Running on Haiti Time


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.

  3 comments for “Running on Haiti Time

  1. Deborah McGrath
    June 6, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    It is exactly for this reason that Haiti is my sanctuary. I’m glad you are feeling open and free to absorb, examine and feel this experience from every pore.

  2. June 6, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks for this Ben! It makes me recall several conversations we had these past few weeks in Haiti, conversations that may not have occurred in Sewanee. About: Casablanca (the movie), The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Beethoven’s late string quartets, and biofilms to name a few. All, somehow, are about another kind of experience of time. Thanks!!

  3. Rick Sommer
    June 13, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    Thank all the participants in the Haiti Institute.
    Deborah and Pradip you are providing an incredible experience for all the interns and invaluable examples of how we can work in partnership with our neighbors throughout the hemisphere.
    I also want to thank Ben, Brooke, Geanina, Peter ,Scott, Hunter, Mansell, and Mary Margaret for sharing their insights and developing views of the progress and value gained from this trip and project. I am sure the experience will serve all the interns well in whatever their future holds. What great investment in the future for all concerned.

    Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing.

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