Back in Action – In Haiti – for a week

            I’m reviving the blog. For travel reasons only; or maybe it’ll be something that I come back to every once in a while when I feel like I have something worthwhile putting on here.

            I’m currently in Port-au-Prince, Haiti for work. For those who I don’t speak with on a regular basis, I work for an international literacy organization. It’s amazing and I love every aspect of it, especially when I get to visit some of the amazing people who run our programs in different parts of the world. This is my first work trip and I’m having an amazing time, learning a lot (including some Haitian Creole), and meeting so many great adults and children. At the bottom of this I will post what I’ve written the first two days I was here. Today is day 4.

            There is a lot that people told me about Haiti before coming here. Some said it’s like no where you’ve been, that living in India will definitely help the shock factor, that I have to be careful all the time, that there are international NGOs everywhere; I even had some people ask my why would I go to Haiti. I’d like to clear some stuff up (from my point of view that is).

            There are a ton of international NGOs here. Every day we see at least two SUVs with the UN, World Vision, IRC, and Mercy Corps. They’re usually white SVUs. The SUV factor isn’t special though; all cars (minus a handful) are SUVs. They have to be SUVs because the roads here can get pretty bad. Most of the time they’re fine, and then there’s an inward speed bump or an entire road that’s just not finished. The hotel we’re staying in is almost all foreigners and very wealthy Haitians. It’s weird. I’ve mentioned to my friends before that I feel a little uncomfortable. As you probably know I’m not the high-class traveler. This hotel isn’t the most luxurious hotel I’ve ever been in by any means, but it’s definitely nicer than the average Haitian can afford, and that reflects in the clientele. It’s not personal travel, it’s work travel, so with that, I get a different experience, which I think is important anyway. At the hotel bar we met a man named Nathan who is doing some work for the CDC and training people on vaccination refrigeration. He’s been here several times and is helping us figure out what restaurants we can go to each night, and giving us a third person to talk to once we get out of the work environment.

            Back to Haiti – It reminds me of India, a lot. The building structures are similar, the roads are similar, the smells are similar, the temperature is similar. I really don’t feel any shock at all from any of it. The only difference is that it’s very, very hilly. It’s been interesting to drive around. I can’t imagine even trying to walk up some of these hills. We often have to use the 2 or L gear of our car. We do have the best driver and the most amazing translator. They’re both lovely men who have been working with us for several years. The driving is similar to India as well. I took a picture the other day of the traffic. It’s like India with SUVs. There are many motorcycles as well, and no one wears helmets here either. On the longer stretches of road along side the edge of the hill there are street vendors who sell metal work, pottery, paintings, and amazing wood furniture. In the city areas there are vendors who sell everything and anything including fruit, vegetables, clothes, gadgets, and pills. I’ve never seen the pill sellers anywhere else. They have a big container that ends up looking like a giant ice cream cone with pills that outline it in pretty pill colors.

The work is great. I love the kids. Yaya and I are running a camp for kids who are in our programs during the year along side the organization we work with and their leaders. We did a few trainings as well. Every day has required full energy, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Today was the best. The kids are now comfortable with us. I can finally understand enough Haitian Creole to know if they’re asking if I’m hungry. I can sing along with most of the songs, and the kids jump, run, and play with us as if they’ve known us for years. It’s lovely.

Tonight we’re going out (rather late and maybe unwisely) to see some Haitian music. It’s good to get some of the culture, I think. It’s great to see that our programs can work in so many cultures. I love skyping with our partner organizations and hearing updates on their work, on the kids, but these are people, up until now, that I’ve never met, and that’s what makes all the difference right now. I’m meeting the people I’ve read about, I’m in the places that I’m told about, and I get to see the kids who participate in our programs up close and personal. I even get to teach them a song or two. I’ll try to put in some photographs later. But here’s one just for now.

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