3 years ago we were staying in St Louis du Nord for a couple days over Easter- it wasn't safe for us to be out and about the area due to rain and other factors. We stayed at the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission and our dear friend was the director then. NWHCM was a GIGANTIC resource for the area at that time. They fed thousands of people daily and that was amazing. They housed us and fed us during the huge cholera outbreak in 2010. They have a beautiful surgical suite for surgical mission teams to come and use. They have an orphanage for babies/toddlers and an orphanage for disabled kids that is still running. Some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life I met at NWHCM. Sadly, the mission wasn't all bon bagay (good stuff). Anyway....we were stuck there as I said.
Easter. Haiti. Rara bands. Thunder storms. Torrential downpours. Mud. There were fervent, heartfelt religious ceremonies that we didn't understand happening continually. All the electrical energy that goes along with the ceremonies and the thunderstorms was hitting us nonstop-- everything was so intense! And we were not working; we couldn't run a clinic during this special time of year.
So this was Easter 2012. Church started at 730am but people started arriving around 530am after spending the whole night Rara-ing. We watched the Christian ceremony from the rooftop of the mission- of course the sermon was in Kreyol so we didn't understand the words. The whole town and both orphanages were in attendance, as well as all the missionaries. The courtyard was PACKED with people standing everywhere inside, outside, and on the street. The sermon was intense and the volume waxed and waned as the clouds swirled around, unpredictable.... finally after about 90 minutes the sky turned black and CRACK BOOM!!!! The loudest thunder and the most intense lightening display hit right over our heads. I swear that Tricia's hair was standing on end. The entire congregation- including us rooftop viewers- immediately went running for shelter. It rained for the next 24 hours. To be honest, ever since that day I have felt more than a little unsettled over the equinox.
Rara bands are marching bands in Haiti- they have a certain distinct rhythm. They march for miles and miles, with people joining in all along the way. The leader of the band is usually a big religious and/or political leader and usually has a whistle and a whip. They march to celebrate Vodou and to have their voices be heard by everyone. The bands are active for 6 weeks between lent and Easter and seemingly the night before Easter is the big one. I have no clear idea how the religions or Vodou and Christianity intertwine during this time- or if it is an African thing that involves the spring equinox-or if it is something more.
The main instruments in the Rara band are the vaksin (bamboo trumpet) and the klonet (a type of horn); there are also drums, tcha tcha (maracas), bells, kes (a stick-like thing), graj (metal scrapers), flutes, rattles, and twompet (trumpet). The leader toots away on the whistle and whips the whip around to clear their path as they march for mile after mile. This marching can happen anytime during the day or night. If two Rara bands meet up head to head there will be a confrontation. We have stitched up more than one laceration from this sort of thing.
|We took the MAF Flight out of the the Nord Ouest! No way could you drive through the rivers|