Haiti en Couleur

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Earlier this year, I sat in an auditorium in the Upper East Side on a cold winter evening to celebrate Haitian cinema. I was there to support Haiti’s only film school, Cine Institute. I remembered when this little boy came on the screen.  He said that Haiti to him represented life because of how colorful it is. And that no matter how hard things are and how difficult life may be, if there is color, there is life. That little boy had wisdom beyond his years. I teared up right after the short film.  And I teared up as soon as my plane reached Aeoport Toussaint Louverture in Port-au-Prince two Mondays ago. I saw the colors and felt the heat from inside the airplane. I was home once again. I saw LIFE!

It was my second time back since I left. The last time I was there was in December 2009, a month just before the earthquake. I’ve always wanted to do a service trip to Haiti. I’ve volunteered so much in the states and abroad, and I wanted to do the same for Haiti. I decided to go with Fleur De Vie, a small non-profit organization based in NYC to distribute school supplies and organize a recreational day for hundreds of students this year.

Driving in the van throughout the week from my hotel room to where the group needed to be was my time to focus and reflect on what the country was and had become. I kept looking outside the window focusing on the things I found beautiful. My eyes couldn’t focus on one particular thing for a long period of time because there was so much beauty. There was so much beauty, but the most obvious thing was the poverty. Poverty traveled through the mountains and climbed over the city walls under the hot Haitian sun and stared back at me. We locked eyes and started a staring contest.

I saw strips of land with no trees. I saw topless men working hard under the hot sun, destroying my mountains with their construction tools to make a living. I saw tent cities after tent cities, and naked children running around washing cars with dirty water. I saw women selling their bodies. I saw the word “survival” tatted on everyone’s foreheads in bright red letters. I saw cry for help.

I saw many reflections of myself. Underfed, overworked women carrying giant loads on their heads. Giant colorful loads of vegetables and fruits. Giant, bulky buckets of liquids. Their eyes squinting under the sun, determined but still distant. Their high brows and cheekbones glistening. Their hips and skirts sashaying. Their feet moving firmly as if they were marching. And their indifferent expressions plastered over their beautiful, tired faces. I saw color. I saw life.

One of the things I found most beautiful during my trip, and you might find this odd, was watching this woman sewing inside her house. Our van was stuck in traffic, and it was right after dusk. The time that calls for candles and lamps although everything has this beautiful orange fading to purple hue when there is no electricity. I saw her in the distance, wearing a large, comfortable dress, with her head wrapped. She was focused on the sewing machine in the soft candle light. Her door was ajar, just wide enough to let any breeze passing by in for a quick visit. The honking of the vans and motorcycles drowned, and colors on the tap-taps faded. She looked so relaxed and content, and the sight of her in her own little world made me happy.

It’s impossible to ignore the poverty despite all the beauty. Haiti needs us.  There is so much life. So much potential. So much color. I’m going back more often.

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11 Comments on Haiti en Couleur

  1. Jasmine
    October 17, 2013 at 12:06 pm (9 months ago)

    Did you notice if there were any chiropractors there on your travels? A colleague of mine is looking for someone to send a patient to while he is there. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Rae Wandless
    October 17, 2013 at 11:11 am (9 months ago)

    Your photos are beautiful and your words are compelling. Why didn’t you post photos of the poverty too?

    Reply
    • findingpaola
      October 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm (9 months ago)

      Hello Rae,

      Thank you so much for reading! I believe I did post photos of the poverty. I just decided to illustrate the colorful beauty rather than what we’re used to seeing in the media all the time about Haiti. We already know of all the flies and dirty children sitting next to a repugnant pool of dirty water. We can already picture miserable,rattleboned dogs roaming in piles of trash. Some of what I showed was poverty. The stacked colorful homes of poor Haitians living on top of each other- vulnerable to the worst of disasters if any small storm passes by. I showed women and men who wake up at 4 in the morning to work just to make no more than $2 a day. That is poverty. What I want to show is that despite what we hear and see in the media. Despite it’s poverty. It’s beautiful. It has potential, and it can be better. . We just need to realize it for ourselves. To pick ourselves up one by one, and help those who are still down. We need to help each other. And best of all, we need to preserve and celebrate our beauty.

      Reply
  3. Jolie
    October 9, 2013 at 3:37 pm (10 months ago)

    I love this post!

    Reply
  4. dtafakari
    October 7, 2013 at 12:18 pm (10 months ago)

    “Poverty traveled through the mountains and climbed over the city walls under the hot Haitian sun and stared back at me. We locked eyes and started a staring contest.” This was beautiful. And a staring contest against poverty is exactly what’s needed. It is far too easy to ignore the destitute when they are not crawling into our souls and pleading with their humanity. Thank you for putting a face on the first black republic, which shall never be forgotten.

    Reply
    • findingpaola
      October 8, 2013 at 7:48 pm (10 months ago)

      Thank you so much! I described exactly how it happened. I was excited to be there. I was happy and comfortable and every time I looked out of the car window, there it was. Thanks for reading and leaving your thoughts!

      Reply
  5. Anonymous
    October 7, 2013 at 11:23 am (10 months ago)

    Thank you for this beautiful post and for sharing your experience with us, your readers. I am glad your trip was a successful and reflective one! Anyways,if this isn’t too much to ask, can you please do a review on the different restaurants you visited while in Haiti. Thank you in advance! :)

    Reply
    • findingpaola
      October 8, 2013 at 7:48 pm (10 months ago)

      I will even do a review on the hotel! Stay tuned!

      Reply
      • Anonymous
        October 9, 2013 at 5:41 pm (10 months ago)

        Thank you so much! :)

        Reply
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