En route from Port-au-Prince to Cange. [Photo: Brooke Irvine]
Time here is an abstract concept. It is tossed and blown by the storms that roll over the mountains every evening. It is made lazy by heat that settles over the hills during the day, like a quilt of sun colours. Because time here doesn’t operate under normal parameters, working here is often an exercise in patience. A mechanical failure (or an obstinate donkey) can mean hours of waiting. At first I was often impatient and frustrated. I was so used to everything going to plan and being on schedule in my life that I had forgotten how the real world works. I feel like running on Haiti time has taught me valuable lessons in patience, as well as heightening my senses and sharpening my mind.
Too often in the U.S., I find my mind overloaded with information, news, and media. But here my mind is free to wander. Without the constraints of time I feel free to wonder at everything around me. This sense of wonder, as well the freeness of mind and spirit that have come with our loss of time, are the basis of scientific inquiry. I feel that, more than ever, I have the mental tools required of me in the field. Field work is never easy, and never goes entirely to plan, but I feel that I am more prepared than ever to deal with the problems that face me in the upcoming weeks.
A moment’s rest at Mme Exana’s. [Photo: Mansell Ambrose]
I fear that when I leave Haiti, my perspective will change. I will quickly slip back into the rhythm of my life in the U.S., constantly overloaded and often impatient. But for now, I will focus on the present, on patience, understanding, and the presence of mind to simply be in the place that I am.