the haiti you don't see on the news

When we got back to Port-au-Prince after our three-week stay in Limbe, Jean Claude freaked out about the short amount of time we had remaining in Haiti. So after we spent two days teaching kids to decorate calebasse, Jean-Claude sponsered a couple days of fun and relaxation.

One afternoon, he drove us out of Petionville and up the mountain to Furcy, where he spent summers when he was a kid. It was COLD up there on the mountain! (Or that's how it seemed to me in my flip flops and short sleeves. I decided that it was good conditioning for Illinois winter...) It was totally worth it because it was also peaceful and beautiful. I understand why Jean-Claude has such fond memories of this place.
The next day, Jean-Claude really wanted to take us to the beach. However, he had to work because the weekend before Christmas is the busiest time in his store. He was still set on us going to the beach so--Voila!--he enlisted his cousin to take us instead!

The beach was wonderful--It rivaled the one in Danang, Vietnam. But as I was laying on my beach chair, I realized that there was something weird about the beach. It took me a few minutes to figure out what it was, but then I realized it--the hotel was playing Christmas music! It was a completely foreign concept to me to lay on the beach and listen to Christmas music. But once I got used to this clash of worlds, I decided it was something I could get used to pretty easily....

When we got back from the beach, Jean-Claude seemed a bit more satisfied. He said, "Calah, I just wanted to make sure you knew that there's more to Haiti than cholera and Port-au-Prince traffic jams."

I told him that I had, throughout my trip, been pleasantly surprised by Haiti's natural beauty. On the news, we hear about Haiti's deforestation, poverty, and political turmoil, things that certainly do exist in Haiti. But I think the problem is that, when we focus so much on those things, we start to feel that Haiti is a hopeless case. But really, there are things in Haiti that can give us hope if we can get past the pictures on the news and notice them.

As I have mentioned before, Haiti really is a beautiful country. There is widespread deforestation and there are congested, dirty cities. But Haiti's natural beauty does shine through.

This is the view from the top of a mountain I hiked a couple times during my stay in Limbe. This Cape is the first place Columbus landed in Haiti, and his crew members were fighting over who would get to stay on the island!

Over the past twenty years, Haiti has become notorious for political turmoil. I got to witness this a bit with the election that took place during my stay. But in my politically-illiterate opinion, the protests that took place this December display more than sheer reactionism. Rather, it is clear that the Haitian people are sick of being manipulated by big governments (both their own and foreign) and that they are ready to take a big risk in hope of seeing a big change.

And not least, the Haitians I met during my visit gave me incredible hope for the country. The doctors and nurses working with cholera in Limbe; and Madame Hudicourt, who has spent her life overcoming obstacles to bring her people medical care--these people inspired me. Furthermore, all the members of our host family were unbelieveably gracious, welcoming, and upbeat even after the hell of a year that they have lived through.

After our trip to Furcy, I was talking in awe about Haiti's beauty, and Annouck (Jean-Claude's wife) said, "No matter what they say, I still think there is still hope for Haiti." I can't help but agree.

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