Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti Malade?

I would like to share a piece of writing that my husband wrote for the Turnagain Times about Haiti.

I was in Jamaica in 1996 when this weird infatuation with Haiti first sparked. I was walking with a local on a beach and I asked him, “Hey, what are the chances of getting a boat ride to Haiti?” He looked at me like I was insane and then went on about “....uh, na mon, that pleece is horrible mon... poor and dangerous mon...” He made Haiti sound like the absolute end of the world, and It was at that moment that I started keeping tabs on Haiti. Now, 14 years later, the only way to describe my feeling about Haiti is that it’s impossible to describe my feelings about Haiti.

It was in February in 2004 when me and Erin first landed in Port Au Prince. Then president Aristide had just been overthrown in a bloody coup d’etat and the entire world was focused on Haiti. And regardless of all the horrible news being reported, and the apparent mess that waited for us, there was no way I was going to cancel the trip. Erin was understandably a bit apprehensive, especially when we were forced to sign a waiver at the Miami airport claiming we were officially warned by the U.S. government not to travel there.

Then, less than 24 hours of arriving, the seed of Haiti had been planted and we both have been enthralled with that magic country ever since. The first reaction I had when I heard of the earthquake was, “Why?... and why in the middle of the congested, seemingly crumbling mess that is Port Au Prince?” If you were to have flown over Port Au Prince 2 minutes before this earthquake, it honestly wouldn’t have looked that different then after it.

But the thing with Haiti for me and Erin has never been the architecture, or the beautifully sculptured streets, or the lush jungles or mega resorts. Because there’s none of that there. It’s the people. It’s their lifestyle, their history and their spirituality.

I suppose that if I had to somehow scramble around to find a silver lining in this catastrophe, it would be that Haitians have been used to living in extremely difficult, almost surreal conditions for decades, and despite it are the strongest, resilient and quietly dignified people I have ever met.

Most of the structures in Haiti that have been destroyed in this earthquake will never be rebuilt. The rubble that now covers Port Au Prince (and everywhere else in Haiti) will just be morphed into hastily ‘rebuilt’ homes. Their shoestring economy has now been pretty much shut down. BUT, Haitians will breath life back into their beautiful, unique country. The tap taps will run again, the local markets will thrive again and the drums in the hills will beat again.

And I am counting the days to return there once again.

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