So, it’s true. I am leaving my beloved Haiti for the time and moving back to the states. After 5 years here I am moving on to a new phase in my journey where I will continue to work for Living Media stateside promoting and fund raising for all of the programs in Haiti while also setting up a US headquarters and art gallery. I will still be traveling back to Haiti frequently and remain very active in what’s going on here, but will focus my energies elsewhere. (I will also continue to keep this blog up.) So, that being said, I have made a list of the things that will be the most difficult to leave behind. Not after the first days or even weeks. But soon I will realize they’re not available to me anymore an my heart will break a little. At the same time, I can say they are the things that I am most grateful for. Thank you Haiti, for the following gifts, and so many more.
1. Guerda’s Grilled Goat
There are few places in the world where you can get goat to eat, let alone, good goat. But I am convinced that there is nowhere on this planet where you can get goat as good as Guerda’s grilled goat at Lakou New York in Jacmel. Every time I eat there I tell my boys that I don’t know how I could ever survive without it. Now I’m going to have to find out.
2. The Middle of the Night on My Rooftop
The sounds of the crickets and treefrogs, the cool mountain breeze, the starlit sky unpolluted by artificial light, the feeling that you might be the only person left on the planet, that’s what it’s like in the middle of the night on my rooftop. If you are up there at just the right time, you can even hear the ocean roar many miles away. It’s difficult to find that kind of absolute serenity in the States and I’ll miss having it available there for when I need to clear my mind.
3. Jacmel at nighttime.
This is by far one of my favorite things in the world. When the hustle and bustle of the city dies down and the vendors return to their homes and the tourists return to their hotels and the aid workers to their compounds, then Jacmel becomes a different kind of Jacmel a somehow purer Jacmel with everyone hanging out under their florescent lightbulbs on porches and in the street. Music plays, jokes are told, and life is lived. Whenever I drive through the city at night on a moto it always seems to me like the background to a movie that I really want to watch. It’s mysterious, energizing, life affirming, and a little sexy. It’s gonna be different walking down the street in the US.
4. The words “Poko” “Anvi” “Degaje” and “Vag”
These are four of my favorite words in Creole that simply do not have the same power if you try to translate them into English. Technically they mean “Not Yet” “To Anticipate” “Do Your Best” and “To Not Care” but they mean so much more than that and it’s impossible to effectively explain. And yet they are words that are extremely useful and I’m going to miss having their potential in my lexicon.
5. Kay Woudy
This is the local club in Mizak. It’s two large thatch roof shelters with bamboo walls outside of a one room bar with one larger freezer inside full of drinks. Woudy, the owner, bartender, and deejay, knows how to make people relax, dance, and enjoy life. It’s right at the bottom of the hill from my house, so even on the nights the I don’t go out, I hear his music pounding through the early morning hours, and I never complain about disturbing the peace in the neighborhood. It’s one of those places where people can go to forget about their problems, which is a big deal in Haiti where many people’s lives seem to be dominated by the problems that their situations have dealt them. And as a nonprofit manager, my life is also full of trying to solve people’s problems, so I’ve appreciated the presence of Kay Woudy.
6. The Cheers Effect
Where everybody knows your name. And you’re always glad you came. That’s life here and it gives a person strength knowing that you belong to such a community. Although I am looking forward to the option of being anonymous as well, I will miss riding pass someone on a motorcycle miles away from my house and hearing them call my name out, or showing up at the beach and having all of the vendors run to me smiling calling me “Papa”. I’ll miss being able to have a tab at the local bar without a deadline and knowing that I can walk out in the street and get a free ride from anyone passing by if I need one.
7. Rainy Days in the Mountains
They’re not the same as rainy days in Iowa, and I assume Georgia, where I’m planning on moving. Life stops in Haiti when the rain falls. No one goes to work and no one goes to school. Just sit while the rain falls. This means that on rainy days I get to spend time just hanging out with my baz, which is the best. But the atmosphere in general in them mountains when it rains makes you feel just a little bit like you’re in a different world completely. Like the rest of the world has washed away or just disappeared into the fog and you are left alone with whoever’s near you, simply to enjoy one another’s company. It’s one of the best times to really experience what community means in Haiti.
8. Radio Fierte
I never set out to be a radio deejay when I came to this country, but it has been one of the most pleasant surprises of my time here. A couple times of week I would be able to forget about everything that has to do with nonprofits and the other work that I do here and I would just get to play good music and let all my listeners forget about everything else in their lives and just enjoy good music too. Some of the most beautiful moments of my time in Haiti were spent in that radio station.
9. The Blank Canvas
There is so much potential for things to be created here that it makes a creative mind go wild with things to do, dreams to realize. It’s not the same other places where all the things are already there. Looking out over the community in Haiti and trying to come up with programs to knit together to make life more beautiful is just like standing in the studio looking at a blank canvas ready to create a painting. I’m going to miss that wide open space for my creativity to work.
I’ve made a lot of good friends in my life, but nothing like the friends I’ve made in Haiti. At this stage in my life I never expected to fall so naturally into forming such a fraternity of brothers that so truly support, depend upon, and love each other so much. For the last several years I’ve been living with these guys and we’ve had a lot of fun, gone through some tough times too, but they’ve always been there for me and I’ve been blessed to be able to be there for them. There’s really nothing more I can say about them. There is nothing that I will miss more than my Haitian brothers.