“Something to drink sir?” – “Water” answers the sturdy Haitian man sitting next to me. What there is more than enough now, is a scarce commodity two hours later. Welcome to Haiti, the mountainous land, currently portrayed by the international media as the land of disaster. First an earthquake hit “the poorest nation of the Western hemisphere”, now cholera is taking its toll, a tropical storm made it worse and riots against the UN peacekeeping force, accused of bringing the cholera, turned parts of the country into a war-zone. On top of it all, elections are scheduled for next Sunday. To paint our own picture of this country in light of the 2010 presidential elections, we traveled from New Haven to Port-au-Prince for 9 days. This is the story of our travels, but also the tale of the people during a critical time.
Upon arriving at L’Ouverture airport, one is first struck by the enveloping and encompassing warmth. After adjusting, stepping off the plane and leaving the terminal, one is greeted by a band, just as warmly – with the traditional rhythms and beats of Haiti. These songs they play serve as a welcome to Haiti, but also a wish for the guests’ good journey and travel throughout their stay. As I leave the airport, an elderly woman who sat next to me and had not spoken to me the entirety of the plane ride , gazed at me and entreated me in Creole to sleep more as “I seemed tired, and I reminded her of her own child” She offered to provide me with food that would strengthen me, which surprised me as I was a complete stranger. I was at a loss for words . Here, it did not matter who you were, if one could help you then they would. This gentle welcome was not the Haiti the media portrayed, but rather the Haiti my parents spoke of, a Haiti that they had not seen for 40 years since coming to America. Though the surroundings and situations may have changed, the heart of the country seemed the same. I looked around me and took in the terrain, the ruins as well as the lovely buildings still standing proud, and I couldn’t see the war stricken Haiti that the media portrayed. I could only see Ayiti- land of the mountains. And I felt like a part of me came home.