I received a comment on yesterdays post that brought up some good points, but I think there needs to be some clarification. It stems from the fact that I shared some things, but not all things when I posted. That’s one of the downfalls of blogging – it’s not the same as having a conversation with someone where you have a back and forth exchange. Also, the blog post was written in point form because I was tired from a long day and didn’t feel like elaborating much, just stating the facts and interesting moments.
First was my comment about shopping at the new grocery store. Please know that I was not intending to bash anyone in the process, simply making a statement about the prices. The fact is, it’s a beautiful store. If there’s a grocery store in Haiti that makes you feel like you’re not in Haiti, this is it. I enjoyed the experience. I walked in, I was oohing and ahhing the entire time. They have a good selection of stuff. But, it is very obvious that they cater to the boujwa and NGO crowd, and that’s fine. As I was comparing prices some things were more expensive. I compared what I might spend on lettuce in the market for example, and chose to keep having Yonese buy it in the market because it is less expensive. Bacon – they only had one kind of bacon and it was about 150 Goudes more expensive that the bacon we buy at another store. I did buy some meat because it was comparable and we couldn’t get it at another store that we shop at, and some other things like butter, bread etc.
The staff were very friendly, they did give us a discount as mentioned in the comment without us needing to ask and overall it was a great shopping experience. We wanted to go and check it out to see if it would be a place that we’d shop more regularly because we’d heard about it from several other missionaries. And, just so you know I’m not the only one thinking this. When we have asked what others thought, the response was the same – it’s a beautiful store, great service, like shopping back home, but the prices are a bit higher than what you pay down the hill. And that’s normal. As you go up into Petionville everything gets more expensive because more of it is imported etc. If I needed something special and I knew GIANT had it, I would go there to get it, like I did yesterday with a turkey for Easter.
I do think it’s worth noting that our family also stays away from buying pre-packaged stuff for the most part. We don’t buy things like Pop Tarts etc. Chris and I weren’t really raised with any of that and so as a family don’t really buy it. Also, that stuff is more expensive. I tend to buy the basics – meat, veggies, fruit, etc and I make a lot from scratch. I come from a family of cooks which has served me well here, and I enjoy the process. We try to buy as much local stuff as possible because it’s less expensive and feeds back into the economy. That’s not always possible, but we try. We also usually only do one shopping trip in Port every month and get our veggies and fruit fresh every week from the local market, along with milk and other basics. We have our own chickens so we get fresh eggs. In light of those things, and the fact that we don’t buy a ton of imported stuff the prices did feel high. Like I said though, it was an observation – about part of the experience.
In regards to the comments made about us riding around with an armed police officer…this is where a lot of clarification needs to be made.
The biggest thing that needs to be addressed is that we DO NOT drive around with an armed police officer in Port au Prince for protection or as a security measure. We drive around some days with our friend because he is our friend and is also a member of our foundation here in the country. He and Chris often have to spend entire days working on mission business, and thus they drive around together. We are fine driving around Port au Prince and the rest of the country. I drive places on my own frequently. I’ve driven to Port au Prince on my own and with my daughter. Yesterday when we were leaving town there was a major traffic blockage where we would turn from Route 1 down to Route Nef that would have taken an hour to get through, so we turned around and went out through Cite Soliel. Granted, that’s not something I would regularly do, but we did it yesterday and it was fine. AND, I was following Chris because one of our vehicles was newly repaired and needing to get home. So I drove with my daughter through Cite Soliel and he drove the truck in front of us.
Also, the conversation was meant to be funny. I get that maybe that didn’t transfer over in the post, but the truth is, Haiti is not like living in North America and there are realities here that we face that leave us shaking our heads most days. My husband and our friend have a great relationship and basically Chris jokingly asked him if he had his gun with him because we were going into a bad part of town. I didn’t mean to make people think we were paranoid. The point was that these are the conversations we have that I would never have had before. Period. I come from Canada where it’s illegal to carry a weapon on your person.
I think it’s also important to mention that everyones experiences are different. We know many people that have lived here for years and years and years. Some of them have had no problems, or have gotten used to things and their radar doesn’t blip the same way another persons might. Others, have opposite experiences. We have had friends that have had family members killed or kidnapped. We know missionaries who have been shot, shot and kidnapped etc. We have a friend who has a bullet hole in his truck door. Another has a bullet hole in her fridge because it was on the back of her truck when she was driving through a dicey part of town. My husband has been shot at while driving through Port au Prince and basically ducked and hit the gas pedal. In our area there have been several missions that have been robbed at gun point, us included. When the mission first started in our area one of the Haitian employees was shot in the neck with a 12 gague shotgun because of community jealousy issues. We have had a vehicle lit on fire. Many US Embassy staff still collect danger bay for working in Haiti.
Can Haiti be a safe place? YES. Can Haiti be dangerous and unpredictable? YES. In the same way that the comment suggested that it’s not good to give people the impression that Haiti is a violent place, I also think it’s not good to make people think that it’s safer than it is. It is not any one thing. It can be safe, but there can also be major problems as we’ve even just witnessed with this last round of elections. It’s only prudent for a person to be aware of these things and to take measures to be safe. For some people that just means not going to certain parts of town. For others it means always carrying a weapon on their person or in their car as we know several people do. It’s a personal choice and it’s one that is made based on personal experience. I would never tell someone whether or not they should have a guard, or an armed guard for that matter, at their home. It’s their choice and is one that will be made based on their knowledge and experience. If someone here feels they need to carry a gun in their vehicle, they have their reasons and it’s not for me to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do. If a person felt they even needed to be riding around with an armed security person – that’s their perogative. It’s up to each of us to find what works for us. Am I really concerned about what kind of reputation it gives the country? Not really. If there wasn’t a need for it, it wouldn’t happen. Again, we each have different experiences and we shouldn’t judge each other because those experiences are not the same and don’t lead us to the same places.
And, this is a blog about our life and experiences. There is a lot I don’t share on here just to avoid the judgement that I know will probably come. It’s just easier to save myself the frustration. But, these are our experiences. Others have different experiences and different views. They should be allowed to share those openly, in the same way I should. One thing that I decided when I started blogging is that I would be honest about my life here. I wouldn’t edit things because it made them sound better or had more dramatic flare. Some people may not agree with my thoughts and my opinions, but they are mine (or Chris’) and they are based on our experiences here. I think it’s important to show people all sides of things. Some people blog about Haiti and all you hear about is the stuff that is easy to blog about. It’s not easy to talk about the times where we might feel hurt or insulted, where we think things should be done differently, where we disagree with certain things etc – but it’s all part of the big picture. It would be the same if I was back in Canada.