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The Hope

 School at Gros Morne

The question I was most asked when I returned from Haiti was, "What is the prognosis?"

Truthfully, I do not know.  But there are so many good things that I saw in my brief visit to the Northwest, that I have reason for hope.

Haiti's most important resource, probably her only resource, is her people.  Everyone I met was kind and gentle, respectful of animals, plants, and one another, and of an itinerant traveler such as myself.  Though my skin complexion is light, I never felt this was an issue.  Even small children did not stare at me.

People were hard at work trying to scratch an existence from the soil.  Despite the extreme poverty by US standards, I never felt any sense of being vulnerable to robbery or personal assault, even when I was walking alone.  Of course, we were careful to keep our valuables locked against the solitary opportunist, but I sensed such a strong feeling of community that even if there had been an incident, I think we would have had the cooperation and help of the 99.99% of supportive and friendly people around us.

Coconut seedling

Before we left Miami, we were instructed not to say anything political.  That is good advice in traveling to an area that has seen the desperation of rare and extreme violence.  Yet in Haiti I sensed an excitement about the forthcoming March 2000 elections (which have since been postponed), and I saw at least three people carrying the Haitian Konstitutyon under their arms.  The people seem to take politics seriously, and there are a few candidates who see the need for economic improvement which is motivated by government policies.

The roads are just one example of an area that requires some form of government activity.  But if the political problems are intractable at a national level, there are still many things that could possibly be done locally that would help the economic infrastructure.  For example, if local improvement districts could be established, they might be able to take responsibility at the local level for problems of roads, health care, and communications.  In a sense this is already happening at the community level.  Several of the groups of farmers who we met were working together in just such a capacity, without any outside authority.  It appears that in some cases local priests take the responsibility of acting in an unofficial governance.

 Baie des Moustiques

As someone who got the travel bug in my blood when I was too young to appreciate it, but realize that most of the good travel destinations of the world have now become MacDonaldized, I highly recommend Haiti as a tourist destination.  True, you may have to plan your trip once you get here, and prepare to spend a little longer in getting around, but Haiti is special because of the rich traditional life, it is very affordable, and with minimal knowledge of Kreyol and a smile, you will have a good time.

Where else can you find a place that's not even listed in the major travel books, yet is only 1 1/2 hours from Miami?

Queries: philip@busey.org