Though I have only made two short visits to Haiti, I was left with a lasting impression at the strength of the Haitian populace.
A typical Haitian resident wakes up each morning in poverty, not United States poverty but third world poverty. They have no prospects of getting out of poverty. There are no government advocates to help them, no housing authorities, no sanitation inspectors, no health departments, no school boards to see to it that a child gets an education.
Now some anti-government Americans may think that this is Nirvana, but I can assure you that it is not. The Haitian people live a hard life and yet they smile a lot. For instance the ladies in this photo live in a region called Savanne Plate in the northeast mountains of Haiti, close to the Dominican border. Each week, usually on Saturdays, they walk about five miles over this dirt road, which incidentally is the main road in an out of this area. They go to the market, get their goods for the week, what little they can afford, then walk back with the goods on their heads…for another five miles. They move with so much grace and ease. Miss America contestants should be envious at the way these women move through life.
As I stood by this road and watched them approach, I was struck by the routineness of their lives. They were in light-hearted banter(probably talking about the goofy-looking blanc standing by the side of the road). They were comfortable with friends that have made this weekly trek countless times.
I was reminded of being with my grandmother as a young boy. She would be with a group of ladies in her church basement, preparing food, and they would chat and laugh. It is the same feeling at my church when the ladies are working in the kitchen. These ladies in Haiti could be a ladies aid group or a quilting circle or just a group of women cooking in a kitchen somewhere.
We made the four-hour trip out to Savanne Plate on a refurbished Morgan County school bus. We left on a Friday morning from Port-au-Prince. Two of my companions and myself sat on top of the bus. It was one of the most exhilarating rides I have ever experienced, especially after we escaped the snarls and congestion of the city and drove through the Haitian countryside and into the mountains. I was having the time of my life until we were stopped by the Haitian police in one town and said they had a law against stupidity and made us get off the roof of the bus.
I have other stories of Savanne Plate, but I don’t want to suck all the bytes out of the blogosphere. They will be for another time. Oh…if sometimes you think our government is not beneficial in our lives, go to Haiti for a visit and see if that gives you a different perspective.
If you like this photo, you can see more here.