Good but Strange: Learning to Love Haiti
On my first morning in Port au Prince, I woke up sweating and a little bit disoriented as I listened to the rooster cawing outside my window. I was even more confused when I walked into the kitchen and smelled something savory and was then promptly served a steaming plate of spaghetti. While I knew the spaghetti tasted good, it was strange to eat it for breakfast—good but strange was a feeling to which I would soon become accustomed. When arriving in Haiti, I was bombarded by a sense of confusion and awe. My first impressions were of crazy traffic, lots of animals (goats), and HEAT.
Learning to Love Haiti
After a week or so, the culture shock began to wear off and I was more comfortable with my life in Haiti. For example, riding a moto to work, having never been on a motorcycle, became an exhilarating part of the day. Watching goats run around the sandal workshop was another strange occurrence that became a beautiful part of everyday life. These seemingly strange experiences might seem irrelevant, unimportant, and maybe even annoying in the grand scheme of what I have experienced in Haiti. However, these small instances have taught me to appreciate every quirky and unexpected part of Haiti.
Haiti cannot be described or compared to any other country I’ve visited. While it is true there are minute similarities between Haiti and other countries in the global south—Haiti is so unique that it would be unfair to seriously compare it to another.
My Trip to the Mountains
One of the most powerful experiences I had while working at REBUILD was going to Lafond to distribute school shoes made from recycled plastic bottles woven into a durable canvas fabric. The ride to and from Lafond was treacherous steep muddy roads with cliffs that dropped off for hundreds of feet. We piled into the bed of a pickup truck and tightly grasped the handles as we bounced up and down along the rocky road.
This journey along the mountain is just another typical example of strange but good a feeling I’d grown to expect and love. The views were magnificent and as we rode down the mountain after the shoe distribution I remember contemplating everything I’d seen and experienced.
Our treacherous trip up to the mountains to deliver locally-made school shoes that support job creation in Haiti
It was at that moment, looking over the mountains all the way to the sea, that I fell in love with Haiti. It wasn’t just the scenery, but my violent realization of the incredible potential that lies in this peninsula.
This potential is not dormant, but is thriving in so many ways I truly believe REBUILD globally and deux mains designs is part of that. Seeing children proud to wear shoes made in Haiti by Haitians showed me the deep love Haitians have for their nation and each other.
A mother and daughter headed to school in LaFond.
Strange but Good
I came to Haiti with expectations of learning a bit more about business, maybe learning about different systems of production. But what I found through deux mains designs and REBUILD globally was so much more. I have been welcomed by the staff and artisans with so much fervor and respect, I have found friendships, and I have found a love for Haiti that will follow me forever. The “strange but good” sentiments I felt my first few days in Port-au-Prince have developed into an appreciation and admiration for a culture that is not my own. Now, in an effort to quell my cravings for Haiti maybe I will fix some spaghetti for breakfast.