hope for a new year

No one can deny that the people of Haiti have had--only barely metaphorically--one hell of a year.

On this day a year ago, the country's capital and surrounding areas experienced a shaky start to the new year with an earthquake that many Haitians heralded as an apocalyptic warning. The country could hardly be said to have gotten back on its feet when, in October, the country was hit with a cholera epidemic for which it was not at all prepared and which spread rapidly to all areas of the country. In the midst of this unprecedented illness, Haiti's citizens prepared for and participated in a highly disputed and unpredictable presidential election, the results of which led to riots and roadblocks in its major cities.

On my recent trip to Haiti, I experienced, in some way at least, the repercussions of each of these major events: I saw the sprawling tent cities which, in many cases, are becoming more permanent rather than being dismantled; I worked in a cholera clinic; and I saw the lines of election posters, heard the pre-election rumors, and experienced the frustration of people stuck in the post-election roadblocks.

Throughout my journey, I experienced a gamut of emotions that I know was only a drop in the bucket compared to the emotional roller coaster that the Haitian people rode this year. But the feeling that emerged on top, somehow, was admiration.

I spent time with many Haitians of different classes and witnessed in all of them attitudes better than the ones I have on my bad days--days which, even if strung together at their worst would create a year that could not begin to compete with the year the Haitian people just experienced.

For many Haitians, their good attitude is based on hope: hope that the earthquake's destruction could be an opportunity to build a better infrastructure; hope that cholera could spur someone to promote better sanitation methods and education; hope that this election could bring about a change. Along with all these hopes, the Haitian people cling to a traditional hope--a hope in the proverbial new morning, a hope that this year will be better than the last.

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