This past Saturday Ronald and I headed out to the mountains to take a look at an irrigation project the local farmers would like to get going. We drove motorbikes about 4 miles up a rocky trail before walking another mile down to a small river. I wasn’t sure quite what we were getting into when I set out the day. But anytime the initiative for a project comes from a Haitian I feel like we’re half way to hitting a home run. It turns out this particular home run would have to clear the big green monster at Fenway Park to be successful.
The river has plenty of water, the fields down the way are dry and parched and the local economy could really use the project. But building an irrigation canal the 6 miles through the Haitian countryside I was now looking at would be a serious engineering victory if it ever happened. We started by measuring the flow of the river. Then I sent the boys surveying down the valley to get a feel for the lay of the land.
I fell back and started snapping photos. I went climbing up a bluff to get a better view when I saw these 3 naked little boys leave the river and follow me. The bluff was at least 200 feet above the river, accessed by a steep, slippery trail. The smallest boy could barely make it up the trail, lets call him Johnny. He looked to be about 3 years old but was probably 5 or 6 with malnutrition figured in. He finally made it up to the top of the bluff where I’d snapped a photo of his friends.
When I started back down the trail to the river, little Johnny followed too.
I was going a bit quicker than Johnny and he soon started to cry, and loud. I asked, why is he going back down, doesn’t he live up here? They said he only climbed the bluff to meet you. And he was now crying because I was going to fast for him. I was shocked. Usually the 3 year olds start crying and run away when they see a white guy. So I ran back up the trail and picked up little Johnny, who by the way is wearing nothing but a little necklace with a cross on it. The other kids erupted in laughter.
I took my little buddy to the bottom of the hill and put him on solid ground with not a peep from the little guy. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to solve the big engineering problems facing the irrigation project. But I feel like I won today in the eyes of little Johnny.