Behind the Wall

When I travel I love to share my impressions of the country and culture I am in. I love to see the differences and the similarities. I always am reminded about what I can appreciate at home and what needs to change. But this trip is different. Besides a short tour of the city when we arrived, we have stayed at our hotel. Which does not give us much insight into the daily lives of Haitians. Our host is also hosting a group of women for a conference at his church so as soon as he is done with us, he rushes to his church to host the women’s conference. We have spent our nights eating dinner on the outdoor patio next to the pool with fans spinning overhead and the sun setting on the mountains. I am not going to complain. So what I have learned about Haiti, I have learned through the people I am with. Here is a short list:
1. The fever. Right now there is a crazy fever going around Haiti. It comes from mosquitos. I asked if it was Malaria and Vigionet says “Malaria is simple”. Imagine living in a world in which Malaria is simple. Malaria is not simple. So this fever comes with major aches and pains throughout the body. It just knocks you down for 3-5 days.
2. Roads. They suck. Comparable to the one’s I have seen in other countries. Potholes that donkeys could fall into. In the middle of the road, on the side of the road, in fact there is really not road, just a long series of pot holes. And the roads are very narrow and winding with no shoulder. It is quite a skill to navigate these roads.
3. Earthquake. There is still evidence of the ruin that resulted from the earthquake in 2010. Not as much as I thought, but there are buildings that are still collapsed. Our host stated that the Haitian people are very appreciative of aid from America and other countries and there are positive views of Americans.
4. Tent Cities. There are still a few of these left even though they are supposed to be gone by now. It sounds like they are very very dangerous and many crimes take place including sexual assault.
5. Time article: Before we arrived I got the latest publication of Time magazine. It had an article about slavery all over the world. The map was arranged by color, with the darkest red indicating countries with the highest rate of slavery. There were 5 countries with dark red. India and a few countries in Africa and Haiti. Tiny little Haiti was dark dark read. I showed this picture to the group and they were distraught. They were so angry that their country, which was the first free black nation, that abolished one kind of slavery, is one of the countries in which slavery is the biggest problem.
6. Advocacy. I have learned from this group that fighting for the rights of children is an uphill battle. The government does not enforce child protection laws. Bribes are prevalent. The contrast of poverty and greed keeps the Restavek system alive and well. Despite the barriers, this group will not give up. They are committed to build a system to keep children safe, loved and cared for.

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