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.
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.
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.
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 there were continually beating my high scores on different levels. It was fun to watch these bright girls work together to figure out the game.
After the rest of the volunteers arrived in the capital we took a day trip into the city to do a little cultural exploration. One of the places we visited was the Marche de fer (or the Iron Market). Upon entering the market I experienced an immediate sensory overload as I tried to navigate the labyrinth of fresh baked foods, handcrafted creations, and voodoo arts, all while being pushed and pulled in every direction by vendors. While it was slightly overwhelming at first, it is definitely a must see when visiting Port-au-Prince.
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.
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.
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 change to visit Haiti, make friends with some of the local artists and make sure to bring home some art to decorate your walls!
One of the cultural exchanges the volunteers got to participate in was the annual Kite Festival. Each of us handmade a kit 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.
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 best and brightest people I met in Haiti. This young girl, who was the daughter of the hotel owner, could speak three languages and was very interested in learning all that she could from our cultural exchange. She played with us, watched movies with us, she cooked with us, and she even volunteered to pain a local hospital with us. This girl holds a pretty big place in my heart.
On one of the last days of the trip, we went to a beautiful region of Haiti, Jacmel. After walking around the city and visiting a local art museum, we headed for the beach. I have never been to a more beautiful beach than the stony beaches of Jacmel. After being treated to a wonderful chicken dinner and spicy goat shish kabobs, the group watched a beautiful sunset and headed back for our final days in Haiti.
A village elder pauses to smile after performing an oral story about the history of her people. Of all the people in the room she was the most full of emergency, of life, and of grace. Her performance was thoroughly captivating, and though it was in another language, she had a way of making you feel, and somehow understand, what she was saying. All eyes were on her, the other village elders, all the volunteers, and some stray school children waiting beneath the open windows. I didn’t have to say much to get this picture, just slightly lift my camera and she stuck her pose, and I am forever grateful I got to meet her.
Thirst: A young girl journeys to one of the only sources of clean water in her small mountain village. I felt very luck to have got this shot. After hiking down the side of a mountain to get the one of the only sources of fresh water in the area, there was already a small group of women there, some doing laundry some collecting water. After waiting about twenty minutes, this beautiful little girl wandered up to the water source. This is one of the most moving photographs I have shot to date, and it was a moment I won’t forget any time soon.
Photos taken in Port-au-Prince and La Vallée de Jacmel. Project focuses included education, cultural heritage, and providing clean water to the people of Haiti. December 2014 through January 2015.