lost in the beauty

Today was one of those days. I'm learning that my favorite way to get to know a city is to simply get lost. Last week, I went for a walk and shortly after got entirely lost. 5 hours later and i made it to my originally intended destination, and with a lot more knowledge and understanding of the place i call home for the next few weeks. Today was another one of those days.

Around lunch, i took the nearby tap-tap to meet a good friend of mine 20 mins down the road. From there, we grabbed a motorcycle and took off for the other side of town where we were meeting with some locals who would take us into the tent camps of cite solei. After hitchhiking on the back of a few pickup trucks (which I found to be quite the efficient means of getting aroun) and a few more tap-taps, we made it to the settlement. 

Inside we were greeted by the president of the tent camp and began to talk about life in the camp and the role in which music could play. Not having any understanding of French or creole turned out to be a slight hindrance (who would have thought) and instead of translating much of the conversation, i just let everyone else talk abut the project. Although not intended, I think this turned out to b a neat way to interact, because it let the haitians take ownership of the project and determine how it would best work and help the community.

After a few minutes, the children's curiosity began to get the best of them and we were joined by two dozen kids interested more in the color of our skin and snacks in our bag than the conversation being had. Who can blame them, cookies nearly always trump everything else. So we decided to take a walk around the camp (with 5 or 6 ds hanging off of each of us) and see the way life was run here. It was all so organized and for the most part, well kept. Each tent seemed to have it's own garden attached and the trails were relatively clean of trash (compared to the rest of Haiti). Mothers sat outside their homes sewing clothing or cooking dinner and the kids darted in and out of the plastic forts. As we walked, i talked with one of the residents who acted as our translator and we began to discuss the details of the music project in more depth. He told me how engaged the kids were to go to school and how instruments would be a tremendous asset to the school. I started to learn the value in developing close friendships and relationships with key people within the community who could then properly represent the project to the rest of the community. This allows the project to live beyond me and new leaf, we can help get it started and initiate a few key pieces, but ultimately the direction and energy will come from the haitians.

After walking around for awhile, the children's radar seemed to narrow in on the packs of cookies we carried with us and once we were with a manageable group, we distributed them to the group. Instant smiles all around. We said our goodbyes to the group and thank them for their generosity and carried on down the road.

Then the getting lost part started to happen.

At the intersection, we split from the rest of the group and dora and I continued on in a different direction. With a mix of over-confidence and eagerness to see a new part of the city we jumped on a tap-tap heading in the direction we thought to be towards our home. But within seconds we veered off the main road and were heading in the complete opposite direction of what we intended. As we traveled deeper and deeper into the city and down a maze of roads, we lost site of the sea and began to doubt our ability to get back. 

But seconds later, we turned a corner and came directly in front of the palace in port-au-prince. We decided to take advantage of the opportunity and jumped off to take a few pictures. As soon as the cameras were out of our bags, the art dealers were upon us. We walked past the first few but then one man approached us and the vibe in the air changed. There was something different about him, something which made us stop and listen to his story. The paintings lay on the sidewalk and for awhile, we stopped talking about art focused rather on his family. We learned about family members he lost in the earthquake and the struggles he faced trying to provide for those that were fortunate enough to be spared. I have heard the stories of pain and loss, but this time was different. This time I couldn't keep walking, i couldn't speed on to my safe apartment at the top of the street. This time i stopped. This time I listened. 

It doesn't take long to make a friend, and soon one friend leads to many others. As we crossed the street away from the palace and into the tent camps located directly across from the main gate, we were introduced to many of the musicians within the plastic-tarped village. We chatted about the work we were doing and how we could work together. We were invited into the tents and sat down to talk more and listen to some of our new friends sing. 

Inside the tent, a picture of the new president hung and a tv and fan sat in the corner. A few sheets hung over the window opening and a small rug laid at the foot of the mattress sitting on the ground. This was a luxury tent. The owner was blessed to have family back in the states who sent money down for him and as a result, his tent stood above the rest. Sadly, the vast majority of his tent camp neighbors were not as fortunate and their homes consist of mostly plastic walls, a floor mat and a few cooking utensils. A mattress is a luxury, and electricity is unheard of. 

We continued to laugh, share stories of our lives to that point, and how our dreams for the future could coincide. But as the sun began to set, we packed up our stuff and ventured back out to the road. They escorted us back to the tap-tap station and soon we were on our way to our original destination. I am quite grateful for unexpected detours in life. Haiti always teaches me patience and I am so grateful that I was able to not worry about what I needed today and instead, take the time to make some new friends. Next week, I hope to head back and film some video recordings of the musicians and hear more stories of life in the tent camp. Rumor has it that we may have a choir of 300 kids singing for us next week, oh boy...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Moving-- such strong industrious courageous people! Thanks for sharing what's happening on the ground this very day in haiti--will be praying...

Like? Repost it...