Six months ago, in August 2003, I moved to Haiti to become an international teacher. I got a lot of questions from friends and family back home; question like “What is Haiti like?” “What are the Haitian people like?” “Is it safe there?”. So I decided to start this travel blog to document my experiences. Read on to find out what this amazing island is like, and to follow my adventures there!
What is Haiti like? Sleeping in Haiti is like sleeping at summer camp. At night it is hot but usually with a breeze. It is noisy. There is always a dog barking, which then sets off every other dog in the neighborhood, and roosters crowing. I thought roosters only crowed at dawn, but apparently they crow all night. Sometimes our generator or our neighbor’s generator is going, which is quite loud, but at least drowns out the sound of the dogs and roosters, and the occasional goat. If you’re really lucky you might get some city power at night (the provisional government is promising us six hours a day now….) but when the city power is on it makes our fans and other appliances hum, because the wattage is different (during the day you can tell when the city power is on because the lights are dimmer. But at least you can use the hair dryer and toaster oven then). At night sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night, sweating, because the power has gone off and the fans are off. You have to get up and go to the back yard and turn on the Delco, or just try to get back to sleep. Sleeping under my mosquito net always reminds me of a bride’s veil. Occasionally I try to tie it up in a knot and sleep without it, but the mosquitos always win.
In the morning, especially if there’s been rain at night, you can smell the morning like I remember from camp. It’s a nice, green, earthy smell. Haiti, in fact, smells best at six in the morning. But even at six, the streets are full of people walking to work, the tap-taps are running, and even the heavy trucks are heading down from the hills, full of gravel that has been mined from the mountains above us. The deforestation and strip-mining of the land here is devastating, and there’s constantly a need for more building materials. Almost no houses are made of lumber here; the wood supply ran out on Haiti decades ago (only 1% of the forests remain here) and even if there was trees, you can’t build a house with them that will last, because of the rot. The cement buildings are part of what makes Port-Au-Prince so ugly. The nicer buildings and churches are made of stone, which looks prettier. The concrete buildings are gray, plain, unpainted. Many of them are unfinished, lacking a roof or one wall.
In January, enjoying the nicer cool weather, we did some exploring around Petion-ville, including a local market. We also spent a lovely and cool weekend up at our friends’ mountain house in Kenscoff. We really lucked out by having the most wonderful and kind families from our school ‘adopt’ us international teachers by inviting us to their homes for dinners, or for weekends away. What a way to see the beauty of this country!
In early February, all of the international teachers traveled to Jacmel for Carnival weekend. We went on an amazing hike to a waterfall called Bassin Bleu. The next day we watched the carnival itself, a Mardi Grad celebration full of dancers, papier- mâché animals, colorful paintings, and more. It is truly something you have to see for yourself to understand in all its glory.
I’ll be updating this blog frequently over the next two years as I live and teach in Haiti. Click the “follow” button below to follow along and find out more about my adventures in Haiti- and beyond!