Handmade in Haiti
Haiti is not paradise. Parts of it, though, are breathtaking. I’ve been trying to think about those parts since the horrendous earthquake this week.
I spent four years working on an aid project in Haiti. I had the opportunity to work with some brilliant and dedicated people and to travel to all corners of the country. We worked long days, but weekends were an adventure waiting to happen. You might hike through a forest and end up at the beautiful Bassin Bleu, a waterfall with a lagoon at the bottom that was the bluest water you’ve ever seen. Dusk at Labadi Beach in the off-season brought a rowboat full of roasted lobsters and juicy mangoes, on the off-chance that maybe we might be hungry. And the food! Not only are the chicken creole and the djondjon rice fine and delicious, but the fresh seafood is prepared simply expertly, and mouthwateringly. And don’t even get me started on Rum Punch.
And then there are the handicrafts. I wanted to write something about Haiti, and so I took a tour of my apartment. Haitians make remarkable things and sell them along the roads and in impromptu markets, especially near the touristy spots or the places where the international community hangs out. You have probably seen the hammered steel wall sculptures of smiling suns, musicians, birds, and more. I have paintings reminiscent of Gaugin, with bright colors, wild animals, and huge colorful flowers. Nobody who visits Haiti can leave without a papier mâché Carnival mask, preferably a scary devil with long rope hair. (I gave mine to my nephew because it was scaring my cat.)
And finally, the mythical mermaids. You can find them everywhere, made with sequins, wood, papier mache, steel. They’re all beautiful, and to me they represent the spirit of Haiti.
My deepest condolences go to the families of the wounded and lost. Most of my friends and colleagues are accounted for, but one is still missing.
Many thanks to the valiant aid workers and emergency responders and in Haiti. You bring the experience, the equipment and the hope.
How can we help? Here is the New York Time’s list of organizations helping Haiti. Many have been there for years, and some are emergency responders. The people of Haiti are going to need help and support for a long time to come. Every nickel helps.
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