The Places We Find Ourselves In

The last few days have proved to be an interesting melange (mix). I woke up Tuesday feeling a bit nauseous. It came and went through the day. Wednesday I woke up feeling pretty rotten. So did Diana. Our first thought was malaria, especially for her because she had the fever etc. Chris loaded us up in the truck and took us down to the hospital to get the test. We felt pretty special because the lab tech came in on a holiday to give us our test. We were pricked and swabbed, and waited while things incubated and were stained in what most people would consider an incredibly sub-standard facility. After a peek under the microscope I got a negative and Diana got a positive. Back home we went, both off to bed to rest. Diana had already taken a cure dose of malaria meds so she went to sleep. I was feeling pretty crummy in my non-malaria state. I was sick for the rest of the day. My sweet husband did a good job of checking on both of us and made sure we had everything we needed. Later that night he crawled in bed with me and a movie so we could spend some time together. I never did see the end of the movie, but fell asleep feeling pretty blessed with the man that I got :)

I woke up yesterday feeling SO much better. Chris and I took a drive up to Cannan, a nearby orphanage, to visit some friends. When sister Gladys found out I had been sick she asked about my symptoms and told me there was a stomach flu going around. It struck me later how much living in the third world heightens your responses to things. If I was back in Canada feeling as sick as I was my first thought would have been that I had the flu. In Haiti, the minute you start to feel off you go through the mental check list of symptoms, wonder if you have malaria/dengue fever/food poisoning/stomach virus etc. As you slowly rule things out you accept that you just got sick. The flu often doesn’t even register which is kind of funny in hind sight.

After we returned from the orphanage we stopped at our neighbors house to say Hi. They’re out for the week because Wednesday and Thursday were national holidays. We’ve gotten to know the Martins fairly well and they are becoming like family to us. Chris and I try to stop and visit while in Port if we get a chance and have enjoyed many afternoons and evenings spent with their family. They invited us out on their boat for the afternoon to go down the shore to the new Club Indigo. It used to be Club Med and Haiti’s nicest resort until about 10 years ago. There are a few families working together to get it up and running again. Chris and I slapped on the sunscreen and climbed aboard with everyone else for an afternoon of fun in the Caribbean sun.

I had never been on the Club Med property so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just knew it was big and used to be the prime vacation for Port au Princers. When we pulled up to anchor the boat just off the beach I felt like we’d been transported to anywhere else. Cuba came to mind. I saw a beautiful stretch of beach with white beach chairs and yellow umbrellas. People lounging in the sun by the sea and pool. Drinks being brought by waiters and a man walking the beach selling shell necklaces. Chris and I eventually went ashore to walk around and take a look at things. We met the manager and asked about costs for staying etc so we would know if people were wondering. The resort is beautiful and really does feel like another world apart from the one we work and live in every day. After a wander around Chris and I found a couple of chairs under a palm tree (yeah, honestly, we’re missionaries) and just spent some time in the shade with each other talking about life stuff. After a while we were told our ship was sailing so we all made our way back onto the boat.

We had only been on the water for a couple of minutes when the boat started heading towards the shore again. We saw what looked like two houses and people waving from the shore. We were going visiting boujwa style. We anchored the boat again, got off and met some more of the Martins friends. We went ashore and realized that the property didn’t have two houses, it had one house and an outdoor cabana structure that was the size of a house. There was a bar, a few sitting areas, a dining table, a few hammocks, plants, pillows…all things beach luxury. Oh yeah, this was right next to the pool. Not the normal little sitting pool that we’ve seen in Haiti, but a normal North American size pool that looked out over the beach and the row of palm trees. Their land was located about 500 m off the main road and it felt like another world. The only person that we saw walk along the beach the entire time that we were there was a man selling lobster. More people came in on their boats and filled up the pool and deck area. Through the course of conversation Chris and I learned that this family was one of the ones that was responsible for the reopening of the resort. They are also old money as the Martins called it. There are a few key families in Haiti, and these people were one of them. As Chris and I were visiting with them the Martins told them what we were doing in Haiti and we started talking about water filters. They were really excited about them and thanked us for the work that we were and told us how appreciative they were for the missionaries and aide workers that come into the country because they see what a difference it makes. Often people think the upper class isn’t active in helping their own country. They are, they just don’t broadcast their involvement. We’ve heard of reforestation projects that have been started, orphanages that are quietly funded or schools that are opened. It’s a very different sense of wealth than I’m used to seeing. Generally speaking North Americans like to be known for the work they are doing.

As Chris and I went home yesterday evening we were talking about the day and that it was interesting that we had been in the company of the people that we had. For most Haitians there is the perception that we’re rich simply because we’re white. We know that isn’t the case. I know some people would take issue with the fact that Chris and I, as missionaries to the poorer part of Haiti’s society, spend time with the upper class. Sometimes I struggle with it too. We don’t go looking for it, we just happen to find ourselves with them. They are kind people, educated people, people who are also a part of what Haiti is. You can’t separate one from the other here. When you look at Haiti you have to take both if you want to see everything that this country is. The upper class are the ones that are in a position to make a great deal of difference in their country because they have the education and the means to do it. Some people may think owning a resort isn’t going to make a difference, but I think that the 100+ people that have a job now will argue differently. Something like a resort that’s run well brings jobs. It brings more people to the area again which means more revenue. When more people are coming and going safety seems to improve. When safety improves and people are moving around the country more, foreigners are more likely to start coming in again, not just for mission or aide work. Foreign people coming in increases the possibilities for foreign investment. Foreign investment means more jobs, more stability, more development.

Yesterday Chris and I had an opportunity to meet some more people that can see that there is a need for water. Maybe down the road they’ll think about us and refer someone to us or ask us about starting projects or training people. I don’t know. It was interesting to get more of a glimpse into that world and to see that even my perceptions about some of these people were wrong.

This entry was posted in this is haiti, this is life by Leslie. Bookmark the permalink.

About Leslie

I'm Leslie. Wife. Mother. Missionary. In the day to day my husband and I are responsible for running Clean Water for Haiti, a humanitarian mission that builds and distributes water filters to Haitian families. Living in Haiti full time provides lots of stories, and as I tell my husband, our grandkids probably won't believe most of them. Maybe writing them down will give me some credibility.

3 thoughts on “The Places We Find Ourselves In

  1. Luucckkkyyyyy!! That sounds like a lot of fun. Even if it was surreal, still way cool. I think my perception of the boujwa is probably stereotyped too so it was interesting to hear your perspective. Tell your boujwa friends to pick me up the next time they are headed north. :D

    Must go to bed – leading middle-aged men up a mountain in the morning,

  2. It is tough to know what the deal is with bourgeois when you are in a poor country, but I think you are right that they have the means to make it better.

    Besides, if you are a missionary, then that is different from being an aid worker, isn’t it? (I don’t think I am a good missionary, but it’s possible I can work in an aid capacity, and I suppose chris thinks they’re the same, that you need to ge people higher up the pyramid of need so that they can think of things beyond survival, but if you are a missionary, then presumably you do need to talk to those people who are higher up the pyramid.

    If we really think nothing changes without God, then wouldn’t it help to have those people in positions of power and education thinking about him?

    However, I am terrified of theocracy, and do not mean to sound as if I support that. Individuals are different from structures.

    Also, I take issue with the idea that tourist dollars are stable. Tourists are fickle, they need your country to be “affordable” and have something they can’t get elsewhere, and they need to have money to waste. If you get tourists to go to haiti, where will they not be going, and when will they go back?

    On the other hand, if the money is used for development of real business, and if the security is increased because tourists won’t come if it’s not safe and people with power have invested in the tourists coming, then presumably that is something.

    But I don’t think tourism on its own is a solution.

    Or did you think that was self evident?

    Anyway, I do take issue with the

  3. I agree with you Leslie. I don’t think there is a need to feel guilty about spending the time with the wealthy. You guys can be a positive influence on them to continue their investment in their own country. Wouldn’t it be great if they got on board with the filter program and started to underwrite some of it?! And remember, Christ hung out with the tax collectors (read “wealthy people”) of His day, but it was all a part of his ministry too. James cautions us about showing preference for the wealthy, but I think that can go the other way too. We are not to give them special treatment, or special “mistreatment” because of their wealth. We should relate with them just like we do everyone else, and in doing so, we can be a testament to God’s love!

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