Americas

Haiti-Bound!

Miami Airport does a beautiful art exhibit on traditional Haitian art
It’s that same feeling again. I am coming to know it well. Hands are warm, moderately sweaty. Heart beats faster –not racing– but swift. No longer am I burdened by the things I needed to do before I left. No longer am I sad to be leaving all that I have left behind –a common feeling that I have the night before, looking at the stillness of my room, talking to my favorite friends, smoothing over the face my boyfriend’s watch, knowing I can’t take it with me. The sentimentality begins to release from me. It flakes off in sheets.
Finally, I am ready to go.

Miami Airport does a beautiful art exhibit on traditional Haitian art

I am sitting in the Miami airport. Our flight is supposed to be boarding…now. In under two hours I will be in a different world, arriving at the airport in Port-au-Prince. I am trying to prepare myself for what I am about to see, so soon after such a devastating earthquake. It will be an eye-opener, I know– preparation only goes so far. Sometimes you just have to experience it.

Tomorrow we will be taking a small plane to Lagonav, an island of Haiti. There we will be spending time at the Matènwa Community Learning Center, teaching the use of these One Laptop per Child computers that I worked with in São Tomé to a new host of teachers and students.
A few highly notable differences from my last trip:
1)I’m not going alone. Involved with Waveplace (http://www.waveplace.org), a Boston-based organization that works to bring information technology to students throughout the Caribbean, I’m heading down with Waveplace Director Tim Falconer and will meet a few other members of the team (some of which live in Haiti) when we get down there.
2)Focusing more on sustainability and development than teaching, we will be training mentors in four pilot areas across the country (Haitian locals) to give the classes to the students, rather than  necessarily teaching ourselves. A number of the program coordinators are Haitian as well.
3)I don’t speak French, and I don’t speak Creole. Yet. This will be the beginning of two things: A fast-track course to learning one (or two) new language(s), and also a good way to analyze if my experience in São Tomé was particularly unique because of my language ability, or if OLPC truly can succeed in the outside world regardless of a language barrier.
4)It’s a disaster zone. Although we’re avoiding Port-au-Prince as much as possible, I still have yet to enter an area that has just gone through so much devastation so recently. It will be quite the experience trying to grapple with the issues that come along with this.
5)I’m not the only white person this time. I know this may sound petty, but it’s true…and it’s very different. People in Haiti, at this point, will be pretty used to seeing aid workers around –often white Americans. I won’t be so much of a shock to them. But it goes the other way too- there are a lot more people in Haiti right now who, frankly, have no idea what they’re doing. The woman sitting behind me just laughed because there was an announcement in French. “I hope they speak English too!” She exclaimed out loud. Then she and her friends started to talk about how “sketchy” the internet, electricity, phone, etc. was over there. I am quick to judge and I know this. I should be the one to speak, not knowing French myself. But I am confident enough in my language abilities that I will be able to pick things up quickly. Even though they are speaking French, I am still able to understand.
In French, a man was asked to come up to the desk “si vous plait.”
“Si vous plait,” the woman behind me says. “That’s French, right?”
Beth Santos
Founder and CEO of Wanderful, creator of the Women in Travel Summit, enthusiastic lover of ice cream, picnics and art.

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