Monday, February 23, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I was reading one of my favorite blogs on race tonight and came across this post. It really spoke to me as I have felt that I am not a stereotypical American-as-Ambassador on this trip. Due to the proximity of Haiti to the US and the information superhighway, there are many American pop culture references that are quite visible in P-au-P. Although I am a self-professed television and pop culture junkie, there are many other "American" indulgences of which I do not engage.

As my time in Haiti is coming to an end, I have had many thoughts occupying my mind. I feel that we have done good here, but really only a small band-aid (like one of those little round ones) on a huge wound. Haiti is an amazing place and I will return a much better and more heartbroken person for having spent time here. But I have been embarrassed by the antics of my teammates and it has been incredibly difficult for me to reconcile the good I've done with the isolation I have felt every day that I have been here. But I did not come to make friends. It has been important for me to remember that I am only one person and cannot hope to even leave a small mark on Haiti. I am certainly taking more from Haiti than I could ever even imagine giving back. Isn't that what most humanitarian work is about though? Although we can reap the praise from our friends and family about what good work we are doing, it's more than that isn't it? I have learned a lot about compassion and the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of insurmountable odds. I have experienced a glimmer of a rich and powerful culture.

I have also learned that, even though my teammates and I have come for similar work, we are vastly different. I have heard snide comments come from my teammates that make me question why they even wanted to come to Haiti. I have seen a complete disregard for the Haitian people through the displays of American arrogance and ego. And I have heard several of my teammates discuss how they would "solve" Haiti's problems if they were in charge. We do not come here to fix Haiti. We come here to learn from Haiti, empower Haitians through partnership, and hopefully return to the US better and changed people. Although I am a new social worker, barely 8 months out, Haiti has given me a new appreciation for the work that I do, in a way, maybe our time in Haiti helps to "fix" us.

Enough with the soapbox. Here are a few shots of one of my favorite things about Haiti, tap-taps:

Notice the little goat perched atop this tap-tap:

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