After spending a week in the Central Plateau of Haiti, we completely forgot all the concern we had about our safety prior to the trip. The media covers all the disasters, both natural and man-made, but fails to show the gentler side of this country. The US State Department still has a “do not travel” warning for Americans wanting to go to Haiti. But, in reality, we saw a place no different than many areas in the states. To be sure, there are dangerous places with gang activity and crime but, mostly, the people are friendly and going about life under circumstances that many of us can’t comprehend.
We traveled during Holy Week to this mostly Christian country. The airplane on the way from Atlanta to Port-au-Prince was full mostly with people going to visit family for the holiday. This is in contrast to previous trips where the plane was full of people going on mission trips. My traveling companions weren’t wearing the same t-shirt but we stood out because, except for one of us, we obviously don’t have Haitian roots.
Our group sat in different parts of the cabin, providing opportunity to chat with strangers sitting next to us. Mostly their stories are that of many Americans who live in the US but have strong ties to their family’s country of origin. Any apprehension they may have had about going to Haiti was supplanted by the excitement of seeing family members that they haven’t seen in a while.
For us, the plan was to spend little time in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. After landing, we met up with our drivers who whisked us off into the beautiful countryside. We trusted that they knew where to go and where not to go. Other than times sitting in our Land Cruiser, we walked, talked and played with the people. We were among friends. We recognized many of them and they remembered us. They were happy to see us because few foreigners venture this far into the countryside.
This was a trip full of long business meetings and bumpy car rides. But, it was also about human connection. The kind of connection you can’t get in an email or a Skype call. It requires being there when the only expectation is to show someone that they are not forgotten.
reflection by C. Calia