After my grandmother moved to the United States from Haiti, I had not been back since the Summer of 1999, I was 8 years old. Then when the opportunity presented itself I decided to travel back to Haiti with my dad’s side of the family in the Summer of 2015. So if we do the math here, we’re talking 16 years since I’ve last been to Haiti.
Let me set the tone, when I was living in Haiti my time was filled with school, ballet classes, church, ice cream parlors on Sunday evenings, barbie inspired birthday cakes, fresco every chance I would get. So when I was sitting at Miami International Airport with my 12 year old little cousin who had never been to Haiti I was reflecting back on my amazing experience growing up in Haiti. When we started to descend into Haiti’s airport I was so taken back with emotion because it was like I was going back home. This piece of me had been missing for so long and I was more than excited for this trip.
However, things did not start off too well. No one told me that I had to pay taxes coming into the country because I held a foreign passport. Reluctantly (because I can be very frugal), I pulled out my wallet and I had to pay for myself and my little cousin. Going through customs was not a great experience as well, but still I rose above and went to baggage claim. First came out my little cousin, great we’re half way there, just have to grab my luggage now. Nope, no luggage for me. I went to customer service and guess what, my luggage never made it to Haiti, it was still at Miami International Airport. That was it for me, I texted my dad who was still at Newark Airport and said I WANT to go back to Miami lol
Let me back track so I don’t come off looking like a brat. The original plan was, I would be flying into Haiti the same day as my dad, stepmom, and younger sisters and from the airport we would make a quick stop while in Port Au Prince and then make the drive to Jacmel, Haiti. However, the morning of the flight, while I am sitting at MIA airport my father calls me to let me know that they missed their flight and wouldn’t be coming in until the next day. So now fast forward, I get to Haiti with no luggage, little cash, no luggage which means no clothes and no “personal items”, someone who I don’t know nor do I know what they look like will be picking me up to take me to the house to stay with people that I have never met before. So this is why I’m like, put me on the next flight back to MIA.
However, to my dismay when I exited Haiti’s international airport I felt sadness. As we drove to our destination, I kept thinking to myself, this isn’t the Haiti that I remember. It was overpopulated, there was trash everywhere – when it wasn’t on the street it was being burned instead. There were so many people sleeping in the streets. At this point I’m basically fighting back tears because my heart was broken (I’m hold tears back as I write this).
Being a public health student my mind started running a mile a minute analyzing the ramifications of all of these public health issue. There was 1)sitting water, which could contribute to an abundance of mosquitoes ,thereby increasing the chances of vector born infections, 2) contaminated water, with all of the trash and animals that I saw in the canals I could only think about this leaking into the communities water supply, 3) air pollution – everywhere we drove through they were burning tires and trash so now we’re looking at respiratory illnesses.
I get to the house and I receive a warm and loving welcome by my stepmother’s family. The funny thing was they had this 8 1/2 x 11 picture of me displayed in their living room along with other family pictures. I’m like what? lol And they said, “you may not know us, but we know you”. They offered to take me shopping for clothes, but I did not want to be a bother. Then they came across some clothes that my younger sister left there the year prior. Now I knew that was not gonna work, but I humored them. My beautiful little sister is roughly 5′ 1″ with a thick body type while I have a slender 5’7″ physique. So yeahhhh, the clothes did not fit lol
Nonetheless, I made the best of it. I sat in the corridor of the house in a rocking chair till the day turned into an active night. What I really enjoyed was hearing the konpa music blasting through out the streets as cars would drive by the house. Most of all, I enjoyed when the power would go out. As crazy as it sounds, I appreciated when my phone died and I would sit outside on the porch and take in the sound of people listening to a futbol match or hearing creole being spoken all around the neighborhood.
I want to apologize in advance. I like to give way to much detail and really building up a story, I want you to feel like you were there. So let me speed things up.
Come the next day, everyone finally arrives. They get in one of the SUVs and head to Jacmel. While my father and I get into the truck to head to the airport. We get to the airport, and my luggage is there waiting for me. Now, we finally begin our trip to Jacmel.
Long story short I had a great time. Jacmel was the complete opposite of Port Au Prince. I went to the beach and had the best lambi (conch) of my life!! All of the food we had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner were on point! I finally got a chance to see bassin-bleu. I enjoyed my time in Haiti and nothing will keep me from going so many years without visiting my home.