People want easy answers, bite sized portions of all the complexities that make a country what it is, and so when they ask you about your trip to Haiti, most people are looking for something along the lines of:
- It was great! We got all this work done and now the community is better off!
- You wouldn’t believe the challenges these people face everyday, it really makes you appreciate what you have.
These answers are expected, and fall right in line with what people already know of Haiti’s “single story”; so we nod and smile and feel like we get it.
Here’s the thing though, I still don’t “get it”. I don’t get how poverty, beauty, filth, music, beautiful beaches, garbage, art, injustice, lasting relationships, intolerance, ignorance and love all get mixed up in the same place.
I don’t get how a small community moving forward is part of a place that way too often feels stuck in “systemic” immutability when we look at the country as a whole.
I don’t get why it took seeing it in Haiti for me to put these feelings together when all of the above exist in my own culture as well…
Maybe this is why answering the question, “How was your trip to Haiti?” is always so challenging for me.
The easy answers are just that, easy. But they’re woefully incomplete.
If you’ve been to Haiti, maybe you have your own diatribe ready to boil up and over. Either way, you know that the “easy” answers fall short.
The good news is, I think we get better at sharing our stories as our experience grows. Each short-term visit, or long term stay, means personal growth in the way we understand what is happening around us.
Instead of being limited to easy generalizations, we’re better equipped to process our experience through a more developed sense of understanding. Stronger language skills of course, help with this too.
The HaitiHub team is leaving for Port-au-Prince on Friday. One of my personal goals for this trip is for the things I have to share with you on our return to reflect a greater degree of understanding and nuance than what I shared before I left.
For all of you preparing for your own trips to Haiti and abroad, we wish you safe travels, and we would love to hear what you have to share when you get back.
by Erin Nguyen on January 8, 2015