Hello everyone, and happy Monday! I know that it has been quite a strange week here in America since last Friday's event, and I will be glad to divulge into all of my thoughts in another post. Today however, I will be talking about my very enlightening, humbling, and awesome excursion to the Caribbean country of Haiti! Now this wasn't my first time in Haiti. I was there with Ashleigh and a few friends back in 2014. Ashleigh knew someone who was having a birthday party (I didn't even know the girl actually, I just wanted to get outta town). Before going there the first time, I admit, I heard a few things about the country's extreme poverty and unsafe conditions. I feel as though it's important not to judge a book by its cover, and also seeing things for yourself, so I went very optimistically, yet cautiously. I was only there for the weekend that first time, so I didn't really get a chance to do much outside of the birthday party and go to the beach, but my more recent trip was a bit longer, and a lot more educational.
The purpose of my travels south were half business, half pleasure. I was helping a bit with a few intimate music shows. It was fun! I love being a part of a show (obviously)! I was mainly doing a bit of introducing for the first show. For the second show however, I surprised the audience by reading one of my writings AND accompanying a beautiful original song played on guitar...dancing! My very first international performance! What a rush! It was no small crowd either, I must say. Also at the end of the show, I got to perform with the legendary Haitian poet and playwright Syto Cave' (I had to learn a little bit of Creole though, which I speak absolutely zero). My mom would be so proud! I was rubbing elbows with all sorts of Haitian elite. I drank Prestige (the beer of choice) sun up to sun down, and also had some of the best darn food I've ever had. Super spicy. I stayed in the lovely city of Delmas which is pretty much a suburb of Port-au-Prince. We went to Petionville (which is another rich suburb) to hang with our new boujee (still not entirely sure how to spell that word) friends. I also stayed one night out at a very fancy type house near the water, with its very own private beach! Everyone I met was so nice and giving and extremely accommodating. I'm very grateful but I do understand that I was simply a tourist and the experience I had was in fact not a true reflection of the larger population of the country.
Over the past decade almost, this island has been hit with quite a few disasters, ON TOP of massive political corruption. Most of the country lives in poverty, so they still haven't quite recovered from everything. Learning from my last trip (and countless days spent sick as a dog (I'll spare you the other visuals)), I didn't use a DROP of water unless it was bottled. Living in America, we don't even really think twice about all the water we use on a daily basis (except maybe my home state Flint, Michigan). At the home where I stayed, there was a very sweet guy who did all the cooking. After the show day, we went with him to visit his sister in one of the slums of Port-au-Prince. Such a different perspective of the city. When we got to her area, we parked on the street and got out. It was Saturday night, so the streets were pretty busy. I felt a bit out of place for the simple fact that, even though I AM black, people there considered me white. I stuck out like a sore thumb. His sister came out to greet us, and she was also the sweetest girl ever! So very friendly even though we didn't speak one word of the same language. She led us back through some super dark and narrow concrete alley with the light of what looked like a glow stick. We then entered into a very small foyer type of situation, that was honestly the size of a large bathroom, with about 15 people sitting on buckets, completely dark except for cell phone lights and glow sticks. There was also a cat and a dog running around. Everybody was just straight up chillin! They all welcomed us with smiles. We then went up a set of concrete stairs with no railing, still pitch black. There were no lights anywhere except a few from the street, but I honestly couldn't really see anything. They gave us a beer and we sat in their living room for a bit trying to formulate some French/English communication. When we were about to leave, they all wanted to take photos with us. I felt sort of like a celebrity to be honest. I'm definitely glad I got to experience some of both ends of the spectrum.
It is truly important when we go places in this great big world to try and learn as much as we can instead of just storming in to do all of the luxurious/touristy things that actual citizens never get to do. I would never want to come to someone's homeland completely ignorant of its problems, just for a few tropical photos and lounging in the sun. I even heard from some of the Haitian citizens that some NGOs (non-governmental organizations, like the red cross for instance), who come down and say there are helping in times of need, actually aren't. They get really high paying salaries to do barely anything except go to the beach all day. I want to try to learn some more French or Creole for the next time I go back too. Americans really suck and other languages! All in all, seeing how the wealthy, middle class, AND less fortunate live.. at least a little bit, I still very much think Haiti is one of the most beautiful places I've been, with a very rich history. Did you know that Haiti was the very first black republic which resulted from one of the most successful slave revolts? The people are very strong, I must say.
P.s. Seriously though people, if you ARE gonna give to an organization, make sure you know the money is getting where it needs to go. Large and small non-profits both have their ups and downs, but just be informed.
P.p.s. No, but SERIOUSLY, the food was bangin. Every meal. I am now on a mission to find good Haitian cuisine in Brooklyn somewhere.
P.p.p.s. During a point where the beer was running straight through me, I had to pee in a bowl in a very small room at one lady's store. Not my worst bathroom experience necessarily.