For the very first time, I traveled to the country of my parents birth: Haiti. I’m ashamed to say that it took me thirty years to get there but when my childhood friend announced that she wanted to go for her birthday, there were no questions to ask.
We roughly planned the details of the trip. You know, living on the edge. Here and there, people warned us about traveling to Haiti during election season. We knew that if you refrain from traveling because of potential danger, you will never travel. Bad things happen everywhere. Heck, it’s more dangerous to live (and be Black) in America. We weren’t afraid. We felt even more confident after friends and family there confirmed that it would indeed be okay to travel.
I was advised to be assertive once arriving at the airport but I wasn’t really ready, lol. Many people asked if they could help me and I politely declined. But one man was persistent. He finally convinced me to go outside with him to see if my ride was there (as they wouldn’t be able to enter the airport to find me). All I knew was that he and I were both grabbing my luggage. I had a death grip on it because he wasn’t going to tell me I owed him money. When I didn’t see my ride (my cousin, who I was meeting for the first time), I went back inside and told him I would be okay. Thankfully, one of the cell phone representatives let me use her phone to call my cousin, letting her know I had arrived.
I’m not going to write a play-by-play of my trip (you should’ve watched my snapchat – ha!) but I will share a few things I’ve learned on my five-day stay in the country.
Things I’ve Learned While in Haiti:
- RISE AND SHINE BEFORE THE SUN – When I was younger, I remember sleeping at my grandmother’s house and waking up to the sound of the rooster. That rooster was the alarm clock. When the rooster crowed, you knew that it was time for work. The sun is high in the sky at 6am in Haiti. By 6am, the market was FILLED with people working. I woke up every morning thinking it was later than it actually was. It’s no wonder why our parents don’t understand the concept of “sleeping in” because they rose before the sun.
- HAVE A FIRM NO – If you don’t want to buy something from a street vendor, just say no and move on. Everyone has a hustle in Haiti but you don’t have to buy something just because they insist. And if you decide you do want to purchase something from a street vendor, always negotiate the price!
- HUSTLE OR DIE – If I didn’t know Haitians were the ultimate hustlers before, I know now. And not hustling in the scamming sense. To know Haitians is to know the plight of the people. They’ve struggled and overcome by sheer determination. Haitians are a resilient people. They take “by any means necessary” to another level. While driving to the resort, I noticed tiny blue houses stacked on the edge of mountains. Houses….the the edge of mountains, guys. And people lived up there. I witnessed one guy using a cane, casually walking to his house, or to work or wherever the hell he was going. ON THE EDGE OF THE MOUNTAIN. You have to do what you have to do to make your coin. Now I understand why our parents can’t fathom leisure time. Their mentality is if you don’t work, you don’t eat. LITERALLY. So hustle.
- EAT LOCAL – I really wanted an authentic experience and just eating at a restaurant that would cater to American taste buds was not something I was interested in. I wanted to eat the foods I grew up on in Fort Lauderdale, made by the locals in Haiti. So I had authentic avwan (oatmeal), bouyon (stew) and tablet (looks and tastes almost like pralines). I’m a pescatarian but I decided to give that up for the trip and I do not regret that decision. I ate EVERYTHING and didn’t get sick once.
- LEAVE YOUR EXPECTATIONS AT HOME – Don’t compare Haiti to any other third world country. Every place will be different. Just go hoping to have a great time and you will.
- ENJOY YOURSELF – Immerse yourself in the culture. Really observe and try to understand the people. There are PLENTY of things to do and see in Haiti. I was there for 5 days and barely got to see/do anything. I definitely needed more time but alas. I will have more to do and places to visit on the next trip.
To see more pictures from my trip, click here.
Be sure to watch the video recap on YouTube as well. Like and subscribe!