksmith Fo Conmpon hasn't seen maintenance in almost 200 years but is still remarkably intact. The cannons remain, waiting to be remounted for more battles against the slaver empire. A blacksmith plys his trade with a charcoal forge behind the cemetery, many cows are tied up on the outskirts of the market, waiting for new owners to take them home.

One can see across the way to Kenscoff from up here. If the clouds cleared up one would see Jacmel. The ocean at Jacmel at least. A few hours exploring the market at Fo Conmpon are enough and we descend thru the clouds back to the peace of latonnel.

gwoupmanWednesday is the day for the regular weekly meeting of the gwoupman peyisan at lakay Dokte. They are studying the essential minerals required in the soil. Oral examinations are given by Tomas or Phillip, with prizes for successful completion of the course. About 35 folks are in attendance this day, out of 65 total members. A big wedding across the morne has distracted many folks.

As the visiting blan I addressed the gwoupman, comparing their work to my experience as a sindikat travay member and officer. Certainly their attendance is better. No television.

meeting One kul projekt is a garden judging contest. That is happening the week after my visit, unfortunately. There were to be prizes for the biggest pumpkin, but the pumpkins haven't grown this year for some unknown reason. A nice new Stanley pickaxe hangs above the door of lakay for the winner of a particularly important contest.

meeting Building new Bourik saddles is a project in progress when I am visiting. The traditional saddles rub the bourik raw between the shoulders. Withers? Something like that. The Dokte is tired of treating abused Bourik and is building new baggage saddles with a round opening in the front so that these hard working bet {beast} can be more comfortable. A nice new brace, a hand drill, was purchased at the hardware store in PauP for this project.

lakou clotilde

This is a rainy week on lamorn, unusual for December, but welcome of course. The nights are cool at altitude. I was even cold for the first time ever on my visits to Hayti. Much rain falls, but the next day folks have to walk to the source, the spring, for water. This is quite a hike, carrying 4 gallons of water back on the head. No one has rain gutters on their houses to fill the basin. Why this has not occurred to anyone is a mystery that we contemplate sitting in the darkness, looking at the unnamed constellations, so close in the mountain night.

The week following my visit lakay Dokte aqcuires a nice rain gutter courtesy of a St Louis visitor, an old friend and frequent visitor of Phillip. I hope the basin fills nicely.

Finally time comes to descend lamorn. The trip down is, of course, less strenuous than going up. The ground, however, is slippery from the recent rains. A walking stick makes the march easier. I could have used one going up.

Back in laville I deposit 500 U$D in Dokte Phillip's account at St Josephs Home for Boys to buy horses. And whatever.. They have 11 Bourik et selmen un Cheval. They need some more horses for breeding. Also to make my next visit easier.

I did not make it over to Gwo So, where Brother Corbett played his recorder to the sound of the waterfall. Next visit perhaps.

Officiel Fotos!

Officiel Officiel Officiel
Officiel Officiel Officiel
Officiel Officiel

The following is a contribution from Bob Corbett about Dokte Phillip.

DokteWhile I enjoy immensely the first part of the story of the visit to LaTonnelle, I thought I'd add a bit about Dokte Phillip, among the most interesting and delightful people I've ever met. Phillip -- I'll leave his family name out, I'm not sure how public he is -- first went to Hait with me back in the 1980s on one of my group trips.

He had earlier been to Africa and developed a significant RELIGIOUS interest in Voodoo. After a few visits with me he came to see me and said: "I want to go to Haiti long-term as a volunteer, have you work for me?" At the time I didn't and offered him the opportunity to teach English in a village on the southern coast west of Okay, Petit Piman. He took it. He soon became discouraged. It was now the time of the de facto government in Aristide's exile and the only serious class members were army folks stationed in the area. Phillip retreated to the andeyo and became a farmer, just raising a huge variety of plants to demonstrate it could be done. He never preached or said what he was about, just raised a huge number of plants.

Farmers in the area were astonished and began to hang around. He began to challenge them to try different and novel crops. Some time later, probably 93-94 I had a project in LaTonnelle and Gwo So (two village on opposite side of the same mountian high, high up near the peak in the mountains between Petit Goave and Jacmel. He went willingly, again, as a volunteer.

He has been there ever since and one gets the feeling Phillip will die there. He raises goats to demonstrate to the local polulation how to do it and now employs a Haitian helper to work on the well-being of the goats. With meagre funding from my organization, he carries on a huge variety of works in this area. He is quite a marvel to behold.

This brings me to the first fund-raising I've done in ages, much to the chagrin of the treasurer of our organization. But, we are in desperate need of funds to fund Phillip's work (I honestly call it that now and not the work of People to People since he does so much, we just write an occasional check for medicines or goats) When I founded this list in 1995 it was to replace a hard copy newsletter/begging letter I used to send to some 2500 people to help support the work of my organization, People to people, Inc. in Haiti.

This is perhaps the fourth or fifth time, max, I have asked for funds for the work of PTP. But, our treasury is drained and Phillip has no support for medicines and goats, his dominant needs. Any funds are fully deductible since PTP is a recognized 504(c)(3) agency with the U.S. government and all is tax deductible.

Please send any check to:
People to People, INc. (make checks payable to the same)
c/o Bob Corbett
1419 Tamm Ave.
ST. Louis, MO 63139

By the way, Phillip is a white guy in his late 40s or early 50s, speaks Creole tankou yon rat and will most likely die never having left Haiti after arriving there in the late 1980s. He seems to have no desire at all to leave the mountains save his relatively rare trips to Port-au-Prince to collect mail. Phillip has been writing a DETAILED journal of his life in Haiti for years and I have the hand written copies which number into the many hundreds, perhaps more than 1000 pages. Some day that will be an astonishing journal for scholar to study.

Bob Corbett


name: latonnel.html
created: 15 March, 2002