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Post your trip reports, travel experiences, and updates abroad. Or your expat story if you already live overseas. Note: To post photos and images, insert the image URL between the tags [img]and[/img] after uploading them to a third party site.
13 posts • Page 1 of 1
Wasn't planning on writing this as the destination isn't one that I'm sure excites many people but I figured since most here haven't been to Haiti, I'd give a description of my experiences. Plus I don't think this country has been talked about here at all.
For those looking for stories of debauchery, booze filled ragers, and one night stands, unfortunately this won't be it. The purpose of this trip was merely humanitarian based but nonetheless was enjoyable to say the least. I was given the opportunity with a church I periodically attend to travel down to Haiti, all expenses paid, and spend 9 or so days working at an orphanage in a rural part of the country. I was quite interested in this opportunity as I was part of a non-profit in college which focused on Haiti not to mention that humanitarian aid is of special interest to me career wise. As a quick note, these pictures were all taken by an IPhone 6+ so mind the poor quality.
I had a quick layover in Miami before jetting off to Port-au Prince, the capital of the country. It was about a 1.5 hour flight from Miami which wasn't long and was made more enjoyable by the cute nurse I was chatting up sitting next to me. She was flying to do some work as well and we had a lot in common. As an airport enthusiast, I was rather impressed by the airport in Miami. It was culturally appropriate and unique compared to other airports I've been to in the states. A huge contrast to the airport in Haiti. The airport in Port-u Prince was probably the worst, technologically wise, I've ever been to. For those that are familiar with rural areas in the Philippines, it was comparable to airports in Mindinao. There was literally one other plane, Air Canada, located in the terminal as we taxied in. Customs was a joke as well and I was worried my bags would have been destroyed being carted out.
Walking out of the terminal was just like any other developing country, in that one is bombarded with a slew of locals trying to take you somewhere in their rickshaw jeeps. Luckily our group was met by the owner of the orphanage and he was actually on time, something that is a very foreign concept to Haitians. Once stepping out into the Haitian air, I was is graciously greeted by the Haitian heat that encompasses the lowland area around Port-au Prince.
Port-au Prince and country side
My first impression of the country was, "wow what a shit hole." I had never been to a place where infrastructure was lacking so deeply. It truly felt like the whole city of Port-au Prince was a slum- No high rises, no international chains, no massive shopping centers. It made Manila look like a 4 seasons resort town. The sad reality is that unless one had been to the country pre-2010, you could not honestly give a solid representation of what damage the earthquake had done and what was simply as is.
As we journeyed out of the capital I was utterly shocked at the landscape. It was almost desert like with the mountains baring no vegetation. Haiti is known for the immense deforestation that has occurred as locals cut down trees to make charcoal. I could look around and see slums built onto the mountain sides along with UN funded apartment complexes towering out of nowhere that were built in the wake of the 2010 Earthquake. Outside of the Port-au Prince area the landscape of Haiti becomes quite mountainous. The scenery is rather beautiful in many areas with gushing lakes and patches of dense rainforest like vegetation.
The ride to the orphanage took around 5 hours, 1.5 of which was on a rocky dirt road. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the trip as I was truly getting to see the landscape and the people as is. We passed several small towns and cities along the way. As most I'm sure know, Haiti is damn poor. It holds the title of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and within the top 10 worldwide. Majority of the populace live in huts that most Americans wouldn't store their tools in. Well pumps are where their water comes from, cacti are used as land boundaries between properties, and animals run around freely. Through all of the chaos, it almost seems orderly.
After viewing what the typical Haitian lives in, I was quite worried to see what the compound I'd be staying at for 9 days would look like. My group arrived around 9pm into the orphanage and were met with a horde of children singing a classic Christian hymn in their native creole language. It turned out to be a lavish compound full of amenities. Well, ok it was quite nice in terms of my original thoughts. I had a separate room with a bed, fan, and lighting. The bathrooms had plumbing and running water, except the showers did not work. I was provided with 3 meals a day and plenty of fresh fruit and bottled water. The kids were absolutely amazing to interact with. Pleasant and well mannered, unlike many American children. In my time there, I helped fix 2 well pumps, build the children shelves for their things, conduct some medical clinics, among a myriad of other smaller things.
The Haitian culture and women
Haitians are black, very black and appear to have way more African influence within their culture than the surrounding Caribbean/Spanish culture. The language is Creole, a mix of French and African languages though some of the educated speak English and Spanish. Being a country that is so poor, nutrient deficiency is rampant, however, many Haitian men are quite tall and athletic in appearance. At 5'9", I was dwarfed by many Haitians, even in the rural areas. Haitians also have a good sense of dress and hygiene. It is quite common to see men walking around in suits or casual dress clothes throughout the day. All these apply to the women as well. I have never been a fan of American Black women, but I saw several Haitian girls that were quite attractive. They still have the curvy physique mixed with a low key, conservative dress style. You also see the women working quite hard around the house and out in the town, often walking for miles with buckets of water or bags of rice/beans balancing on their heads. The people in general are very friendly and approachable, though I did get the sense that many were expecting handouts. The downside (IMO) with many of the women was the fact that very few shaved their armpits and went Oh Natural. I don't see any cultural issues that would hinder a foreigner interacting with Haitian females, except perhaps the language barrier. It is from my perspective, a very religious and conservative country which would make hooking up a little difficult. Not that I'm sure many people go to Haiti only to hook up lol
I've been traveling a lot this year thus far, all in the U.S. with my job and hoping to get out to at least 2 or 3 other countries this year. I've never written a trip report before and understand that this was rather anticlimactic in a sense, but I hope you all enjoyed it nonetheless. It was a different trip than what I am use to but overall it was truly inspiring and just refreshing to get out of the US for a little while and experience something different. Hopefully more trip reports to come in the year.,
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Thanks for a report on a very exotic location. I too have been to Haiti and really did enjoy it. And in the last page of my Jamaica trip report, I included a lot of contrasts to Haiti as well as many images from my own Haiti visit. Most were taken in Port Au Prince but a few were snapped out in the countryside. Only thing I don't entirely agree with you on is that all the people are very black. As you will see in some of my photos, some are more light chocolate colored, at least some of the people in the capital. Here is the link in case you missed it before:
Thanks for the very authentic travelogue.
I wish I could travel the dusky Caribbean in some olden days without the burdens od Political Correctness, or of "noblesse oblige", just to sample the merengue, or savor the flavor, or whatever, with those balmy late-night breezes.
And now more back "down to earth", let me say, I have picked up snippets before, which you now confirm, that Haiti is NOT (at least monolithically) the AIDS-ridden, decrepit, starving hellhole that CNN likes to portray.
"Actually there were a lot of ways out of The Inferno. But CNN told him there were none..... And he believed them."
"Well actually, she's not REALLY my daughter. But she does like to call me Daddy... at certain moments..."
Thanks for the comment Rock. I actually had read your Jamaican post when you first posted it but I guess I didn't follow through to the more detailed Haiti comparison. I guess I misspoke by saying very black. I was more referencing the general population as opposed to other countries in the Caribbean such as DR, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. You mentioned in your post about a strong West African heritage and I definitely feel the same. It actually eased some of my previous reservations about visiting Africa later on as I just wasn't sure how I could handle the extreme poverty. The thing that shocked me the most was how little Spanish most people I communicated with knew. I was hoping since I speak some Spanish that I'd be able to get by but that wasn't the case. Nevertheless it was an amazingly rewarding trip and would love to go back.
Jester thanks for the response. The Caribbean is indeed a world of it's own. There is something about palm trees, rum, and island breezes that just soothes the soul. I am definitely more open to trying out other countries in the region now.
It's funny you mentioned how the media portrays Haiti and in a way they are kinda right but in another sense completely wrong. The country is extremely poor, eroded and polluted but not nearly as depressing as one would believe. Some of the landscape is absolutely breath taking. As in many developing societies, people just don't know any better to be depressed and miserable. They have nothing to compare their world to so they simply live in joy. Another benefit in Haiti (at least in my opinion) is that there are very, very few tourists, leaving it seemingly unspoiled by outside culture. Which seems to be almost ironic due to the fact that everywhere one looks you can see Haitians wearing "Come at me bro" t-shirts and early 2000's NBA jerseys due to the pouring of American aid after the earthquake. One aspect that I was confused about was how Christian oriented the country is. I grew up with the misconception that the country was primarily voodoo worshipers. In reality most of the country seems predominantly Christian and I never even saw a hint of voodoo culture.
Yea that's me. I kinda felt bad afterwards wearing the shirt, as in my opinion it seemed to symbolize the notion of the "white man coming to save the day" mentality, which I was by no means trying to portray. Perhaps I was over thinking but oh well lol
I've never been to Haiti but I have met and worked with a lot of Haitian people through out my life and out of all the people from the Caribbean I related the most with Haitians. They seem like the most humble and educated people in the Carribbean. The guys are cool to conversate with and was impressed by their broad knowledge and humbleness when they communicate, I find that interesting because that's my way of communicating as well.
I've also found Haitian women to be quite interesting as well. I have worked with them and also seen them in public and found many to be attractive. My impression of them is that they are humble, conservative, religious and soft-spoken except maybe for the Americanized ones, it seems that the less Americanized they are the more they are what I described them to be. I've also noticed that they don't date non-Haitians, I don't if it is because they don't like or if they don't feel comfortable with non-Haitians guys, I don't know I could be wrong about this impression but that's the way I see it, but I still find them attractive nonetheless.
Its unlikely that I will ever visit Haiti as I have my attention elsewhere when it come to travelling, but it would be nice if I happened to have the opportunity to visit Haiti because overall i have been impressed with the Haitian people in the US.
Spanish in Haiti is about as useful as Mandarin Chinese in Outer Mongolia. You'd be much better off with French in the former and Russian in the latter.
If you wanna speak Spanish with Haitians, it's easy. Just cross the border into Dominican Republic and find one of the many Haitian communities which are abundant, especially in towns closer to the border. Most of working adult age or younger who've been there for any amount of time will be pretty fluent in DR style Spanish.
Rock may agree or not with this as I think he went solo (or with a girl??) on his trip, but Haiti would be a mess (IMO) going alone. Even myself having been there would have a difficult time managing around. I didn't notice any real taxi service in Port-au Prince, let alone any public transportation at all in the rest of the country. Locals just hop onto a dumptruck or truck and hitch a ride to wherever. I never did figure out if that was free or not. I did not see any legit restaurants or hotels, especially outside of the Capital. Few people speak English and there really is nothing that caters to tourists. Majority of the country is covered in rocky, dirt roads that are impassable in certain locations if it rains hard. The country is quite mountainous and smaller than my home state of Virginia, yet would most likely take upwards of 10 or more hours to get from coast to coast. The rural areas are in essence what you would see out of a national geographic magazine; or for the gamers out there, a Far Cry 3 game. There are few, if any, hospitals. Most are clinics set up by an NGO. Electricity is very on and off, and non existent the farther away from cities you go. The plus side is that the dollar is usually taken a lot of places, even in rural areas. People are very warm and there didn't seem to be too many scammers about, though I didn't spend much time in Port-au Prince. It is a very "village" like mentality the farther from the city you get. I mean no police, no real government presence (aside from UN). One would have to be quite adventurous and comfortable with poverty to tackle this country solo. The best way IMO is to get with a church group or other agency and make some connections. Have a guide.
I haven't met any Haitian people yet in the USA but I agree, the culture of Haiti is far more interesting and enjoyable than that of the black culture in the states. They are far more African in nature and just simply enjoyable people to be around. Oh and if you are at all religious, a Haitian church blows even the most extreme Pentacostal church out of the water. It's a show in and of itself. I'll post a video.
View My Video
"Well actually, she's not REALLY my daughter. But she does like to call me Daddy... at certain moments..."