The more time I’ve spent in Haiti, I find that I enjoy the country and its people more and more. My parents made a decision to move our family here with the purpose of discipleship. I’m beginning to learn the language. Every day I see the lives the Haitian people lead. I even have Haitian friends.
and friends show adversity and hesitation towards the idea of visiting Haiti. I realize it is not us or the country, but their limited knowledge of Haiti that causes them to be afraid. I hope to dissolve some of those fears by way of exposing Haiti as honestly as I am able. Maybe they’ll reconsider and come and visit.
When I first visited Haiti (it’s strange to remember) I had a very limited knowledge of the country, I was left with quite a bit of room for imagination. In a manner of speaking, I didn’t consider that Haiti might have a sun like America did, or grocery stores, or playgrounds, or showers ect. I just didn’t know what Haiti was! It was a blurry confusing shadow lending itself to fear and doubt.
Some common fears amongst my American friends when they think about Haiti are: murder, extreme poverty, and diseases. Each of these exist here, but they look much more daunting through the lens of the US Embassy website and various photos on television and the internet. Every country has their share of such horrors.
In preparation for writing this paper, I asked my mom what one of her biggest fears was the very first time she came to Haiti. “I thought that everyone wanted to kill me,” she said bluntly. I think that many people think this way. Would you be afraid to take a walk in a common Haitian neighborhood for fear of your life?
Out of curiosity I searched the internet for the murder per capita in Haiti compared with other countries in the world. On a list of the top twenty highest ranked countries for murder Haiti didn’t even make the list, but here are some of the countries which did: Russia, Brazil, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and the Cayman Islands.
I can sincerely say that our experience with the Haitian people, since living here, has been quite positive. Rarely, in my daily encounter with Haitians, am I really afraid for my life including the times we take walks in our neighborhood.
After the big earthquake in Haiti, my mom was seeing and showing me horrific photos of piles of dead bodies; victims of the earthquake. Horror stories were read about people being trapped under buildings for days and days with nothing to eat or drink. Some were uncovered and lived, but others were not so fortunate. From various blogs and news channels, Haiti appeared to be nothing but crumbled buildings, heaps of dead bodies, and mass graves. The story that was told was nothing less than bleak.
About a year or two later, when we moved to Haiti, we were talking with some Haitian friends about their experience during the earthquake. Somewhere during the conversation the question was asked, “Did you guys see lots of dead people around town like we did in America on the internet?” The answer was not really. Some said they saw a few, but mostly behind hospitals where the nurses would put them until they could be taken away to be buried.
The earthquake was extremely destructive! Many lives were lost! Buildings were crumbled to the ground. But Haiti was not dead bodies on every street corner like we thought it was.
It is the same with the believed bareness of the country’s landscape. Once a couple came to visit us, when we asked them what one of the major things that impacted them about the country was, they said, “I never imagined Haiti so green! From what I heard, no trees grew here at all.” It is a rumor that nothing grows in Haiti due to major erosion. There definitely is a lack of bountiful good soil. Even so, trees, vines and fruits in Haiti are everywhere.
All that to say, Haiti has abundant bad press working against its reputation. Keep in mind as you read the warnings and view the dramatic photos that it may not be as drastic as it appears. Media capitalizes on the negative drama.
So, if Haiti isn’t what the internet and television says it is, what is it? What is Haiti really like? Why should people come to see it?
Haiti is a beautiful tropical country. Sharp awe-inspiring mountains are everywhere. We’ve found that this island can’t but help sprout all over with palm trees, various kinds of flowers, and fruit trees like mango, avocado, apricot, and banana.
Haitians love to sing, especially while they work. The word in Creole for sing is Chante (pronunciation: Shawn-TAY) It fits its meaning far better than the English word, I think. Often times, we have Haitian’s over to our house for supper, or spend time with them in Bible Study, or are nearby during one of their prayer groups, and again and again we witness their joyful singing. They remain joyful in situations when I would be near my wits end. They are long-suffering, relational people. They love to do things together. Often we will see Haitians in difficult situations, and then they smile or laugh. Haitian people have something to give to those of us who have grown up in the western culture.
I think that it’s a very good, healthy, and educational thing to visit another country, no matter where it is on the map. America is not so much the norm as it is uncommonly unique because of its flourishing economy, less-corrupted government, and the Constitution. To leave its borders and see what other parts of the planet are like can be extremely fun, and definitely enlightening.
And now, concluding: Perhaps we’ll have the privilege of showing you this, our new home, Haiti. The mango juice is on us! ;)