So…we’re back and it was an incredible adventure. Now…to share with the world…what did you get out of traveling to Haiti?
I took this course so I could have a better understanding of Haitian culture. Through the coursework and the first hand experience in Haiti I feel that I now have an idea of what their lives are like. It is hard to explain how that experience changes and enhances your life. Once you’ve been to Haiti it is always with you. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by since I’ve been back that I haven’t thought about what I saw there. When I first got back I noticed that I didn’t turn the TV on for a couple of days. I had completely forgotten about it. Before I would just turn the TV on just for the noise. The day I started writing this blog we had a storm that morning and our electricity was out and I immediately thought of Haiti because the electricity went out there everyday. When I am in traffic I can’t help thinking about how orderly our traffic is and how clean our streets are. Haiti has a deserate, chaotic and unorganized feel to it. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, but their ordinary is much different then our ordinary. My husband and I have a small acreage outside of Fayette and when I got home I was looking the place over and I realized that we don’t need a 10 – 12 foot fence with razor wire around our property to feel safe. From now on when ever I eat Lasagna, mango, watermelon, oatmeal, PB&J, or lobster I will be reminded of all the food we ate there. I will never beable to go to an airport or museum or see a bus or taxi without being reminded of Haiti in some small way. I enjoyed sharing this experience with all 21 fellow UIU travelers. I feel richer for having been there and I hope to go back in the future.
This experience was a shock to me, I never pictured myself going somewhere that has been struck with such poverty like Haiti, and what I mean by that, the Haitians live completely different lifestyle than what Americans face on a daily basis . When I got back from Haiti the same night I dreamed about staying there and learn the unique Haitian culture. Even though I encountered a lot of different languages on the Fayette campus, I think that the mixture of what the Haitian community speaks is impressive, I started trying to learn the language and still to this day I still look at the language and keep saying things over and over again hoping that I can pronounce the words correctly. This has been a wonderful experience for me in my life and will be something I will never forget.
When coming back to the United States, I encountered many obstacles. Traveling to Haiti, made me think deeply about the wants and needs of life and how those designer brands are not that important after all. I also found it difficult to adjust to the fact that people can be so wasteful with what they have, when others would be striving to afford it. It was nice to see the kids so happy, due to the fact that if something tragic happened in the United States people would face depression, and not adjust to the rapid change of life. On the positive side, I can\’t wait to visit Haiti again, helping the people in need, and sharing stories about how Haiti is improving.
What happens to a person when they embrace themselves fully in another culture? The experience is eye-opening, memorable, and life-changing.
Though we spent much time reading about Haiti’s history and discussing what our week would entail, I was still overwhelmed by what we encountered.
It is intriguing to view the major differences in American culture versus Haitian culture; but at the same time, interesting to see how many of life’s basic needs are the same. For example, the children seem just as happy here as in any other part of the world and so did many of the people. Life’s most precious gift is that of relationships, not material possessions.
I truly realized that the human body is an amazing machine. It can adjust to different lifestyles, change the course of how we think, and physically rise to some very demanding challenges
For 6 days, we embraced ourselves in the Haitian culture by eating, speaking, working, living, feeling, and experiencing their lives.
A spectrum of emotions were felt that included:
•Bewilderment as to why they don’t try and help themselves more
•Frustration at the stern and blank stares we encountered
•Anxiety when one feels like they are in a fishbowl – being gazed upon and feeling like a minority that is not welcome
•Sadness in seeing the difficult lives that people must endure
•Overwhelmed with wondering “where does one being” and “how can this be fixed?”
•Gratitude that I live in the United States and grateful for the basic necessities that we take for granted
•Amazement at the pride and resilience that the Haitians have
•Happiness in seeing the children smiling, laughing, and eager to be our friends
•Hope that we helped make a difference so people can live better lives
This was a journey filled with many life lessons and one that will never be forgotten.
When people would ask me, How was your trip?” I would struggle with where to begin my conversation. Let’s begin with how things are the same. Families care for each other. Mothers and fathers bring their sick children to the clinic with a desire for them to get the care they need to become well. Family members look after their elderly and their children. They feed their children, bathe them, wash their clothes, teach them how to behave, and love them. If you give a group of kids a ball, they are going to kick it around the yard and if you give them a piece of candy, they will eat it. They are no different than us.
Where they live and how they live is where the difference is. Their water supply is different, their public services/utilities are different, their transportation is different, their homes are different, their infrastructure is different, their employment is different, and the list goes on. I find it difficult to describe to people what it was like, because I don’t know where to begin. I could talk to you all day about my experience and sadly, you probably still wouldn’t be able to understand. Though I lived in Haiti for a week, I didn’t live the life of the people I was helping. Though I didn’t have the comforts of my home, I did have indoor plumbing, my own bed, electricity most of the time, plenty of clean water and food, bug spray, sunscreen and a whole bag full of medication. I didn’t have to cook my own food, wash my own laundry, or clean my house. Though I may have thought that I had it rough for a week, by the standards of the people that I was serving, I had it quite easy.
I would strongly encourage anyone to take a service learning trip for their cultural class requirement. You don’t just learn about Haiti or another culture when you take this class. You learn about the world. You learn about politics and the long lasting effects of poor leadership and corruption. You also learn about yourself and your place in the world. It forces you to examine if you are content with where you are in your own life and whether there is more that you can be doing to either help others or to be involved in your own political process. It gives you a greater appreciation for all the things that you do have when you live and work among people who have so little. I know you could not teach to me in any form of media over any length of time the knowledge that I gained by living for a week in Haiti. I know this because I struggle to explain my experience to people and there just are not enough words or photographs to make them see what I was able to see during that week. Understanding the history of how Haiti got to where it is today by use of the book and our class presentations really helped me to understand how people can still be living like this today. I don’t know what the answer is for Haiti. I do know that Haiti is filled with a lot of people who are not much different than us who are just doing what they can to survive and at this time in their country’s history, they still are in desperate need of help to meet their basic needs. I am glad that Dan and I were able to spend 8 days of our lives doing what we could to make a difference for a few.
This was truly an experience of a life time. The chance to truly see the way the Haitians live and at the same time bond with a great group of team members and develop great friendships. This trip made me realize that we are so fortunate in our day to day living we have here. I would recommend this trip to everyone. You will never have a greater experience.
This is a monthly blog updated by Haiti 2012 participants.
UPPER IOWA UNIVERSITY – HAITI 2012 – UIU HELPING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE is proudly powered by
Web design by BrightCherry.