Slice of Life: The Haitian Sensation
Last August I traveled to Haiti with a team from HCN. This trip was my second visit to Haiti and it certainly won’t be my last. Because Haiti and the Haitian people hold a special place in my heart, I’d like to share some of the sights, sounds and smells with you! Vin avè m ‘ak jwi sansasyon nan ayisyen! Translation: Come and enjoy the Haitian Sensation!
Talk to anyone who’s traveled to Haiti and they’ll tell you that Haiti has a very distinct smell. It’s by no means a bad smell; it’s just Haiti. For me, that smell is a mixture of smoke, sweat, diesel and a few smatterings of unidentifiable odors that define the Haitian landscape. Driving through the city of Port-au-Prince, you’ll most likely pick up on the diesel fumes, cooking aromas and smoke blowing in the wind. Even here in the states, when I smell smoke as I’m driving down the road, it immediately reminds me of Haiti!
The sounds of the Haitian landscape, particularly those in the cities, are an earful! First and foremost is the sound of honking horns. You see, here in the States honking your car horn is considered an act of warning, irritation or aggression. But in Haiti and many other parts of the world, the car horn is just another way to communicate. And boy do those drivers communicate! Here’s an experiment for you risk takers out there: drive like a Haitian for a day. This means using few if any turn signals, honking the horn like nobody’s business and using a lot of hand gestures to communicate with other drives. Going beyond the honking horns, you’ll hear the French and Creole languages… usually spoken much too fast for an amateur Creole speaker like me to make heads or tails of the conversation!
I remember the first glimpse I had of Haiti as I was flying into Port-au-Prince. I could see each fingerlike projection of the mountains below me. These mountains should have been green but were brown instead: a result of mass deforestation. Hopefully, these mountains will be green again in the future! As we flew closer to Port-au-Prince, there were miles of tin roofed houses and dirt paths. Clothes hang out on lines strewn every which way.
Driving through Port-au-Prince, I saw the infamous tent cities that were erected in 2010 following the earthquake. The city itself is a bright place with highly decorative storefronts in island colors. Tap taps, (pick-up trucks used as Haitian taxis), are a sight to behold with their exuberant paintings and slogans… filled to capacity with passengers. Marketers line the streets selling produce, shoes, clothing and more. The countryside has just as much to offer: mango groves, hills dotted with houses, smiling children, twisting roads.
Though the sights, smells and sounds of Haiti are wonderful, they can’t compare to the beauty and spirit of the Haitian people.
They are the reason the Haitian Connection Network does what it does.
So I hope this little taste of Haiti was enough to whet your appetite for more! HCN’s Director, Kristen Hertzog, takes several trips to Haiti annually and would love for you to come along and experience the Haitian Sensation!