Mamba, part 2

We had only been in Haiti for a day before we headed up to Desarmes, a rural community in the Artibonite Valley. Out of all the places we'd end up going in Haiti, Desarmes was definitely a favorite. It is lush, green and cools off at night (way more so than Port-au-Prince).

MCC has been in Desarmes since before I was born. In fact, Jean Remy Azor, the MCC Agro-forestry coordinator (who is basically in charge of all of MCC's work in Desarmes) has worked with MCC since 1982. (Although we learned that the work has changed drastically since then, especially in light of the various political climates facing Haiti in the 90s. Jean Remy and Michelet (who have worked for MCC the longest) had to go into hiding for a time when any type of community development group was seen as political and thus a threat. Thankfully, that is no longer that case in Haiti). 
Jean Remy (center) explains about his work with MCC Desarmes. (Also pictured: Elise Quiring, MCC Haiti Connecting Peoples Coordinator and Paul Shelter Fast, MCC Haiti Rep, who were 2 of our leaders on this tour)
You can't go anywhere in the Haiti without the reminder what it means to live in a place with no infrastructure. All you have to do is look down at the road (assuming that there is one) underneath your feet. This is, of course, true in Desarmes as well.
Walking to Rosayln's house in Desarmes. Photo by Stan Swartzendruber
I had to look down at the ground as we walked through the streets. It was a Tuesday, which meant that it was also market day. We passed vendors of many kinds ranging from a woman selling plantains to a man who had a giant cardboard box full of pills in their unmarked plastic sleeves. We weaved our way through the goats and people, pausing occasionally to make room for a moto to pass. I am naturally clumsy on a paved road; so I was not taking any chances on this bumpy gravel road.  I had to watch my feet.

Jean Remy was taking us meet a woman named Rosalyn, who would show up how to make mamba or peanut butter. Mamba is a stable of Haitian life. It is common is eat mamba with bread for breakfast, or even supper as lunch is the biggest meal of the day. (And I mean BIGGEST meal. Many of the MCC Haiti national staff are used to these North Americans with small stomachs). Mamba is very smooth, smoother than the peanut butter we have in the states. Sometimes it also has spices in it such as cinnamon other times it has chilies in it making it spicy. (I have to pass on that kind though).

When we arrived at Rosalyn's house, we entered through the "cactus" fence (sorry I cannot remember what this type of plant is called) to her courtyard or a Lakou, which was this beautiful, lush outdoor space which is an extension of the house and often shared with the neighbors. Rosalyn showed us the entire process of making mamba, from roasting the peanuts, to removing the skins to grinding them, multiple times until the mamba is nice and smooth.
The Lakou
Rosalyn shakes the peanuts to filter out the skins we just pealed off

We were at Rosalyn's house almost all afternoon watching (and taking part) of the whole mamba making process. It was amazing. It is also humbling to realize that my entire life is easy. There is nothing about my life that is hard. Nothing. It does not take me all afternoon to make a small amount of peanut butter because I don't have to make peanut butter.

Rebecca, one of the MCC Haiti reps, told us prior to going home that when we get home we shouldn't feel guilty about taking a nice warm shower or about other things in our lives. Rather, she hopes that we now have a deeper appreciation for the little things.

I think this is so important. It's important to be mindful of so many things. From peanut butter to functioning roads to the safe tap water flowing through our faucets. All these things and our time spent with Rosalyn in her lakou, are what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend.