A Return Visit to Haiti

four colorful deck chairs overlooking ocean

I took a short trip to Haiti this weekend to visit friends on the island.  I can’t believe it’s been ten years since I moved to Haiti to teach- ten years since I moved overseas!  So I hopped on an American Airlines jet and went to visit Monica and Andy, my second family.

M&A have turned their lovely home into an 8 room bed and breakfast, which is just beautiful.  I got to sleep in the same room I often slept in, so it really felt like home.  They’ve made some awesome additions to the place, but the vista of the bay of Port au Prince is still as beautiful as ever (PaP always looks better from a distance).  We spent the first day and night up in Pacot and in Petionville, having lunch at Papaye and seeing how Petionville has and has not changed since the earthquake and with more development coming to Haiti.  After a lovely dinner- with plenty of wine, of course-, we were all tired and ready for bed.

On Saturday morning we went to the municipal airport and took a 30 minute flight to Cap Haitian, flying over the Citadel on the way.  We landed, and half an hour later we were at the beach house, changing into our suits.  The property is just beautiful, with sandy beaches, an old French fort dating back to the late 1700’s, and a lovely high deck that shows off a great panorama.

We swam, jet skied, and drank lots of rosé wine.  Too much of all three!  It was fun to ride the jet ski and go by Norm’s Place, where I stayed years ago, and Labadee, the port for Royal Carribbean, and spend a few hours at a tiny island, just playing in the warm ocean.We hunted sea glass and visited with some daughters of their workers who were having their First Communion.

On Monday morning it was time to fly back to the capital.  I was pretty much ready to leave the beach, as I was sunburnt and tired.  We went shopping in town, to pick up some Barbancourt rum and spicy peanut butter, and after a final lunch of my favorite Haitian dish- sauce poids and rice– I headed back to home.  My other home.

We show off Haiti to our visiting friends, and more elections

fishing boat Haiti blue water

March was a difficult month at work. The teachers at the other house were having roommate problems, and things escalated to the point where one of them was fired. As she taught US and World History, my favorite two classes, I volunteered to take her two classes and get rid of my sixth grade English classes, who are little monsters. I did manage to get away for a beach weekend with Chris at Kaliko, and that helped, as it was quite nice.

Kaliko Beach Resort Haiti
Deah at Kaliko Resort

Lisa’s parents, and then Pia’s mom and sister, came down to visit us and had a wonderful time. I was starting to feel pretty lonely so I managed to talk Hunter into coming down for the last weekend in March. He agreed, and we had a whirlwind long weekend tour of Haiti! He arrived, and Chris picked him up from the airport. They met us at the Montana Hotel for drinks, then went to Monica and Andy’s house for drinks and dinner. Later that night we all went out in Petionville to Boucane, MacDoo’s, and Barak.

On Saturday we got up pretty early to drive out to Jean Marc’s beach house. That evening we drove up to Monica’s mountain house to spend the night and have a relaxing Sunday. Along the way we had lots of rum punches, more than one wahoo, bought a live chicken (that was pretty damn funny), and generally had a good time. But I was exhausted by the time he left on Monday!

My homeroom had to sponsor school-wide Easter activities, and that added to the extra class I was teaching, was really starting to take its toll on me. Still recovering from Hunter’s visit, and only four days back at work before I had to leave to go home for Amber’s wedding. Stupid American Airlines cancelled our last flight out of the day, so I had to leave Friday morning, and I got home too late for the rehearsal. I did, however, make it to the dinner, and Amber was so happy to see me. Saturday was her wedding, and by the time that was all over, I was exhausted to the point of not being able to do anything else. I spent all Sunday in bed, and was supposed to fly back to Haiti on Monday. But I just couldn’t do it. Exhaustion, a sinus infection, thoughts of Easter activities…. Combined together, I couldn’t face it. I changed my flight to Wednesday and stayed home an extra two days, in bed, trying to get well again.

Deah and Amber, wedding day

In April, Lisa and I were supposed to leave for our Spring Break adventure, a trip to Guadalupe, Martinique, and Dominica. Her boyfriend Vlad picked us up for the airport- an hour late. About half way there, his car broke down. We grabbed a tap-tap and headed the rest of the way to the airport, but our flight was just about to leave and it was too late for us. We changed our tickets to June and we’ll go on our adventure then. For this week, we decided to just plan small fun things for this area. We went to the beach with Tom and Sue and their new baby Jordan, and yesterday we went up to The Lodge and had a long lunch. My friend Yves, who works for a USAID program, asked if I could be UN election observer for the Senatorial elections on Friday. It all turned out pretty interesting.

Before we knew it, the school year was winding down. Tom and Sue are heading to Kuwait for their next teaching job, and I’m going to Nicaragua. Lisa is staying in Haiti another year, and Chris is going to Africa. It was sad saying farewell at the last hashes of the year, but we’re all excited to see what the next adventures bring us. Stay tuned to see what life is like in Nicaragua!

New Teachers New Friends New Travels in Haiti

friends in the water at wahoo bay haiti

The new school year- and my last in Haiti- starts with a bang! We got a new housemate, Lisa, as well as another whole house full of ex-pat teachers! Five new teachers who now live together, plus the five at our house. We introduced them to our friends around Petionville, including our friend Rafael (who took Jonathan’s place at the sugar company), Jean Marc (a cousin of Monica’s who has returned to Haiti to run a family construction business), Chris (works at the embassy), and a few others.  We’ve been hashing a couple of times, including a hash by the dump, where they are building the new embassy, as well as a couple around Pacot, where Jean Marc, Chris, and Rafael live.

A few new clubs have opened up, including a Lebanese restaurant called MacDoo’s -great food and hookah pipes- and we still go dancing at Club Barak, and Boucane Gregoire has a nice outdoor atmosphere.  Tom goes with us a lot, although Sue has been staying home more, as she is pregnant!  We also sometimes see Fran, Melissa, and Kasson and Olivia, the teachers at the Juvenat house.  Malushcka and other hashers are sometimes seen at Boucane, and meeting up at Resto Bar St. Pierre has that “almost home” feeling of the neighborhood bar. On Wednesdays I tutor two of my students and have dinner with their parents, and I’ve been spending more time at the Petionville Club– a cute boy I like is often there. Pia and I bought a car together, so suddenly we are a lot more mobile!

In October, me, Lisa, Jean Marc, Pia, and Chris went to Jean Marc’s beach house to stay for a weekend.  There was a beach concert out at Club Kaliko and that was pretty fun.  It was great visiting the beach and eating all kinds of fresh seafood.

For my birthday I went to the beaches in the Dominican Republic for a really short (24 hour!) All Saint’s holiday.  We all spent Thanksgiving vacation at my number one vacation spot:  Andy and Monica’s mountain house.  It was a fabulous meal and a wonderful, relaxing weekend, although it was also sad, as this was the first holiday without Hans Peter.  While visiting one of the beaches in October, he apparently contracted malaria, and he died in early November, quite unexpectedly.  It has been a very sad time for Ingrid, Hans Ryan, and Verenna.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Chris, going to different functions.  There was a UN party at La Reserve (ironically, right on our own street), which I wound up attending.  We have also been to a UN photography exhibit of our acquaintance Sophie’s, and a dinner and awards ceremony at the Pakistani UN camp.  It’s been really interesting to see the military side of Haiti. Lisa and I went to the Marine Ball and danced it up all evening.

I decided to split my Christmas holiday between home and Haiti- I went to Íle-á-Vache with Chris for a few days, then home for Christmas. I’ll be heading back to Haiti to spend the New Year’s Eve- there’s going to be a big concert and party at the Oloffson Hotel and RAM is playing!

From Jacmel to Cap Haitian, this island is a delight

What is it like being an international teacher? In a country that has no functioning government and a long history of fraud, corruption, and natural disasters? Well, things have been pretty crazy in Haiti since we returned from Christmas break. My classes are going well, although I am always so busy, trying to prep, teach, and grade so many different subjects and classes. I am also working on a lot of curriculum projects as well. But in between getting the generator filled up with diesel, flagging down the water truck to get our cistern filled, and trying (not) to listen to the political rumors that abound, we travel as much as we can, when it’s safe.

woman sipping coconut in Haiti
Linda’ at her beach house, Jacmel

My housemate Christy and I were invited by a work colleague to go visit her beach house in Jacmel for the weekend- it’s always a delight to visit the bustling town of Jacmel. A small pre-Carnival celebration was going on and it was fun to see the city getting ready to party it up.

For our longer Carnival break, Tom, Sue, Christy and I went up to Cape Haitian for a long weekend. We went to the Citadelle, the fortress built by Henri Christophe in 1804. Twenty thousands slaves worked to build the massive structure, as a defense against the French, whom the Haitians had recently liberated themselves from. From the top of the citadel, the Haitian “King of the North” could keep watch over the coastline and the valleys, protecting their island with 365 cannons that had been left behind. You can still see the piles of cannonballs at the fortress, and even Christophe’s body is entombed in his beloved fortress for all time, after he died in 1820. The Citadel was amazing- just breathtaking views and the walls of the fortress are so tall and straight! And of course, being Haiti, there were no fences, railing, or security perimeters around anything, so it was pretty scary walking around the top of those walls!

After visiting both the Citadel and San Souci Palace, we took a small boat to a guesthouse near Labadie Beach called “Norm’s”. It is the same harbor that the cruise ships use when they bring people to Haiti- we tried to sneak into their waterpark, which has bouncy water trampolines, jetskis, and other fun water toys, but no dice. We had a great time, though, relaxing on some little beaches and just walking around the tiny fishing village of Labadie. Unfortunately, towards the end of our weekend, Sue started feeling really sick. The village of Labadie is pretty small, and there was only one doctor around- a Cuban doctor volunteering his time in Haiti. There was no electricity in the village, so I had to grab a flashlight and ask a dozen people for directions to find the doctor, then drag him back to Norm’s guesthouse to see Sue. Her condition was very severe, so we wound up taking that same small boat back to Cap Haitian, and flying back to Port Au Prince, where she had to be admitted to the hospital and have surgery. (She’s doing fine now in case you were worried).

Since then, things in Haiti are getting pretty scary again….. a group of prisoners (including our former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune) broke out of the national prison and have been roaming around at large since then. Yes, once again, this sounds made up, but it’s not. Some very bad people broke into the house of a teacher we work with; they held her, her husband, and children hostage while they ransacked the house for money and weapons. That, and worse things have been happening, and a lot of people are beefing up their security. Our house staff Desinor wants to carry a gun. Hopefully things will get better soon, and not worse.

Since Sue was sick, I got to go with Marie to the recruiting fair in Canada- and I managed to route my flight through DFW so I could see friends and family while picking up my winter clothes. For our Spring Break, we are all planning to go to Cuba (there’s a weekly flight from Haiti), and later in April I am attending a work conference in Quito, Ecuador- I love the life of an international teacher!

A trip to the Dominican Republic, and the Marine Ball in Haiti

Dominican Republic Deah Boca Chica

A vacation, at last! After 10 weeks of work, we have two days off to celebrate All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days (although I prefer to think of it as extra days to celebrate Deah’s Birthday). Tom is with the volleyball team in Venezuela for our tri-annual CAISSA tournament. Sue has gone to Florida to visit her sister and her mom, and I am going to Santo Domingo with my friend Nicole.

Nicole and three of her colleagues from the UN and I all drove to Santo Domingo together. The traffic getting out of Petionville/ Port-au-Prince was horrible, but we were able to cruise right through the border because we had diplomatic privileges, which extend to everyone in the car, so I didn’t have to go through the border hassle or pay the exit tax (which I have always maintained is a big fraud anyway). Before we knew it, we were in Santo Domingo and Nicole and I found our hotel, the Sofitel Nicolas de Ovando.

Hotel Sofitel Nicolas de Ovando

On Saturday Nicole and I got up early, jogged around the Zona Colonia, and ate a huge breakfast. The Colonial Zone is where Columbus built the first settlement on the island. His brother was the first governor of the area, and Columbus’ son lived there also. We saw the Cathedral Primera de las Americas, the first Catholic Church built in the Western Hemisphere. We walked along the Conde, went to an amber museum (amber and laramar are two of the Dominican’s major gemstones) and had a guide show us a few other sites. On Saturday evening our friends Lauren, John, Grace, and Conrad flew over from Port-au-Prince and we all went out to dinner in the Colonial Zone at Pat’e Palo, a restaurant which I would definitely recommend. Then we wandered around and went to various outdoor bars and clubs, listening to salsa music, Dominican music, and Cuban music.

Zona Colonia

On Sunday Nicole and I went jogging around the Zone again and went to breakfast. There we ran into the Griegs, two friends of ours from the Embassy in Haiti (see, everyone leaves and goes to the DR). We chatted with them for a while, then Nicole and I got a taxi to Boca Chica, a beach town about 20 miles away from the city. On the way over it rained but it appeared the storm was heading into Santo Domingo, not towards the beach. We made it out to the beach around 2 and slept in the sun all afternoon. What a relaxing afternoon. Later, we walked up and down the beach and visited all the beach bars and shops.

At the beach in Boca Chica

On Monday I visited the international school to meet with some of their teachers about curriculum. I stayed the night with one, and arrived at the bus station the next day to return to Haiti. Unfortunately, the bus was full and I had to get another taxi and haul ass over to a different bus station. That bus, too, was full, but they ordered another one. After a two and a half hour wait, we finally left-so late that we got to the border dangerously close to closing time, so they basically just waved us through.

At the marine Ball Haiti
Deah and Micah at the Marine Ball

In November I attended the Marine Ball, a great chance to dress up and enjoy some dinner, some dancing, and some drinking with friends!  I accompanied my dear friend Micah to the ball this year. My favorite part? Watching the Marines cut a giant cake with a sword.