Sunday was our final day in Haiti. Seeing that it was the final day, it made sense to make get the most out of it. That means getting up early to take pictures of the sunrise and then cramming as much into the day before we can make the trek to the airport for the flight to Miami.
The day began as most of the other days began… with breakfast. The mood was a little bit more subdued on Sunday as people processed the trip, new friendships, and what would come next. After breakfast, several left to go to mass at the local Cathedral in downtown Cap-Haïtien. For the rest of us, there was some down time to pack and of course take more photos.
About an hour after the first group left, it was time to go and meet up at the Cathedral. We drove to the downtown area of Cap-Haïtien where there was a lovely town square that had the City Hall, what looked like a government building of some sort, and the Cathedral. After some of our friends left mass we went and sat in the park in the town square and Dominic, who runs Auberge du Picolet, shared a bit about what Haiti is really like and her experiences growing up there. I think the most interesting thing to me to come out of this conversation was realizing how destructive some Western ideals are becoming to the people of Haiti. This is primarily in regards to self image. Dominic is a young woman and shared how when she was growing up, self image really wasn’t an issue. Now, due to the influence of the media girls are going as far as bleaching their skin to look more “white.” People are also now becoming obsessed with being skinny. None of these problems were here just a decade or so ago.
Dominic also talked about growing up in Haiti and buying her license to drive at 13, only to discover it wasn’t a legitimate license. The system was so disorganized down there that it was assumed if you paid for it, it must be ok. If it wasn’t ok, it was the person you bought it from’s problem and not yours since you must have been scammed. That was the experience Dominic had. It was rather amusing to listen to as it is something that really would never be heard in the USA. She also shared about how as Haiti grows and other bigger named hotels come to the country she is concerned about Auberge du Picolet’s future. With the team it has now and how it is run, I have a hard time imagining it going anywhere. However, business is business. I will say this: It is a lot nicer than many hotels I have stayed at in Europe and I would love to stay there again. Auberge du Picolet has my complete endorsement and hat tip.
Following our adventure downtown it was time to head back to the hotel. There we saw Cyril once again as he was now back in town after a quick trip to his home in Port Au Prince. Next it was time to do some shopping. Some of us elected to walk to the store followed by the market. The highlight at the store was most likely the discovery that they sold ice cream that Cyril had told us about the day before. Soursop is a fruit down there that also is turned into ice cream. It was yummy but I wouldn’t say my favorite. It definitely hit the spot on a warm Sunday morning though!
Next stop was the local tourist market where several vendors had shops selling their local arts and crafts. It was much as I remembered it being last year. In each location there were people trying to invite you to come see what they had to sell. The goal obviously was to make the sale as well. This year I felt much more at ease saying I was willing to look and then wasn’t interested. I also knew what I wanted and what to expect so the bartering process was a lot more comfortable. What a difference experience makes!
Following the shopping trip we wandered back along the waterfront as we made our way back to Auberge du Picolet. It was a nice Sunday stroll as we chatted with Dominic and enjoyed one last experience in Haiti before heading home.
The day also included lunch at the hotel with a special Haitian drink that Dominic had sent to our table. Then it was time to head to the airport. We arrived quite early to make sure there were no surprises. Thankfully, there weren’t. After a couple of hours the plane arrived and we boarded a bus that took us across the tarmac to the Airbus 319 from American Airlines. I will admit, it was a sight for sore eyes. This feeling actually surprised me quite a bit because this trip I found I really have a deep fondness for Haiti, the people, and the work that we do down there with the Reliv Kalogris Foundation.
Visiting Haiti a second time was a much different experience than the first time. The first trip moved really fast and there was a lot going on. It was incredibly hard to absorb everything that was going on and process it at the same time. This time, I already had a baseline to expect which made it a bit easier to observe and process things. This trip also wasn’t as much of a shock to the senses. I commented at one point during the trip to Dominic that it seemed like Haiti smelled better this year. She responded, “oh, you noticed that!” Apparently one of the improvements down there is with the smells and waste removal. This was definitely a blessing for everyone and I’m glad they were spared from experiencing that combination of scents that I experienced last year.
Haiti has a very long ways to do but this trip I see potential and hope for the future. It is a nation that is full of poverty, disease, corruption, and problems. It also is a country that has incredible beauty. There are also people like Dr. Manno, Dominic, and Cyril that are working to make Haiti better tomorrow than it is today. Their hope for the future inspires me to want to support Haiti through the Reliv Kalogris Foundation that much more. The need is great and the potential is great, the support needs to be great as well. I hope that this potential is realized and becomes more than just a dream for the future. I also hope that I’m able to go back and watch this nation realize a dream for something better than it currently is.