The bearded stranger had just climbed out of the car after the three hour car journey from Port-au-Prince to Papaye and was standing in a grove of trees, stretching his legs. I warned him that it was dangerous to stand under a coconut palm, a coconut would hurt his head. I then offered him a quick tour of the compound which contained our lodge, called Auberge Mother Camelia Lohier of the Order of the Little Sisters of St Theresa of the Infant Jesus.
But dinner came first and we fed him stew, including za boi, a finger-shaped mix of flour and water, followed by strongly-scented citronelle tea improved by the soft sweet smell of the sugar made locally from cane. His nose was still needed as I showed him round the compound. The lodgings, then the school. Because we are nuns it’s a private establishment but very popular in the Papaye and Hinche area: 105 children signed up for Year 7 (aged 14) this year. On top of the list posted on a pillar were Alttidor Steeve and Saint-Marie Mattanie.
The first smell was the almonds. We peeled off the husk and sniffed the fruit inside: we use this more than the nuts in fact. There was the occasional clunk as almonds fell to the ground: but not dangerous like the coconut. Second, the mango trees. Full-grown and bursting with fruit. More than we can eat and the smell of rotting mangoes on the ground sometimes overpowers the smell of the ripe ones. We grow Dodouce, I was telling him as stood in a grove of mango trees, one of the 160 varieties available in Haiti but the gourmets prefer Baptiste. That was when a mango landed on my head.