My travel itinerary is set. I feel mostly prepared. Although, I haven’t been back in 7 years, and its feels so long ago that I don’t know what to expect or how to prepare in my head for where I am about to go.
I remember the first time I stepped off the plane into the suffocating humidity and the 110 degrees (f) heat. I was fifteen. I had no expectations, fears, assumptions. I was open, you could say. We collected our bags from the airport and went to the exit doors to Port Au Prince. As I stepped out, hundreds of hands were grabbing at my bags, at me, yelling things that I couldn’t understand, and most of them didn’t have legs, or arms, or both. They were crawling towards me, limping towards me. There was a large crowd surrounding me, in my face, demanding something from me that I couldn’t understand. I slowly realised that they wanted to help me with my bags, so that I could give them money. They wanted me to take their taxi, so that I could give them money.
It was a shock to the system, and that was my introduction.
Haiti has a very ambivalent effect on people. Either you are effected, moved and you fall in love – or you never come back again, and you either can’t handle what you are faced with, or don’t care to be.
I fell in love. I fell in love so much that it became my home. For the next five years, I went to Haiti every summer during my school holidays, and when I finished school, I went on my own for 5 months to teach French school in an isolated village which had strong connections with Beyond Borders. W
What attracted me to Haiti was that they had so much to offer and teach me about life, love and humanity. I came from a broken home and grew up in a western, capitalist country.
Buy buy buy. Buy this to make you look better, to make you feel better. Buy all of these material things, and surround yourself with them to make your life better.
There is so much to say about Haiti, and I don’t know where to begin.
One aspect is the raw humanity.
The people, they don’t have anything and yet if their neighbors need food, they will give them what they have and share, even if it means that they eat less. The mentality of ownership is very different. What you have, you share. If your neighbor needs a large pot to cook a large meal, yours is theirs. If they need a hairbrush, yours is theirs.
What is family in Haiti? For the life of me, I tried to figure out who were all the children running around the house where I lived for five months. I stayed with a family, and every day a new childs face would appear. I would say ‘who is that’? Oh that is my cousin. Then I would figure it out that it wasn’t actually his cousin, but some part of the extended family in some way. For some reason westerners have this need to know our relationships in our family – to know, oh this is my cousin. that is my half sister. this is my cousin’s cousin cousin. In Haiti, everyone is simply family. And that is that. No title, no categories. Just family.