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.

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!