the curious milk-turquoise color of the water. I told the students, inventing myth as I went along, that the pools are sacred and that if they dive into the pools they are officially Haitian. They were either too naive, too in awe, or too polite to challenge my story.
Being an early riser, I set out on my own at sunrise that Sunday morning to see if I could find a walking route to Bassin Bleu. The usual route required a four-wheel-drive vehicle, a river crossing, several guides, much clamoring for tips, and sometimes begging from women and children along the path. But the topography suggested that the stream should flow down to the sea at the end of the black sand beach that extended a mile to the west, on the other side of the river from the city.
Heading west from the hotel, I passed first through a residential neighborhood. People were up already—children running around ni net, gentlemen engaged in earnest discussions, women cooking akasan and avwàn. The scents of vanilla, cinnamon, and charcoal invigorated my steps. Next I passed through a tiny park on the edge of the sea, populated by young people engaged in walking meditations or committing their devwa (homework) assignments to memory in the shade of magnificent palms. On reaching the beach I removed my sandals and felt the unique feel of black volcanic sand under my feet.
Leaving Jacmel I had to first pass a squatters’ settlement at the point where the Grande Riviere du Sud empties into the bay. The squatters’ homes were perilously assembled like houses of cards on a plain of thick black mud. Pigs were running through the mud, as were children. I had to wade through a small fork in the river to continue on the beach, the mud-stained water coursing black, but cool over the black sand. It being Sunday there were signs of both industry and repose at the river—children meticulously gathering sand shrimp (a delicacy) with a strainer; men loading polished rocks washed down from the river into baskets to be used for construction; men and women bathed while others, their clothes spotless and shoes