Thursday, July 3, 2008


The beginning is always the hardest, it seems. The beginning of anything: figuring out where to start a story you’re writing, beginning a new relationship, learning something new, entering a new culture. And so it is here. The beginning is hard. Where do you start? What do you take in? How do things work here? What is okay?

Haiti, and Port-au-Prince specifically, isn’t the safest place in the world, so there are some things I’d like to do that I probably won’t get to do, like walk down a street by myself and chat with people. I’m getting the impression I won’t be doing a lot of that. Oh well. You learn so much about a place by walking on its streets and learning its personality. Driving on streets is never quite as effective. I’ll probably have a little more freedom in the villages, though, which will be nice.

That said, though, first impressions are not so scary as one might expect from the things we hear on the news. The woman, Abigail, sitting next to me on the plane with her eight-year-old son said that the news only shows the bad parts of Haiti, but that there’s much more to Haiti than that. That jives with my Africa experience too. Abigail now lives in Florida and is an American citizen. She’s working to get her husband through immigration’s hoops, but right now he and other parts of her family are still in Haiti, so she comes back to visit them every year.

My friends Karen and Michael live in a house on the campus of a Nazarene seminary that is actually in a city called Petionville which is a little southeast of Port-au-Prince. I think they live on the nouth side of Petionville, the Port-au-Prince side.

Last night we went out to eat at a very nice Chinese restaurant in Petionville. The drive through the streets reminded me most of Cape Coast, Ghana, with a European edge to coastal, Caribbean architecture. It’s interesting how we always search through the files of other things we’ve known to help us understand the new things we encounter. So now I compare everything here to what I experienced in Africa in order to help me understand and describe it.

Today we’ll be heading to Pignon (pronounced something like Pee-OWN), north of here on Haiti’s central plateau. Someone asked me if there are mountains in Haiti, and I wasn’t sure, though I had read something about a central plateau. Well, in case that person’s reading, I have a better answer now. There are two mountain ranges, one on the south edge of the central plateau and one running somewhat horizontally, as I understand it, along the southern part of Haiti. (see the Haiti map I posted a few posts ago to help with the geography, or look up a better one)

We’ll stay in Pignon until Sunday. I think this will be my busiest stop in terms of the number of different organizations I’ll be in contact with. Michael and Karen and their daughter Kaydence are going, as well as Jake and Natalie, 16-year-old twins visiting Michael and Karen. Jake and Natalie were youth in the Broyles’s church in Tennessee. Their family now lives in China, which is part of the reason we went to a Chinese restaurant last night. Also going with us is Yverta, Michael and Karen’s house helper. So it’ll be a full plane.

I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to use a little French here and pick up a little Creole. In Africa I was around so many languages for such short amounts of time that it was pointless to try to learn much. But I’ll have over three weeks around the same two languages here, so that makes it worth trying to learn and remember things. Bits of high school and college French are still trapped in my brain, which gives me a starting point. I can usually get the jist of written French, but I never had nearly as much practice understanding spoken French. By the way, I’ve learned that Haitian Creole and the Creole in Louisiana are two different languages. Both have some relation to French, but the two languages developed separately, so they’re not really the same language.

Also, by the way, I’m currently on the same time as central time in the U.S. I think Haiti is actually in the eastern time zone, but it doesn’t participate in daylight savings time, so we’re the same as central time right now.

Jake, Natalie, Karen, Kaydence, Kami at Chez Wou

Kaydence and Kami, self-portrait

Karen and Kaydence

Chez Wou's cool ceiling


Anonymous said...

Cute photos! Thanks for the updates. Glad to hear you survived the night in the airport and are amongst friends again. And I agree with you about beginnings and about interpreting our current surroundings by our past experiences. Enjoy 4th of July in Haiti! I'm sure there will be lots of fireworks. :)

Julie said...

oh, wise Kami! Glad you're having good experiences. Makes me anxious to have some of my own soon. Praying for you!


The White's said...

We are excited to see how God continues to use you for his greater good. Never thought I could say I have a friend in Haiti and missionaries in Macedonia (the Buttemere family)! Be safe and we look forward to your journey. All Our Best, Bo, Shae and Brinson

Cydil said...

Hey Kami! Can't believe I'm reading following two blogs of friends in Haiti!

Don't be surprised if you run into 2 Asburians from KY while you're there!
Take care,