I have been reading the Commemorative Edition of Time Magazine about Nelson Mandela cover-to-cover. South Africa and Haiti have both had their share of violence, severe impoverishment and political struggle. When I am reading about the horrors in South Africa and the corruption, it mirrors a lot of the events that the Haitian people have endured and are still muscling through.
I have been reflecting on my journey here in Haiti and if, when I leave in June, it will be my last time here. The answer is that I will undoubtedly be back. I will come back to see my students graduate, to swim in the blue ocean, to eat the mangos in March, there is no doubt in my mind. I may even come back to live here.
It seems to me that Haiti has it right. To say that I feel more free in Haiti is true. Do I love Canada? More than I can ever express. Her breweries and heirloom tomatoes entice me, her reliatively crime-free paved streets that let my bike glide easily and call me home, her public transit thrills me, her libraries excite the life-long learner in me… and the list can go on. But there is something about Haiti that makes me want to explore her more. This is a place that needs help, there is no shortage of people in need of a boost. While I have been here I have completed no heroic measures. I have mostly just toured this country and learned what I could of her. I have enjoyed her beer, learned a few words of her native tongue, swam in her culture. Have I worked at an orphanage and fed starving children? Have I helped women work their way out of poverty? Have I given to those in need? (well, maybe a little) The point is, this is a daunting place and the task of helping Haiti is huge. There are so many people that could use help but, where do you start? People see Haiti with it’s dirty streets and crying kids (FYI kids cry all over the world, it just seems screaming Haitian babies are quite photogenic) and see this country as underdeveloped or third world. They see it as a nation that does not function properly or efficiently.
Yes, when things are done here they are not done with the exact precision of a laser, most streets are not built with technical machines but by hands, the food is not gleaming and perfect. Does it work? Yes. Absolutely. Everything is a step forward.
This line in Time Magazine about the first election in South Africa where all South Africans, no matter their race, were allowed to vote sounded like Haiti to me. “Lines of determined voters stretched a mile and more at poling places. Many poles opened hours late; some ran out of ballots as well as the invisible ink used to mark the hands of those who had already made their choice. While exasperated thousands waited, election workers gave puzzled first-timers impromptu lessons in how to mark a ballot. One problem: the ballots, printed weeks before, did not include the last-minute entry in the race, the Zulu-led Inkatha Freedom Party, and had to updated with paste-on stickers.”
If you were in this line would you scoff at the lack of organization or the inefficiency of the process? I am sure if you are from where I am, you would. Be honest. I have scoffed at a McDonald’s worker making minimum wage who took longer than the allotted 90 seconds in drive-thru. Do you see what I am saying? Here you wait in long lines but don’t have as much to do. It would be uncommon for you to have a hundred things to do in a day so you could wait for a few hours in line to vote (for the first time ever). Do I get annoyed at bank lines here? Yes. The last time I was at the bank I took this Time Magazine, and you know what? It didn’t seem that burdensome to wait the 45 minutes. When I got up to the clerk I had practiced what I was going to say several times in French so there were no hassles. I did it, solo, with no anger or frustration.
What is the point of this ranty-post? I am not sure. It is really hard for you to say, well I read about the struggles in South Africa and Haiti and now I will be more patient when waiting for my burger. I get that. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know what I will take home from me from this gorgeous and fragile country. I think that is why I am writing this. I just don’t know.
Haitians wait in line to vote.
A snaking line of voters in South Africa.