When I travelled in Central America I often saw Americans get the “American Stink Face” as I coined it, when they told fellow travelers or locals they were from the States. When I said I was Canadian I got a surprised face, I think it was an Oh-you’re-not-American-face. Either way it is interesting to see the reactions people have based on the country you are from.
The Haiti Stink face is more questioning. When I told my Uncle (whom I love dearly and hold no judgment whatsoever towards, his reaction was honest and to the point) that I was applying to a job in Haiti he said, “where else are you applying?” implying that I should have other options. I didn’t have other options. I applied here, got the job and was on a plane 2 months later. That is history. The Haiti Stink Faceis one of shock. Why would I choose to live here for 2 years? Wasn’t I scared to move here? Wasn’t it hard to adjust? Yes, it was tough but it was SO worth it.
Most people think that this country needs help. Help Haiti, Hope for Haiti, Save Haiti are all slogans that adorn the hundreds of volunteers that pour into the Port-au-prince airport daily. People want to help and Haiti is a place that is filled with foreigners wanting to give back.
Today I saw Happy Haiti. The World Cup started today and no one in this country is unaware of this fact.
#1 Everyone’s cars are decked out with flags- Brazilian flags wrapped around the hoods, Argentinian flags scrunched at the base of dashboards, Italian flags flying out of car windows, Spanish flags attached to motos (half obstructing the driver’s view)!
#2 Everyone has a TV and people have stopped their lives to hang out on the streets and watch. Our driver, guard and grounds keeper are all huddled around an old school fat TV in the garden watching the game. At the grocery store the owner installed a flat screen in the parking lot yesterday and there was literally only 1 space to park as all of the rest was people watching the Brazil and Croatia game. At the Haitian Café called Rebo, they installed two flat screens today so people in line can watch the game. This city has stopped and the focus is camaraderie and football! People cheer and celebrate with strangers when their team gets a goal!
After school we got beers at the grocery store, cracked them in line and zipped home, beers in hand celebrating Brazil’s first goal! This is legal here. We did not drive 80km/hr and drink 15 beers in the car. We drank 1 and honked at people on the street who were also celebrating. The people come together here.
Haitians have close family systems, their elderly do not go to nursing homes. They live in their kids houses and help with the household duties. People can live with their parents until they marry so everyone can help out around the house. If a family member needs a house the offers for lodging are endless. They walk their kids to school everyday and take public transit to and from work.
Yes, there is a 75% employment rate and a lot of people live day-to-day. I can’t help but thinking if I didn’t come and work here there would be an in-need Haitian who would have got my job. I am not disregarding my 2 years here or wishing by any means I did not come. I have learned so much and am now ready to go home. But if nurses stopped coming to “Help Haiti” the many unemployed qualified nurses that I know would be employed and supporting their families. When I get home (in one week!) I would love to sit with anyone and discuss how we help. How does someone who has never in their lives went without food help someone who often eats only one meal a day? There are ways but it is not complicated.
Lately I have been thinking about this quote because I often find that I am generating more questions in my life than answers. I have been here 2 years and have left with more questions and more opinions that are all unfinished, incomplete.
“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.” – Dan Gilbert