“I’ve been in Haiti for three days and today is the first time I’ve attempted to write my thoughts and feelings down, something that is very unlike me. It’s hard to explain why, even to myself – something about wanting to keep all of this inside me, wanting to feel it alone. Perhaps it’s because I know this will likely be my last trip to Haiti with Joint Council (for those of you who haven’t heard, my last day at Joint Council will be in July) and I’m being reflective and wanting to hold onto everything here for myself.
I had never been to Haiti until ten days after the earthquake – the city of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas are defined by the quake to me. I know nothing of life before the quake. I know where the grocery store that killed hundreds stood and what it looked like after it toppled but I do not know what it looked like before. I know what the market in Petionville looked like as a tent camp and what it looks like now as a park but I never saw it as a market. I’m beginning to discover life after the quake, and it’s magnificent.
In many ways the city is no longer defined by the quake – it’s still there in everyone’s distant memories as something they once lived through – but everyday life isn’t defined by it. Since I was here just after the quake and then once last year, when I was dealing with so many emotions of my return, I wonder if the city and the people moved on long ago and I just missed it – and now I’m catching up with them. Whichever it is, I’m glad I’m here now. For the first time ever I’ve eaten more meals outside of hotels then in (if you are ever in Petionville, you must check out the wings, view an joyful Haitian-American owner, who’s got a hint of New York City street cred, at Chicken Fiesta) and I walked (granted as a group of three women) to dinner and back (something any Haitian and ex-pat living here has insisted was a bad idea). I’ve even discovered the city’s first yoga studio – Project Zen Yoga. While I’m here lay the ground work of a very exciting child welfare project, this change is what has struck me as most important. With a little cautious optimism (after all the country hangs in political instability regularly and safety is an on-going issue)… come here, enjoy, and discover the beautiful country – its history and its future.
That’s it for now. I’ve arranged to see Rene this afternoon so I hope to have more later.”
– Rebecca Harris, COO, May 14, 2014