Thanks for all the positive feedback, guys. I’m glad you’re enjoying the ride so far. Let’s move on to the second half of this list!
6. LINGO – Haitians are no linguistic slouches—especially the more educated folks. From the moment I stepped on the plane to Port-au-Prince, I could hear people switching back and forth from English, Creole, French and even Spanish! So what better way to blend in than to learn a few words the cool kids are saying? Here’s a quick lesson. If someone asks how you’re doing, it’s best to answer, “En forme.” When expressing why you like a place/person, say it/he gives you a “bon feeling.” And you see that tourist? To get his attention, try yelling out “blanc” as in “white”—and if you find out he’s of Haitian descent, go with “jaspora” as in “dyaspora” (P.S., don’t quote me on the last two—not sure they’re P.C. or polite. lol!) The school boys in the photo below, left, shouted to us, “Blanc! Blanc! Prends photo mwe!” (Blanc! Blanc! Take a picture of me!) The same request came from the teen below, right, but since he realized we could understand the language, we were jaspora to him.
7. MANGO MANIA –What’s that sound that went bump in the night? Oh, nothing. Just another ripe mango falling from the tree onto the roof. Yes, in some areas in Haiti, it rains juicy mangoes. Anyone who has stalked the local grocer for mango shipments from Haiti (Sorry for outing you, Hubby.) knows that Haitian mangoes taste amaaazing. Every time I see the high supermarket price of those mangoes now, I just shake my head at the memory of what I saw in Haiti. And then I buy as much as I can! [Below, that’s me, fresh off the plane–acting and looking like a “just-come .” Spot the mangoes in the tree overhead, but just don’t touch the one in my hand..or in my bag.]
And speaking of treats in trees, check out one of our guides at the Jacmel waterfalls (Basin Bleu) climbing for cocoa nuts!
8. HEROIC HISTORY – For every “poorest in the west” label stitched into the minds of the general public, there was an “independence in 1804” banner wrapped around the hearts of a lot of Haitian-American kids. It kept our heads high. And in Haiti, boy, that banner is out and proud in its full glory. Our group road tripped from the capitol, through to the north and then back to southern towns. Each town square in which we stopped to stretch our legs, we were welcomed by impressive murals, statues, paintings and flag posts touting Haiti’s heroic history.
These photos don’t do it justice, but…introducing the largest fortress in all the Americas, La Citadelle (a UNESCO World Heritage site). Nothing underscores the Haitian passion for freedom better. Well worth the blazing one-hour trek up the mountain to visit it!
View from the the top of the fort.
9. UPLIFTING MESSAGES – As you can imagine, there’s been enough heartache to sink the Haitian spirit into the darkest depths. But somehow, these folks were some of the most hopeful, faithful people I’ve ever met. From outdoor praise services to inspirational tap tap messages, their faith permeated every corner of society. Walking down a random street one mid-day, my bro-in-law and I came upon this lively church service. Even though the building structure was pulverized by the earthquake, they strung tarp overhead, brought in plastic chairs and got their praise on.
10. COMMERCE –Another encouraging sign of recovery was all the commerce I witnessed. The buzzing streets were teeming with street venders, commuters on their way to work, and—further away from the city—industrious farmers and market merchants elegantly balancing their wares atop their heads. Below, left, is a shoemaker in his makeshift workspace. (Side note: This shoemaker told me that it pleases him to see tourists visiting the county.) Below, right, buying plantain chips from a street vendor.
**I’ve gotta leave you with one final thought. Earlier this year, I visited New Orleans, where I was fed lots of historical info about the influence that Haitian immigrants had on the city. (A wave of Haitians—and their culture!–settled there in the early 1800’s when NOLA was still a French territory.) Check out each pair of photos, and guess which one is in NOLA or Haiti.
Answer: Haiti on the left, NOLA on the right.
Thanks for journeying with me, y’all! Glad you had fun.