Friday, November 12, 2010

Parlez-vous soccer?

This is the gorgeous view from the ActionAid Guest house in Haiti, in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Pacot. It is a wonderful reminder that beauty really does exist in Haiti...even despite the earthquake effects, cholera outbreaks and aftermath of Hurricane Tomas. I have 3 great examples to back up this claim.

First, beautiful views abound. If you just head up into the hills or mountains a bit, you can see bright blue waters, towering mountains, lush trees, colorful flowers. The higher you go, the more you realize that Port-au-Prince is not the only part of Haiti, and that its rubble, trash and compact IDP camps are not the only things that define its character.

Second, the Haitian people are beautiful. Warm, thoughtful, quick to laugh, sensitive, strong, loving...Haitians constantly amaze me. How, in the middle of so much destruction and sickness, can people be so human, so connected, so solid? Two wonderful proofs of this fact are my current roomates: Marie (our ActionAid Haiti Human Resources Director and overall organizational mom) and Irvy (Marie's best friend of over 30 years.) I will have to devote another blog entry entirely to these two women. Despite the fact that both women lost their husbands years ago, that both women were traumatized by the earthquake and lost people they cared about, that both have children to worry about educating and overwhelming responsibility to care for the lives of others, they are free, loving spirits. Their full belly laughs fill the home. Their kindness and smiles are infectious. They really know how to live (and how to make a foreigner feel right at home.)

Third, Haitian children are beautiful (ok, children do officially count as people, but they still get their own category.) When I emerged from the Guest House yesterday early evening to go for a walk with Marie, the children and their soccer ball descended. A round of voices started asking me if I knew how to play soccer. I joked and teased them and said of course I did, but did THEY know how to play soccer, or would I have to teach them. This resulted in the most beautiful chorus of giggles and laughter and enthusiastic pleading for me to come and play a quick game with them.

I am proud to report, that I scored 2 goals, blocked over a dozen attempts and successfully managed to not embarrass myself on the makeshift soccer field (consisting of a small dirt patch of semi-even ground, rocks for goals and a sadly deflated soccer ball.) In fact, I even got some good praise from the gathered bystanders. Of course, my fellow players were only 8 year old boys who were playing without shoes, but that's beside the point. Soccer turned out to be a language that we could all speak. And the children's supreme delight with me playing reminded me that Haitian children are beautiful miracles...with a joie de vivre that deserves our greatest respect.

I suspect that my next blog might be a bit more reflective of the many challenges that Haitians are facing right now: the cholera deaths, the slow pace of removing rubble, the disputes of land tenure and fact that Haitians are being pushed off of IDP camp land. Yet, today, I just want to bask for a minute more in the beauty that is Haiti. I hope that you get a chance to do the same.


  1. Elise - I am truly moved by this entry. You describe the beauty in Haiti so, well, beautifully! Many thanks for sharing these updates. Thinking of you - Ann

  2. Zut! I posted a long comment on this post yesterday, but it's not there. I will try to summarize what I'd said: My first reaction to the first picture was, Wait, that's Haiti?! It reminded me of Sete. Remember when we walked up and up and up in the hot sun, weighed down by our packs, only to get to the top to find that amazing view? I believe that you were meant to stay in the great house you're in, with the amazing people you're with, on this trip, to give you--and us-- some perspective. Beauty is not far off from the devastation in Port-au-Prince. Keep up your good work!