I have 14 more days in Haiti.
As our time and schedules are winding down, I have started to reflect on what I have learned in Haiti. I have been here for exactly one month and this week I began to feel more comfortable with my presence here. Being a white woman in Haiti brings a lot of new dilemmas and situations I have never experienced prior in my life. I was faced with a sexist situation the first week we were here that made me angry towards the men of Haiti for a while. I also was faced with irritation from constantly being stared at or hearing “blan” while walking around.
Upon contemplation of these events I decided to try to fully understand why these are cultural norms in Haiti instead of staying angry or irritated. I realized that I could not stay angry with all the men in Haiti- just like in the United States some of the men do not respect women. I thought about the 7 men I work with every day and how they are constantly looking out for me and providing me with laughter and joy. Also, many places in the world have issues that their country needs to work to improve. Equal attitudes and treatment towards sexes are just one of those subjects that needs a lot more education and work in Haiti, but it does not mean all Haitian men are bad. Once my anger faded and I could see this, I became much more at peace in Haiti. I also considered my presence and work in Haiti as a way to start changing the mind set and treatment of white women in Haiti.
I think being stared at and being called “blan” will never begin to feel normal. However, when you consider Haiti’s history and current state these acts make more sense. White people coming to Haiti is considered rare and often when they do it is either it is in an unhelpful way or in an unproductive and short-term effort. The people staring and yelling “blan” are comparing my group and myself to other white person they have interacted with in Haiti. And can I blame them?
Even though these issues and subjects are not always pleasant they are important to talk about. However, they do not over shadow other people that I have met in Haiti. There are people that have opened their schools and homes to our group for interviews, meals, and a place to stay. People that are always smiling and saying “Bonjou” (Good morning) or “Bonswa” (Good afternoon) whenever you pass. I am forever grateful for the wonderful women that live with us and prepare every meal with love and care. There are so many hard workers and entrepreneurs here in Haiti trying to create a better life for them. I want to embody many aspects of the people of Haiti and take these virtues with me while I move into the future. I may be leaving Haiti soon, but I will keep the lessons I have learned here in my heart and mind forever, causing me to be a kinder and more understanding person in every aspect of my life.
One of the kind residents of Bois Jolie getting us a chair to sit in for our interviews.