One of the many children that I had the pleasure of meeting while staying in La Vallée. Despite this more serious look of concentration, he was a very happy and lighthearted boy, always doing his best to make everyone around him smile. It was fun to watch him play with the other children and the volunteers. He was such a pleasure to be around and I am glad I got to know this bright young man a bit.
One of the cultural exchanges the volunteers got to participate in was the annual Kite Festival. Each of us handmade a kite for the festival and then made the long walk from the hotel to the hillside where thousands of Haitians gathered for the celebration. Though it was very crowded, it was so much fun and filled with great food and great people.
While visiting the Hotel Oloffson in the capital, I couldn’t help but stumble upon this beautiful mural. Haiti is already beautiful on its own, but the abundance of artwork and artists only enhances the natural beauty. If you ever get the chance to visit Haiti, make friends with some of the local artists and make sure to bring home some art to decorate your walls!
Whenever I travel to a new place, I love getting the opportunity to explore the city. I love watching the people go about their daily lives, listening to the beautiful sounds of their language, so foreign to my ears. I greatly enjoyed spending the day in the back of a small pickup, roaming the city streets, exploring markets and museums. I often think about the sights and smells and tastes held in the memories of those city streets.
A view from the top of the pickup as we travel through downtown Port-au-Prince. We believe the crowd was gathered around a location so they could receive aid. While many people have come a long way in their recovery since the 2010 earthquake, there is still much more that can be done.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again; I am always amazed at how smart and intuitive children are. The girls in Port-au-Prince loved playing games, particularly one of the games on my phone. They had never played it before, yet they were continually beating my high scores on different levels. It was fun to watch these bright girls work together to figure out the game.
Each new place I go to has its own rhythm, its own sights, tastes, and smells; each has its own sounds too. I love listening to the languages and the music of the streets. The girls at the hotel in Port-au-Prince loved listening to and playing music. One of my favorite memories of them is when they choreographed a dance for some of the volunteers to the song “Boom Clap” by Charli XCX.
One of my favorite things about travel is that positivity seems to be in abundance, and is often quite contagious. I have never met more happy and positive people than when I travel overseas, and Haiti was no exception. From the moment I arrived at the hotel I was met with smiles, curious questions, and lessons on how to live a happy life. Even the simplest of things, such as seeing a picture of themselves, was enough to produce the widest of smiles. It was a lesson in enjoying life’s simple pleasures.
Everyone likes to make a big deal about turning twenty-one, so I decided to treat myself to a trip to Haiti. I arrived Christmas day, to hot weather, the fresh smell of a new country, and a sea of smiles. I was treated to an amazing Christmas dinner of goat stew, and introduced to the family of the hotel owner, which included three girls I have grown very fond of. Always smiling, they were curious and smart and beautiful. I am glad to have met them, and I am counting the days until I get to see them again.
After going to Cambodia and Guatemala, I was not sure where I wanted to go next. Thankfully, inspiration came to me in the form of Oprah. Well, the Oprah network actually. I was watching a new series called Operation Change, and the second episode was in Haiti. That was my first real glimpse of the country and I decided right then and there that I was going to Haiti; and a few months later for my 21st birthday, I was on my way to one of my favorite places on Earth. I went with a wonderful volunteer organization and spent about three weeks working on a variety of projects including cultural exchange, education and children, and providing clean water. This will be a 15 part series that stretches from the streets of Port-au-Prince to the rolling hills of La Vallée. Enjoy!