Once upon a time, Christopher Columbus discovered Haiti….

When I was younger in Haiti, I enjoyed visiting “Quai Colomb,” a park erected in memory of Christopher Columbus by the harbor of Port-au-Prince on the Bicentenaire, a brand new name for Croix-des-Bossales.

It was always a delight to wander around this place early evening where the waves of the seashore carried some salty air to the bronze sculpture of Columbus’ face and also the remembrance of thousands of kidnapped Africans dropped off this place.

The last time I saw this Columbus’ statute was on the basement floor of the City Hall building in Port-au-Prince when it was dechouke (uprooted) in 1986 from its socle by the population accusing Columbus of Haiti’s dire situation.

These memories came to my mind early this morning, December 5th, on Christopher Columbus day discovery of Haiti.

History-Key-Christopher-ColumbusIn preparation for the release of “HaitiShift,” my next book on Haiti for 2019, I just read last night a chapter from Boies Penrose’s book “Travel and Discovery in the Renaissance.” It contains some good contents on Columbus’ voyage from Spain to the new world and his settlement in Haiti.

This book also brought some fresh memories to my mind about some history lessons I had to memorize word by word by heart from elementary classes.

Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy. Since childhood, he enjoyed the sea. As a young man, he had a vision, and an intense enthusiasm to discover new lands.

Understanding the earth is a sphere contrary to the knowledge of his epoch, he had gone on multiple voyages in the Mediterranean before his 1492 great adventure.

He managed to find sponsorship from the Spanish queen Isabella who put him in contact with the Pinzon brothers who put three boats at his disposal: La Nina, La Pinta, and La Santa Maria.

Columbus was captain of La Nina. The Pinzon brothers, sailors of skill and experience, took command of the other boats.

The expedition left the Spanish port of Palos on August 3, 1492. “It was the most important single voyage,” Boies reported.

After two months of sailing, they saw lands, which turned out to be San Salvador, on October 1992. Salvador, the savior. Columbus has been saved. His sailors became impatient, and exasperated. Some threatened to kill him.

Others, led by one of the Pinzon’s brothers, made defection and sailed away in the Pinta on their own at the end of November.

Native Indians told him of a great island he discovered on December 5th, which he called Hispaniola, Little Spain. He took formal possession of the island for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. This was the first Spanish Colony in the New World.

The weather was bad. The Santa Maria, the biggest flagship, was wrecked on a coral reef. It was broken up. Columbus erected a fort off Cap-Haitien with its timbers, called Natividad.

He traveled back to Spain on January 4, 1493, leaving 39 sailors to constitute the ancestor of Haiti, and all Latin American colonies.

What happened after he left ?

This colony became the engine of wealth creation for several European Nations and the place of the biggest human trafficking in History. In my next post, I will write about what he left.

My Thanksgiving story (part 2): A very.. very cold roadtrip drive

Jonathan kept driving. We had more than 3 hours to go. And it was getting colder and colder inside the car. The thermometer indicated 36 F.

The farther North we drove on US 27, the lower the temperature became.

The cold air is filtered in from the windows, and from the bottom of the car.

“Woah… does this car have any heat?” Axel asked.

“No, no heat,” I replied.

The mechanic shot it off to repair an AC pipe which was draining water inside the car.

It was very dark outside. After more than 35 minutes driving on US 27, we came across the very first gas service station which was opened.

Axel asked Jonathan to stay there for a minute. He wanted to use the restroom and also to have some heat.

We stayed at the gas station. I filled up the tank with fuel. My hand could not hold the pump for long. I alternated both hands right, and left, to pump.

Mariejo, Jonathan, and Axel went inside. I reached them after pumping the gas.

As soon as I got inside, I felt relieved. There was heat. I rubbed my hands together, my eyes glancing on the walls looking for an electric outlet to recharge my phone.

My phone battery died. Every body cell phone was almost dead.

We are in the wilderness. We are somewhere in Georgia. I even don’t know specifically in what county I was at the moment. It was 3:05 am.

The clerk store was a lady who was by herself serving 2 customers. She asked us to remain close to the counter to make sure she saw us.

John replied very courteously with a “yes, ma’m.”

I found an empty outlet and plugged in my phone before I got back close to the counter where the clerk could see me.

I bought a small cup of hot coffee. We left the convenient store thanking the lady to have hosted us for the last minutes and to give us a respite from the cold.

We got back in the car. It was very cold, very cold.

We had two more hours to drive before we reached the Joly’s hone. Jonathan felt tired and asked to switch drivers.
I took over the wheel and continued the road. My hands were cold, and crampy. My toes as well.

I started some exercises with my right hand closing and opening and counting to 30. Then I did the very same thing with my left hand … 1-2-3-4…. up to 30. Then my right toes, left toes controlling my breathing…. breathing in to 30 and breathing out to 30.

My mind has taken control over my body. I became accustomed to the cold in the moment.
Jonathan fell asleep. In the back, Mariejo and Axel are in total silence under the cover of their sweaters.

“Are you doing ok, ”I asked. Mariejo said “yes.” I told her “we are almost there.

”We kept going, passing Fort Benning, Columbus, and exited to I-85 North towards Atlanta.
Axel told me “we will stay in that road for 80 miles.

”Our temperature inside was now at 32F. I drove on cruise at 80 miles per hour. In one hour we will be in Atlanta.

“We’re getting closer,” I shouted. We kept going North on I-85. There are very few other cars and trucks going or coming our ways. I reflected on life, talking to myself in my mind.

I felt less cold approaching our destination. I felt more energetic. It was almost 5:00 am, and I have been driving for a full 13 hours. I was not sleepy, and continued with silent exercises of breathing in and out, and fingers and toes closing and opening.

Thoughts of why I did not drive my other car, or rent another SUV kept coming back in my mind. I chased them away and started a conversation on what we will be doing this weekend in Atlanta with our friends and families.

We exited  I-85 to an new road. Axel told me we will stay here for 11 miles. Then 3 miles in another one. The roads are becoming more local, with stop signs, and street lights, houses on both sides.

Siri spoke to us more often. Then, we had some very narrow paths on which to stay o.7 miles.

Everybody was up. We were really getting closer.

“You’re arrived,” Axel phone said. It was 5:43 am, still dark. We saw the address on the mail box, but we were not quite sure which house we had to go to.

“Call them,” Mariejo said. Axel, whose phone was the only one on, does not have the Joly’s numbers.

Jonathan had a one percent left and called her godmother.

“Maren’n, nou deyo a – Godmother, we are outside-,” I heard him say.

Axel and Marijo said this is the house. They recognized Rene’s cars in the driveway. They got off, picked their luggage in the trunk, and moved to get in the house .

We saw a light just turned on inside. We rushed to the door. Mama, with a bright smile, opened the door while staying inside.

What a relief to be there at last. It was warm. We were trembling. Our bodies were shaken. Now inside, we are experiencing the value of the heat.

Rene came to great us. I shook his hand.

“Waoh,” he exclaimed pulling his hand from mine. “Your hand is very cold,” he said.

And the party began.. “What do you want… coffee, tea, hot chocolate,” asked Rene.

Mariejo had tea, I had coffee.

I told them the story of our trip, the hectic traffic, how close we were to get hit by a big truck, the cold, the car…

We laughed and shared more stories and our gratefulness to be with them at this moment to enjoy their beautiful home.

While Rene was pouring some more coffee in my cup, I told him I am here to enjoy his guitar playing,, and sharing funny family stories.

It has always been a pleasure to be in Rene’s companionship. I can sit quiet after a good meal, sipping some red wine, listening to him playing his guitar, or participating in a good conversation, or sharing books.

He just added a new hobby to his list: painting. Some of his surrealist pieces are exposed on his dining room. This is a try.

I pulled one with his initials RJ at the bottom right and told him I just need to add F at the end to make it Roosevelt Jean-Francois instead of Rene Joly.

We were exhausted, but content. We laughed, and laughed about our stories.

That’s what life is, sharing moments and experiences with those you appreciate. I had another cup of coffee with bagels, and chicktay. It was pretty good.Very good food.

Manmit mwen came to greet us. She was very happy to see Axel, ( oh … sa a se yon Gwo gason papa) her godson Jonathan, myself, and her sister Mariejo who really called her manmit mwen.

“Figi w fre – looking good,” II told her … “figi w fre… wey wey …. ban’m yon lot –looking good.. tell me something else..” she said.

It was 7:00 am this Thanksgiving Thursday. Time to go to bed. We were discussing who was going where, in what room….

I slept, woke up at 10:00 am, picked my cell phone, and wrote this 2 part story. Just for you.

Here are some more pictures…




My thanksgiving story: The Jeep, Le gros Camion (the big truck), the cold, and us

I just woke up. I went to use the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror, and told myself I have to tell you that story.
This is our Thanksgiving road trip story. A story of the car we drove, the accident we were saved from a big truck, and the cold we endured during a 14 hours’ drive trip.
I am sitting at the basement of the Joly’s home. On the sparkle wood floor, I picked up my phone and laid it on a small round table which contains a piece of bread in a transparent plastic bag, lying side by side to a half full bottle of purified water, and a container of meds filled of drugs with specific ones for each day of the week.
All around me was beauty as I was recollecting my long last day.
The house was silent. Everyone was still sleeping. I was searching for a piece of paper to write, and decided to write my story on my phone, and post it on my blog. Just for you.
It’s almost 10:00 am this Thursday Thanksgiving in Fayetteville, GA, where I have been since early this morning after a long…. long drive from my home in Tamarac, with a stop in Tallahassee, where I have to pick up Axel, my other son.
I left Tamarac Wednesday at 4:30 pm. I drove my 1999 Jeep, instead of the black S-500 Mercedes, or renting a car. I was with Mariejo, my wife, and Jonathan, my son. Jonathan left his job early, parked his car in our home, to drive with us. Cassy, my daughter, did not want to come.
I filled up the Jeep at the Marathon gas station on Commercial Boulevard and 70th Ave. I liked the price: $2:35 for a gallon of ‘unleaded 87.’ 
Everything went well even if Marijo did not like my idea to drive the Jeep for this trip.
“Every time I am in this car, I feel anxious, my heart races,” she said with an air of disappointment.
She wanted me to rent a car as we usually do for such a long trip. But, I did not want arguing about how much money it will cost us for this weekend.
I know the Jeep can make the trip pretty well.
The traffic was very hectic on Turnpike going North. “Heavy traffic, expect delays,” we read this message on some electronic signs every 2-3 miles. We moved bumper to bumper, very slowly, a pas de tortue. It took us almost 2 hours from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach. This is a half hour commute on normal time.
The Jeep is the car I drive every day. I like it. It has 273786 miles on the speedometer. It runs well,but has some issues I learn to deal with. 

It sometimes overheats when the radiator fan does not work well. I have witnessed how Frantz, my mechanic, fixed it a couple of times by adjusting the power box. That’s the main issue. The tires are good, I’ve bought recently some second hand ones and have them balanced. The engine is strong, and the transmission has a slow delay when I make a left turn. Besides that, this Jeep takes me anywhere in Florida. The trunk is filled with all my tools. I have what I need in there. And I like it.
But, the Jeep has some issues. Issues that do not bother me. It has no radio (no radio, no problem. I can use my cell phone and the Sony Bluetooth headset Jonathan gave me.) The gas fuel gauge is always on empty, The Jeep has no cigarette lighter that I could use as a car charger for my phone. (No car charger, no problem. I can manage my phone energy between my audio listening, GPS, and phone checking….)
The Jeep AC has one control: full cold blast. (No Ac control, no problem. It’s South Florida, it’s supper hot most of the time, full blast AC makes it cool very quick.) But, the full time, full blast AC fan produces a weird noise inside the Jeep that I don’t like at all. I tolerate and learn to drive with having most of the time my headset on listening to my self-development audios.
This is the Jeep I will take my wife and two sons for this thanksgiving roadtrip.
I turned the AC off shortly after Port Saint-Lucie. It was just a little hot, but I could stand it. I solved two issues: the AC fan weird noise, and the full blast cold air it was pushing for the last 3 hours straight to my right hand holding the wheel. 

Marijo and Jonathan said nothing, and I kept going North.

The temperature was 68 F. It was 78 in Tamarac when we left. We made our first stop at Fort Pierce rest area. There was no place to park. 
“There are a lot of people here,” Marijo said.  Iis this the way it is normally or is it for Thanksgiving?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied, looking for an empty space to park the Jeep.
Mariejo and Jonathan got off and rushed to the restrooms. I finally found a spot far away from the entrance.
I walked in. People were getting in and out of the facility as a beehive. Some were sitting eating, others stood in line to order; kids were running around. People looked happy. Their mood showed so. Couples were walking hand in hand. The fun was contagious. And I slowed my walk to grab Marijo’s hand while waiting for Jonathan to show up.
We continued our way up North. The farther we drove North, the lower the temperature became, and the less fuel we had in our tank.
The gas light was on all the time, I finally filled up again on I10 at a Busy Bee Station. Jonathan went inside to purchase coffee. He gave me one cup and he took turns driving all the way on I 10 until we reached Tallahassee to pick up Axel.
When Axel came, he did not keep things for himself. He started talking right away. He doesn’t like the Jeep. He knows everything about the Jeep. He failed his first driving test on the Jeep. He passed his 2nd driving test on the Jeep. He ran out of gas – a ‘pan’n gaz’- with the Jeep. He had his time with the Jeep overheating while getting back to school. He knows everything wrong about the Jeep and always question the validity of this car.
“Hey, you come with this car. Do you really think this car can make the trip?” he asked.
Jonathan started laughing. Mariejo started talking about the car as well, saying she knew about my choice at the last moment. 

Axel managed to get on the car in the back seat. His legs are too long to have a comfortable good sit behind Jonathan.
I set up my GPS from Tallahassee To Fayetteville, GA. Siri told us it will take 4:18hours and we will go through US 27.
I was in the front passenger seat. John was driving. Axel was in the back with Mariejo.
We were followed the GPS. It was totally dark outside. Tallahassee is a dead city after 11:00 pm.
We were approaching a small bridge on old Bainbridge Road at the intersection of US 27. My eyes were on my cell phone following the GPS trajectory of the road and paying attention its recommendation.
Siri told us to make a slight left at the intersection where our road merged with US 27. I told Jonathan to turn left. He was hesitant and started a complete left turn going in reverse way of us 27.
I heard him say “no, it’s a wrong way.” He made a swift change. It was a less than 2-3 second decision. All I saw, in that split second, was a heavy truck passing close to us as a flash light. I heard a huge noise, I felt its wind shaken our Jeep. I said “waoh…” le gros camion… (the big truck -When he was a kid back home in Haiti, every time Jonathan saw a truck, he said pointing his finger to it ”le gros camion.”)
Jon was very calm. He did not panic. I simply asked him “Have you seen the truck?”
He said no and kept driving. Mariejo and Axel did not say anything in the back.
I got a deep moment reflecting. It was an introspective moment thinking about what would happen if this truck had hit us. I would not be there to tell you that story.
I thought about Cassy, my daughter, the books I have been writing, and other projects I am working on.
I shifted my mind on the spot. I chased the thoughts about the truck. I silently prayed and thanked God to give us this opportunity to continue our life. All the glory to Him. I decided to imagine being a life coach, picturing myself speaking, writing books.
In my mind, I wanted to keep that story for myself and did not even discussed it with the ones in the car. But, this morning I woke up and felt the urgency and need to share it with you.

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