Posts in Haiti

In Jacmel Haiti Abandoned Coffee Factories Become Vibrant Art Galleries

In Jacmel Haiti, we ventured down a shaded side street and into an avenue of crumbling factories that seemed all abandoned. But behind those rusted red doors was something of a secret discovery.

Haiti always has something surprising to show.

Part of the surprise is that Haiti hasn’t been a destination on the top of most lists to travel to, so much of what’s to see and experience is unknown. But I’ve already gone through the reasons why you shouldn’t judge Haiti by its media coverage and why it is one of my favorite places to visit. Besides just those surprises of the unknown, when I visit Haiti I always feel like I’m having some profound experience — more so than I feel in other places.

It isn’t the monuments of history like Rome, where I lived out a childhood dream exploring the Colosseum. It isn’t moments like bungy jumping for the first time and the feeling of death and life gripping you within seconds of each other. As always with Haiti, it’s something more engrossing, more powerful, and more raw. It’s the feeling of the air around every experience there. In every interaction. In every step and touch and taste and smell and smile. It’s old and fragile yet ready to burst at the seams with life. There’s just some things that hold it back, and a part of that is that the world and people look at Haiti like a crumbling ruin that should just be passed by without a glance.

As I’ve come to experience from both of my trips to Haiti, one in 2012 and the last in 2015, is that no matter how it looks to the naked eye, Haiti always holds surprises within. And with that said, it was no different when we came upon an avenue of apparently abandoned buildings. As we wandered the side streets of Jacmel Haiti, we found a small gallery hidden behind a half-opened red iron door of a cracked building.

Inside, we met Prince, the owner of the gallery who we had the pleasure to learn from about the history of those very buildings. And he gave us a private tour of the abandoned factories connected, ones that held the past of a prosperous Haiti frozen in time behind locked doors. Inside those crumbling shells told the story of Jacmel, a booming port city in the early 1900’s — and those buildings were coffee factories processing coffee brought in from the hillsides.

It wasn’t just another abandoned place, because I do my fair share of urban exploring. The whole time walking through those halls and hearing the history gripped me, and nearly stole my breath. I could feel the “once upon a time” of it all. But more importantly, it was what beautiful things were happening behind these crumbling facades that was the surprise. Instead of passing it by without a glance, we chose to peak in and discover what was really beneath the surface. Now it’d your turn to.

Come check out the video that I’ve put together about this experience, and share your thoughts after!

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Old iron doors this heavy duty were a sign of a prosperous business.

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Century old coffee machinery still intact.

 

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Near the coffee machinery, Voodoo drawings on the wall. Our guide said some people sneak in to have ceremonies here.

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I could feel this profound “once upon a time” sense here, almost as if I could see the machinery running and the business bustling.

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An old well that is said to be cursed by bad Voodoo spirits, or so I was told.

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Old desks with paperwork and transaction receipts still cluttering the surface.

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An old bottle of rum, nearly 100 years old, stands defiantly dusty against time. On the label it noted all of the health benefits of rum. Ain’t that something?
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Automobile lubrication charts that were used as mock instructions on up keeping the coffee machinery.
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Century old ledgers and receipts, handwritten, noting sales of tens of thousands of Haitian dollars worth of coffee lay scattered on the ground.
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“These were once all coffee factories” our guide said as he took me to the rooftop.

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“It wasn’t the earthquake” he told us in his harsh cigarette voice, “it was just forgotten.”
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The intricacies of the arches and doors show just how wealthy this factory once was.
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Across from the crumbling factory, he had more to show us. More of the abandoned factories that weren’t just “forgotten”.
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An art gallery and studio was created from the ruins of one factory to make an inspirational space for young artists.

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Some artists favor traditional art, others modern. Much on display was also different mediums used to depict Voodoo culture and history.
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Political art, amongst the rest, was prominent here with the young artists using their skills as their voice.
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A young Haitian artist paints a traditional piece with other students, depicting history of Haiti using different symbols.

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Quotationmark

Again Haiti left me in wonder. For it is only here that I feel I see such an inspirational rise from ruin to create beauty from decay.”


Loving Haiti? You’ll also love these articles below!

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Haiti Travel Guides

Welcome to the one and only, über awesome guide to Haiti! Ever wanted to visit the Pearl of the Caribbean, Ayiti? Intrigued as to find out more about what lies beneath in this mis-represented country? Ever wanted to know what the hell to pack, where to go, how to get around, what the food is like, and all of that good stuff?

Well dudes and dudettes, you will find information and extensive guides below!

Interactive Map

(Don’t be shy! Tap or move your cursor over the map and look at the points of interest!)

 

Haitian Flag PNG        

SAKAPFET! – Sah-kahp-fèt – What’s going on?

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Creole (Kreyòl) and French (Français)

There are two official languages in Haiti, Creole and French, but there are vast cultural differences. French is by some considered the language of the educated, and was the only official language until 1961. Whereas Haitian Creole is considered the language of the Haitian people and spoken by nearly the whole population. Both are quite similar, and if you know French, you should be all gravy.

  • What Haitian phrases to know before you go (Coming Soon!)

 

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Location and Geology

Caribbean, Island of Hispaniola

You can’t deny that the Caribbean is home to some of the most beautiful vacation spots in the world. Haiti, on the western portion of Hispaniola, is the third largest Caribbean island with one of the longest coastline in the world…which makes it pretty damn beautiful. Like other Caribbean islands, the waters are warm and the sun is always shining! Haiti is covered in rolling hills and mountains, but due to deforestation, has very little green left.

  • Must Visit Destinations in Haiti (Coming Soon!)

 

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Largest Cities 

Capital: Port-Au-Prince/Pòtoprens, Cap-Haitian/Okap/Kapayisyen

Port-Au-Prince is Haiti’s capital city as well as its largest population density by far. Constructed like an amphitheater, the city’s business district is located close to the water, with the homes up in the hills. Much of Port-Au-Prince is in disrepair due to the 2010 earthquake. Cap-Haïtian is the second largest city in Haiti, and described as the more educational focused city. From Cap-Haïtian you can reach Labadee, a tourist attraction, or La Citadel which played an important role in their independence.

 

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Culture and Population

9,7000,000 (2011 estimates)

The Haitian people have quite the storied history. With influences from colonization of the Spanish, to their native Taino people, it has combined to create a rich culture. After declaring their independence in 1804, Haiti has had a history of political corruption and violence that has held it back, but the good is still apparent. With a love for music, vibrant artwork, amazing food, and a will a love for talking, there is plenty things amazing about its culture.

 

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Food

Spicy, Fried, Rice, Beans, Pork, Fresh Seafood, Plantains

Haitian food is absolutely delicious, and absolutely deadly if you don’t know what you are eating. When I say deadly, I mean fiery, and if you can’t handle spice, know what you are eating. Haitian food is influenced by Spanish, French, and its native Taino and is generous with herbs and spicy peppers, as well as rice, beans, pork, and chicken.

  • Delicious Food Guide to Haiti (Coming Soon!)

 

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Religion

Catholic, Protestant, Mixed-Voodoo

Catholicism is by far the largest practiced religion, sitting at around 85%, brought over during early settlements by Christopher Columbus and the Spanish. Also practiced is the highly mis-understood Voodoo religion, practiced by nearly 50% of the population. Oh, and it’s not nearly as Hollywood horror-esque as it’s made to be.

 

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Getting Around

Main Highways: Route Nationale 1 (North), 2 (West), and 4 (South).

Traversing Haiti can be a little bit wild to put it lightly. Haiti’s infrastructure for roads and highways is not very well-kept, and all attempts to build a public transportation system have all failed. Two main highways, Route 1 and 2, are decently kept and can take you all the way North to Cap-Haïtian or West from Port-Au-Prince. Also, Route 4 will take you South to the popular coastal town of Jacmel.

  • Guide to Getting Around Haiti (Coming Soon!)

 What else would you like included in this guide from my experiences?

SOS! Stranded on the Caribbean Sea in Haiti.

Oh shit, is that bad?” I said, sitting up and eyes wide.

It began with a slight pitter patter, which soon turned to a stuttering putter, which became a grinding ‘grrrrrrr’, which led to a finale with a ‘KINK CLUNK’, followed by silence. The propeller had stopped, and we were dead in the water in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.
Broken down boat in Haiti

Nah, we’re all good man” Vick re-assured me.

Well, we weren’t in the middle of the Caribbean Sea per-se…but as the Kapitèn Bato, or boat captain, yanked the boat engine rope over and over with no rewarding roar of an engine starting, it seemed as though we would be stranded east of Tortuga in Baie de l’Acul for an un-foreseeable future.

At least that is what my comically disastrous mind immediately started coming up with.

Scenarios involved a Gilligan’s Island-esque existence, or possibly man-eating sharks swarming our boat which didn’t exist when we were swimming in the water earlier. Or what if a freak storm were to hit! I would have no volleyball available to be my best friend…

Actually, maybe we are fucked!” Vick said, then proceeded to laugh.

Truth be told — our rickety water taxi; built of weather-worn planks and corrugated metal roofing, had broken down off the coast of Northern Haiti and our “captain” had no tools with him.

And we had no cell reception of course.

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The day had begun as all cliché island adventures do: The sun was bright (of course it is, it’s the sun!) and the azure Caribbean water was calling us (of course it was, it’s blue…and it was freakin’ hot!)

Our motley crew; David, Vick, Mike, and I, were just coming to after a night of Prestige…the beer. There was nothing prestigious about us at that moment as we licked our dehydrated lips, grunted as we picked ourselves up off the beach chairs where we had passed out, and chugged water vigorously.

We had a meeting with the mayor of Cap-Haitian that afternoon, but chillaxing in the private beach cove called Belly Beach had been so much damn fun that we needed one last day to explore the area before leaving. We were on Haitian time anyway, and surely the Mayor was of course, so we could take our time cruising a bit.

After grabbing some of the typical finger-lickin’ grub of Haiti, fried pork and plantains, Vick was able to convince a boat taxi driver to spend the day with us taking us around the coast. Just like taxi drivers in big cities, they hate leaving their “jurisdiction”, but a few extra buckaroos is always enough to change minds.

TIme to cruise the Caribbean baby!
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Photo Feb 25, 4 42 30 AMSometimes the fates can be assholes, and maybe I should have taken this as a sign. It was kind of like an “Au Revoir suckers!” before we even set off.

But we didn’t expect anything to go awry as our boat slid off the beach and the engined roared up to take us out into the open waters. Actually, more like a lawn mower sounding when it turned on, but whatever!
Photo Feb 26, 1 40 30 AMWith the wind blowing in my hair (of course the wind was blowing through my hair, we were moving!) the boat zipped out into open waters and we were finally going to get to tour the coastline.

All jokes aside, I gotta’ admit to you – The waters around Haiti’s coast are kind of mind-blowing. They really are like looking through a thick piece of glass.
Royal Caribbean HaitiWanna’ play chicken? I think not. The cruise ship was in port near Labadee and people darted around in the distance on jetskies.
I'm on a boat! In HaitiI mainly stuck to the bow of the boat marveling at the scenery while our boat driver explained a bit of the area.
Old ruins in HaitiAlong the coast it was common to see little outcrops of ruins from clubs or resorts that once was. It looked like an utterly amazing spot to relax, but Haiti’s tourism has yet to recover.
Photo Feb 25, 4 41 42 AMRazor sharp rock outcroppings line the coast in many places, I’m guessing from some sort of volcanic activity?
Exploring Haiti's North CoastI’m on a boat! It was crazy chill cruising around, and at that moment I was totally diggin’ the rickety boat. But that wouldn’t last of course.
Jurassic Park like Island in HaitiTotally looks like Jurassic Park huh? We all at this very moment started singing the theme song at the same exact time.
Swimming in the Caribbean
All was fine and dandy. We were swimming in the warm waters off the coast before heading back. I mean, look how freakin’ happy Vick is…and this is his own country!

But all would stay at such gleeful levels. After diving for a bit off the boat, we all boarded and realized it was getting WAY late, and we still had a meeting to make it to!

And then it happened. Or began to…

It took our boat driver a few pulls to get it started this time. At first I didn’t think much about it, but as we continued on I kept seeing the driver fiddling with the engine.

We started cruising closer and closer to the coast because I’m guessing he knew something was wrong.

Then, with an orchestra of mechanisms failing, the engine grinded to a halt.

There wasn’t much around us at all, just some huts in the distance with smoke from cooking fires rising into the air, and far off silhouettes of boats out of yelling range.

Boat in Haiti with CraftsThis guy paddled up to us with an assortment of handmade souvenirs, but alas, I don’t think a small carved paddle would help us out of this one.

At this point I had nearly bitten off all of my nails. Our two other Haitian friends were completely relaxed and chatting, but I was thinking up the worst ends to this dilemma as possible.

Suddenly the driver got the engine working again, and our little boat that could began cruising again!

And again the engine failed.

Haitians repairing an engineLuckily for is this time the engine happened to fail close to a stone landing. Our driver let the boat drift over to the landing tied up the boat.

From the top of a hill a few Haitians called out, and the driver called back. Then a gent came strolling down the stairs and to the landing.

It’s amazing just how Haitians up and help strangers out, but as I’ve said before, it’s a quality I noticed all over Haiti.

They hoisted the engine onto the landing and the presumable owner of the house broke out his tool box. I have no clue what was done, but it seemed after a few trial-and-error experiments and the engine back up and running!

And though I was still pretty skeptical of our boat’s ability to get us back…I let out a HUGE sigh of relief.
Boat to LabadeeBut with sights like this would it be all that bad to get stranded here?
Sunset on the coast in HaitiAs much as I love a life untethered, I wasn’t ready quite yet to play Survivor Man on a random island near Haiti.
Sunset over LabadeeThough we didn’t make it back in time for our meeting because of that unexpected mis-adventure, getting to cruise along the coastline of Haiti was a damn good time, and is exactly one if the reasons why I fell in love with the country.

Not the breaking down part…the beauty of course…

Ever had a mishap like this one? Share your mis-adventure!

 

Weekly Photo: Shady Dealings in a Haitian Marketplace.

I love marketplaces. I think marketplaces in countries abroad are the true depictions of the country itself and what makes it tick. People put pieces of themselves out on display in hopes that someone will see value in it, from hand-crafted works of art to hand-picked fruits.

In the marketplaces people talk about politics, news, family, and life while bartering and exchanging currencies. In a marketplace you can feel the ebb and flow of the country’s inner workings – what fruits are specialties, how they prepare meats, poultry, and fish, what visions pass through their minds to translate onto canvas or meld into metal work.

It’s all there on display; craft, skills, labors, hobbies, and thoughts — and it is the best way to get to know a country in my mind.

This is a bustling marketplace in Cap-Haitian, Haiti, that is a part of a vast network of roofed sections with hundreds of people going about their daily lives away from the scorching sun.

Haitian Marketplace

Share this or a bit of travel mojo below to your friends!

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“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”

– Anthony Bourdain

Haiti is taking over the blog. Read more HERE!

Weekly Photo Mojo is about stimulating your cortex with retina rupturing and awe-inspiring photos from around the world to help you reach Terminal Vicariosity (The point where the mind reaches maximum capacity from living vicariously through someone else, and chooses to start actually living.)

Travel Horror Story: Stumbled into a Haitian Crypt.

Unearthed skulls, slow burning candles dripping molten wax over the rough stone crypts, echoes through the hallowed corridors of chants in unison which called forth the god Bondyè.

Peeking around one of the crypts, my stomach retreated into my ribcage like a scared pup cowering in its doghouse as I saw women and men swaying, shaking, and chanting.

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A goat, eyes glazed over with fear from the commotion, was pulled forward to a priestess adorned with a gold. Firelight dancing over the hammered metals she wore, and in her hand reflected the bright silver light from a curved blade.

I held my breath, so not to disturb the ritual, and so wouldn’t be next to have my head laid on that fire charred stone mantle. Or should I say chopping block.

Then it happened. Swift and clean like a knife through warm butter. No “Shing!” noise was made like you might hear in movies when a sword cuts into a foe. No, this sound was much more nightmarish.

Have you ever heard a goat cry?

If not, I never wish it upon you.

As blood burst over the white matted fur and the goat collapsed, a wail like the one from a crying baby rang out through the stone labyrinth of crypts, and as the goat’s twitched its screams turned to a whimper, then a gurgle, then silence.

And I wanted to vomit.

And that was a fictional travel horror story…

Gotcha! Hopefully I didn’t give you the heebie-jeebies too much, but I told this very Horror movie-esque tale because this is what I expected to see when I first explored a Haitian above ground crypt.

I already have a fascination with cemeteries, but growing up on ‘The Crypt Keeper’ and hearing very terrifying stories of Haitian Voodoo ceremonies, I expected to be trapped in my own Hollywood horror story.

As usual though, it ended up not being like I expected. So come with me through a tour of a haunting, yet beautiful Haitian Cemetery.

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It kind of happened by accident. We had never planned on exploring one, but we happened to stumble into the old marketplace director who was fascinated by our project.

When I found out we were going to be getting a tour of one of the cemeteries, usually gated and locked, I became über giddy.

I don’t know what it is, but I always find myself drawn to the age old stone markers of lives that once were wherever I tend to travel to.

Up until this point I had seen tons of them, small and large, lining the roads we drove through or dotting city blocks. Always walled and locked.

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When we first entered through the rusted wrought iron gate following a priest, I felt the need to hold my breath like I did as a little boy whenever you would pass a cemetery in a car.

It was silent, except for the others echoing voices as they had already walked far ahead. I was just 10ft in and already felt lost in a labyrinth.

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I couldn’t help but walk slowly though. Even though I’ve been in PLENTY of beautiful old cemeteries, I hadn’t been into on like a Haitian cemetery.

Personal mausoleums towered over me like a bustling city of the dead, all brightly colored and stacked upon each other like a small Haitian city of its own.

Some were cracked or crumbled from time and the natural disasters that have plagued the country.

Yet, in the presence of the dead amongst the crumbling skyscrapers of passed loved ones, I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of these memorials.

And there was a pit in my stomach as I walked through the corridors thinking about my mother, and how she does not have one.

A bucket list item of my own.

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When we came to this iron topped blackened crypt with a small stone box connected to its base was when thought up that elaborate and creepy story at the beginning of this article.

The priest told us that this was a very special stone, one in which individuals come in the twilight hours to give trinkets, burn herbs, and offer vodou prayers. And MAYBE even sacrifices.

*cue the suspenseful music*

Whether or not that is true, or to scare some gullible American like myself that believes everything explodes or is haunted, it was still intriguing.

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I feel like I could have wandered, and probably gotten lost, for hours in that cemetery, but the priest also turned out to be the ex-head of the marketplace in Cap-Haitian and was taking us on a VIP tour of that as well.

But one thing was for certain as we walked back through those snaking colorful corridors – Haitian cemeteries are not bloody voodoo ritual grounds, but beautiful memorials to their loved ones.

P.s. I have actually heard a baby goat cry, and it is just as terrifying as I described.

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What do you feel about cemeteries, and where is your favorite?

In Photos: Inspirational Smiles from Haiti

A smile. It is simple, yet so profound. Filled with a thousand words, meanings, and emotions. So I’ve compiled smiles from Haiti for you, and some inspirational quotes, to inspire a cheesy grin to form on your face.

Because I freakin’ love to smile!

Smiling…that subtle reaction that happens when the electric neuronal signals tickle the oldest part of your cortex, making your brain giggle with joy, which stimulates your smile muscles causing that cheesy grin to form. The fact that we HAVE smile muscles should make you smile.

However complicated that scientific mumbo-jumbo may sound, a smile is the most basic, yet most powerful sign of communication. There is no other form of expression that elicits a more powerful emotion, because happiness will always trounce hatred.

Recently I described my eye-opening experience in the first few hours being in the country, where I realized first impressions mean nothing. But one impression, and a lasting one I got, was that there were smiles abound.

Sure, some tried to hide the smiles, some only smiled after they discovered we weren’t there to document Haiti’s hardships to make an award-winning documentary from their pain. But one thing was for sure, Haitian’s love to smile.

Smiling is the most universal language. Those times I couldn’t pronounce something, or couldn’t convey what I wanted in the language, a smile could tell them either way I was grateful.

So I compiled some photos together of all the smiles from the trip. Smiles from high up heads of Ministry’s, smiles from the mountain tops, smiles from the small villages, and smiles from my friends and I as we discovered Haiti.

As I was writing this, the photos and memories made me smile.

I hope some of these will in turn make you smile, because they say smiling is more powerful than those endorphin-injecting chocolates.

So Smile.

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Huge smiles before embarking on the gnarly journey.

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill

 

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Happiness in Belly Beach, Nord, Haiti while soaking up the rays and swimming in crystal clear waters.

 

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Cute kiddo flashing a smile and a peace sign while at a rally for Waste Management change.

 

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Children flocked to the camera on the mountain roads rom Port Au Prince to Cap-Haitian.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” – James Michener

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Happy to flex his muscles and give a smile for the camera.

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This guy is pointing at you to smile. Are you yet?

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At first skeptical that we were a crew trying to find gold mines in the region, these gents eventually let their defenses down and let out a few smiles.

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley

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This young model to be stepped in front of the camera to give her, “Yeah, I’m awesome” smirk and pose.

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The Wesley Snipes of Haiti. While recording some footage on the beach, he wanted me to shoot an impromptu action sequence.

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A supporter at the Waste Management rally smiles after hearing the mission of our documentary: to bring electricity to the country.

“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon

 

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Suddenly feeling free and at peace along the cliffs while driving to Labadee, Scenery like this always makes me smile.

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.”
-Paramahansa Yogananda

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Cruising on a boat in the Caribbean in Northern Haiti.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

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Cap-Haitian kids crowded our cameras posing for all sorts of photos and flashing some smiles.

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Jagged mountains creating green valleys make me smile.

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”
-Cesare Pavise

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The barber in Port Au Prince, loving what he does every day.

“He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” – Moorish proverb

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Viky getting a haircut by the guy he always go a trim from when he lived in Haiti.

 

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This lady was all smiles as we discussed Haiti’s Tourism with the Ministry of Tourism and the potential growth upcoming.

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The Mayor of Cap-Haitian, known for not smiling much, flashed a smile after we signed paperwork for the energy prototype!

“A smile is the universal welcome.” -Max Eastman

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Viky, in the blue, had his first time seeing the coastline of Haiti up close even after being born there. Totally made him smile in disbelief of the scenery.

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

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Prestige on the beach. Good times.

“I was so embarrassed about mispronouncing words. I just knew how to smile.” -Adriana Lima

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Underwater smiles as we swam in the beautiful warm waters on the coast.

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“Haiti is open for business” Conference, where everyone was happy to discuss getting companies involved in Haiti’s economic growth.

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Before leaving, we posed we Viky’s lovely mother and the crew. I was sad to leave, but I smiled because it happened.

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” -Dr. Seuss

Which country have you been to with the most smiles?

Read More Posts from Haiti

Eye Opening: My First Real Impressions Of Haiti
To Haiti, With Love, to Film a Documentary
Home From Haiti – This Contrast May Kill Me.
Haiti Travel Advice: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover.
Haiti in Photos – Don’t Look! You Might Fall In Love.
Video: 10 Beautiful Days Around Haiti.

Eye Opening: My First Real Impressions of Haiti.

Dusty
                                                    Dirty
                                       Hot
                     Congested
                     I’m the only white guy
Poverty

                                       People are staring at me

                     Shanty towns
    Barbed wire
                                                     Trash
                        Little kids washing windows
        Everyone is arguing

First impressions are everything right? Well, if I went by first impressions like we do in everyday life; checking another person out by the way they look with a quick one-over, labeling a city crime ridden because of graffiti, foods that look weird taste bad, my first impressions of Haiti would have been pretty damn bad.

Bad like those words listed above which were some of the first to fill my eyes.

Bad to the point that if I chose only to see that, I probably would have had a miserable time. And this article would take have taken a turn towards ignorant, because first impressions tell nothing of a person, place, or thing. And we must choose to look past that.

First impressions are a funny thing.

It seems that we make so many judgements in our daily lives based on this aspect of human nature, yet it is such a false representation of everything.

Those descriptions above can resemble many places, and surely some of the towns I drove through in the mid-west of the United States give or take a few things. Remember, these “impressions” can be taken in all over the world because those are the images that first shoot through our retina and into our brains.

Luckily, us humans are given the gift of thought process (some at least) and can decide to look a little deeper. Observe a little better.

And so I tried to observe a little better.

I’ve already written about how Haiti rocked my preconceived notions about the country within 72hrs. I guess you could say my first impressions were already programmed into me via the media, so you could expect one to only notice the things the media cares to share about a country like Haiti.

But I revealed just how drastically different the once Pearl of the Caribbean was after my visit, and why you shouldn’t judge a place like the book of a cover.

So let us delve into those first few hours after I had arrived after I arrived from the glitz and glamour of Miami to the capital city Port Au Prince.

 

The Damn Good Music

If I was being literal, my first impressions of Haiti would have been the copious amounts of Rhum Barbancourt advertisements plastered on the causeway from the airplane (though I do love it!) but my first real impression, and a lasting one, is the music.

When we first exited the airplane we heard upbeat island music playing down the hall. We were greeted by these gents, playing all sorts of odd instruments that created quite a marvelous island tune, and probably helped soften up a few of my fears as we entered the country.

There was always music everywhere we went. People singing, listening to music, or playing instruments.

After what seemed like an impromptu music video, with all of the musicians attempting to get in front of the camera, we left them a 5er and went in to grab our bags.

Skip past the flare that all island countries have when you land and let’s get to the real first impressions.

 

Shotgun Gentleman (hospitality)

My stomach slammed to the floor.

I had glanced over my shoulder while in the air-conditioned waiting area of the airport, already on the lookout for danger, when my worst fear had come true. I suddenly spotted a tall uniformed Haitian staring me down.

Dark, stone-chiseled expression on his face which was half hidden by aviators just staring blankly at me…

…with a big-ass shotgun in his hands!

There I was…anxious little white boy in a country coated with stories of marauding thieves robbing travelers at the airport.

And then he pointed at me. I did the ‘look-behind-who-me?’ action and he began to wave me over to him. When I paused, he called out with his low, thick accented voice something I couldn’t understand.

I may have peed myself a little at that point.

So I tapped my buddy David who was with me (if I was going down, so was he) and we walked cautiously over. When we reached about five feet before the Haitian Terminator, he stepped aside, seemingly told the other two guards on a bench to get up, and offered us a seat.

“Oh! Mèci!” I said in my terrible broken Creole.

My mind was blown.

I think it is quite normal to be intimidated by a badass shotgun, but my first impression was shattered when he offered some weary travelers his seat on the bench.

And a quality I was shocked by constantly. While traveling, it became very obvious that Haitians were willing to help out a stranger for now reason; be it a seat, food or drink, or stopping to help someone broken down.

Something which RARELY happens in the United States.

SUPER Chill

It would be an understatement if I said Haitian’s are laid back. After the Shotgun Gentleman, it was time to leave the airport. Upon exiting, David says to Viky, “Are those people waiting for a bus or something?

Viky responded with a, “No they are just chillin’.

Wait just chillin’? Don’t they have something to do?

Viky thought this was hilarious. “No, we just like to chill a lot.

Apparently it is quite common for Haitians to just chill out somewhere. Kick back and have a conversation in the shade.

A quality I know most Americans don’t have, and this is awesome.

In a country so wrought with destruction and political nonsense, is was spectacular to see Haitians so adamant about taking time to relax during the day. Though this quality was sometimes frustrating when we showed up for a meeting and had to wait 3 hours because they were on “Haitian Time”, the ability to appreciate the small things like relaxing is another quality that opened my eyes.

Which leads me to the next observation…

 

Never Alone

I literally can’t remember one instance where I saw a Haitian sitting alone. And in those first few hours in Port Au Prince I saw just how connected Haitians were with each other, whether they knew the person or not.

Always crowds of people talking everywhere, and no matter what time of the day or night.

Wait…people talking to each other?

Strangers talking to each other?

Coming from a country where people are so connected with electronics than actual people and socialites aren’t actually social in the real world, it was wild (and refreshing) to see people having genuine conversations and not on a single cell phone.

And for the entire trip I wouldn’t have access to the internet or a cell phone. And that felt amazing.

Always on the Move

Yes, Haitians are super chill, but that doesn’t mean they are lazy by any means. Maybe that is why they take time to relax, because they are ALWAYS moving. The motorbikes, cars, and crowds (don’t forget the Tap Taps!) make up the ebb and flow of the country’s cities.

As we drove through Port Au Prince after leaving the airport it seemed as if nothing stood still. People walking up and down the streets selling merchandise, motorbikes sped past. And through all of the commotion, I rarely saw anyone stressed out.

They just were going.

Most of the time you see people in a big city in the United States on a work day, they are stressed out to the point of bursting a vein.

Pro Rally Car Drivers

Hey white boy, you alive?” followed by a loud cackle as our driver made fun of me.

My face was flushed whiter than white boy white, I was glued to the seat, and I was biting off all of my nails. And holding my breath. And cringing in fear.

The rickety manual hatchback we were in bobbed and weeved through the chaos that is Haitian traffic. Traffic lights mean nothing at all, and whipping into on coming traffic to pass a car and nearly colliding with another is the way to traverse town.

And something I never got used to.

But I will admit, damn these Haitians can drive! With the walled cobblestone streets and winding roads, I’m surprised the Rally Car circuit hasn’t recruited Haitians to race for them.

All I can say is that Jason Stathom in Transporter has nothing on Haitian Drivers.

Perfect Balance and Posture

Damn, Haitians have perfect posture” I noted as we drove through the streets. And it’s freakin’ true!

All of the women and men walking through the streets balancing baskets, clothing racks, and various other crazy things blew my mind. They would sometimes have things balanced on their heads I wouldn’t be able to carry in my arms!

And lets not forget Haitians are pro at balancing acts. Ask them to transport a car on the back of a motorbike and I am sure they could find a way. Immediately it dawned on me that Haitians live by the aged old saying, “if there is a will, there is a way”

Like seriously. A refrigerator?

Always Arguing

I’d come to find out that while I thought Haitians were always arguing about something when I first arrived, that is just how they speak to each other.

On the streets and everywhere we went there was always finger-pointing and raised voices, and even our two Haitian friends always seemed to be fighting.

I’d always be asking, “is everything cool?” when our Haitian friends would be talking to each other, or when they were buying/bartering. It always sound like they were pissed off, or right on the verge of a fight.

“Don’t sound like a little white boy when you speak Haitian. You must sound like a MAN! Haitians, we are hard people” Mike, one of our Haitian friends said to me, as he slammed his fist against his chest.

Haitians are proud and strong in their beliefs, and it translates in the tone the speak in. And he never referred to it as Creole, but Haitian.
Usually when I say thank you in the States, it’s with a smile and a higher pitched tone to express my gratitude.

In Haiti, you sound like a girl like that. Great, I was sounding like a girl for days! I learned you have to say it with a stern look and serious tone!

SAKAPFET!

The Colors

You would think after seeing so much destruction on the media that Haiti would just be a grey, crumbling, dusty place. Sure, it is quite dusty and most structures are concrete, which is the kind of impression you might get if you just look at that.

But look a bit more around and there are colors EVERYWHERE.

It seems like Haitians have a fancy for bright things, and it shows in the clothing, the cars, and especially in the paintings. I couldn’t believe how amazingly bright, colorful, and detailed the artwork was. As we drove through Port Au Prince the roads were lined with clothing, paintings, and metal work which was some of the best I had seen in my life.

And I kept saying to myself, “how are they not making a killing off of this!

All I wanted to do when I saw the paintings was to tell everyone about them, so they would come buy the local artwork.

The Food

Probably my favorite first impression ever. There is a lot of hoopla about staying away from Haitian food, especially the street food. I will tell you, majority of the trip I ate off the streets, and it was unbelievably delicious.

If I would have only taken my first impression into account, I probably would have only seen the fact that it is cooked outside somebody’s home, in an alleyway with tables set up, or at a stand on the side of the road. And I probably would have never tried it.

Yes, it isn’t sanitary to the standards people are used to in other countries, but if you make sure to scope out the food before you buy and make sure meats and foods aren’t sitting out uncovered with flies around them, you should be fine. And if you have eaten food in Southeast Asia, you’ll be used to it.

Succulent fried pork, roasted chicken, rice with fresh crab meat, and PLANTAINS topped off with spicy vegetable pikliz. It is all delicious, all homemade, and always in large portions.

Haitian hospitality is famous, and it shows in their food and the way they treat you while eating it. I think the reason I got a little sick from the food is because I normally don’t eat a lot of fried foods, and for 10 days that is all I ate. But it was delicious nonetheless.

First impressions can be deceitful, and my trip to Haiti showed me just how much I need to open my eyes everywhere I go.

A Shotgun Gentleman exposed me to my first taste of Haitian Hospitality. The bad traffic became a lively city with a people always on the move. A people who can also take the time to relax, and have conversations. Actual conversations with actual people. That a busy dusty city it covered in colorful artwork and a colorful people. And a home-cooked meal is good anywhere you get it.

First impressions can be made about many different places, and can stain the rest of the city whether it offers marvelous things or not. So you must choose to start opening your eyes after your first impressions and begin making observations.

It’ll blow your mind how a perspective can change about a country.

And I hope I showed you a different perspective of Haiti.

Have you had a similar eye-opening experience like this in another country?

Weekly Photo: The craziest object I’ve seen transported on a motorbike!

Hello folks! I’m your host Ryan Brown, and by golly do we have something to show you today! On today’s Just Chuckin’ it! travel gameshow is a contest of sheer resourcefulness as we see who can fit the craziest thing on a motorbike!

And the winner is…

*cue drumroll

Refrigerator balancing act on a motorbike!

20130709-034904.jpgDuring my 10 days through Haiti, I saw some pretty wild shit. And MANY things transported by motorbike that most people can’t transport by car here in the states.

Unless they were really determined and REALLY resourceful, and it seems like the Haitian people are all of the above.

From 5 people on a bike, to giant baskets of food, to goats, it seemed as if I had seen it all. Until this fella cruised on by us on a road outside of Cap-Haitian. With a freakin’ refrigerator on the back of his motorbike. Like it was nothing.

Holy shit!” I called out as he put-putted past us.

Yeah, holy shit. That guy is pro.

Share this or a bit of travel mojo below to your friends!

20130709-034005.jpg
What is the craziest thing you’ve seen transported on a motorbike, or any other transport for that matter?

Haiti is taking over the blog. Read more HERE!

Weekly Photo Mojo is about stimulating your cortex with retina rupturing and awe-inspiring photos from around the world to help you reach Terminal Vicariosity (The point where the mind reaches maximum capacity from living vicariously through someone else, and chooses to start actually living.)

 

Haiti is Coming, Are You Ready?

 

La Citdelle Haiti

It has been nearly 4 months since I traveled to what was once The Pearl of the Caribbean to film a documentary, and now I’m going to revisit my trip and tell you all about it.

A lot happened on that trip, a lot of which I didn’t expect. There were perspectives shattered. There were heart breaking scenes. There were uplifting moments. And there were landscapes more beautiful than I had ever witnessed.

Many times unbelievable. But it was real. Those untouched beaches…those sprawling mountains…The food!


This month I’ll be taking a mental trip back to Ayiti, The Pearl, and telling you all of the experiences, stories and mis-adventures. I have hundreds of gigabytes of photos and videos from exploring North to South, and I am über excited to show you just what Haiti is all about.

There will be other posts peppered in throughout the month, but the focus is on showing you what I saw finally.

To whet your Caribbean appetite and begin your journey to understanding a very misunderstood country, below are the articles I’ve posted thus far.

Be warned, your preconceived notions will be rocked, and you may just start to ignore travel warnings and see the country for yourself.

Are you ready? Haiti is coming.

To Haiti, With Love, to Film a Documentary
Home From Haiti – This Contrast May Kill Me.
Haiti Travel Advice: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover.
Haiti in Photos – Don’t Look! You Might Fall In Love.
Video: 10 Beautiful Days Around Haiti.

Haiti in Photos: Don’t Look! You Might Fall in Love.

Well, it’s too late now.

You have crossed the threshold.

There is no going back.

But who says you’ll want to?

After seeing some of these images of Haiti, you may want to rush over to the nearest airport and catch the first flight over to the caribbean.

That’s right, I said you’ll want to travel to Haiti. Actually, these photos may make you want to have a love affair with the Pearl.

I’ve already discussed in a previous post about my preconceived notions of Haiti (and everybody else’s) via the media and how they were blown to itty-bitty pieces by this marvelous country.

Of course there is still remnants the wear, tear, and destruction on the surface. But get ready baby — I’m going to take you past the surface and show you what lies beneath.

Remember, I DID warn you not to look.

Past this point you risk feasting your eyes on tantalizing cultural imagery, ravishing landscapes, and multiple travel-gasms. Since it was a bit surreal seeing this beauty after hearing about so much negative, I decided to play around with Snapseed and edit the photos a tad bit with a hint of HDR and a pinch of surreal.

Enjoy!

Oh, and click the photos…I double-dog dare you.

Haiti Travel 2013

We were here. Haiti, scratching below the surface in 2013.

Port Au Prince from above

Port Au Prince, capital city of Haiti from the roof of our hotel.

Hotel in Port Au Prince

Our stellar view from atop the Pacot Breeze Hotel over Port Au Prince. I watched the sunrise ever day we stayed here from this very spot.

Untitled artwork 2013-03-19 (05.59.51-813 PM)

A vast valley greeted us after leaving the bustling capital city on our way to Cap-Haïtian. Reeds blew with the gentle breeze as we all three imagined soaring down on hang-gliders. Shall we start a business?

Nom Nom Plantains in Haiti

Food-gasm. Fried plantains with Pikliz — spiced and pickles vegetables not for the faint of heart. Bring the heat and douse this on the plantains and this makes for a meal I could (and did) eat everyday. Nom nom nom.

Motorbikes in Cap-Haïian

Motorbikes scurrying about the city of Cap-Haïtian in the morning. One of the rare times I saw the street this empty besides very late at night.

Haitian Cemetery in Cap-Haïtian

A haunting yet fascinating Haitian cemetery in Cap-Haitian. We were given a tour by a gentleman and I was utterly amazed by the color and scale of these memorials for the dead. I remember driving past many along the highway from Port Au Prince and I would always yell out, “Did you see that? Their cemeteries are so beautiful!”

Cruising on the Caribbean

Hop aboard the boat from Labadee in the north and escape to more private beaches.

Belly Beach in Labadee, Nord, Haiti

This is paradise before your eyes. After a night sleeping on the sand at Belly Beach to the left, I awoke at sunrise and climbed the jagged rocks. The sun crawled over the mountains illuminating the sky with crimson and orange and danced off the emerald waters.

Lizard being lazy

A lazy lizard soaking up the sun rays on Belly Beach. The way life should be! And, it seems like he digs posing for the camera as well.

stone archway in Haiti

Wandering into the hills above Labadee, this stone gateway was like the door to the Secret Garden, except more stunning beaches lie just beyond it.

Sunset over Belly Beach, Nord, Haiti

A canoe skims across the water at dusk. I could sit on the beach and watch this everyday, couldn’t you?

La Citadelle, mountain Fortress, Haiti

High up atop a 3,000ft mountain stands an enormous sandstone fortress known as La Citadelle. Erected as a defense against possible French invasion after the Haitians fought and gained independence, it is a reminder of the victory for freedom they fought for and a monument of great achievement.

And yes, I stood at the top with awe and said, “Gnarly!”

Cap-Haïtian from Above

Cap-Haïtian before sundown. It is the second largest city in Haiti and where much of the documentary we traveled to Haiti to film took place.

Soccer at Sunset

Right outside of Cap-Haïtian away from the congestions and noise is a quite school tucked near the mountains. Kids played soccer as the sun retreated behind the hills, and approached us to practice their English. Which I might say was damn good!

So, glad you looked? If you liked the photos, I would love if you commented and shared these great views with your friends. You’re awesome!

 

Weekly Photo: Peek into a Haitian Paradise from a Boat

Is there anything more awesome than cruising through the ocean in a leaky boat towards a paradise island? After a few days living under the sun near in Labadee, Haiti, it was time to get off our sand covered beach bums and explore.

We paid a boat taxi a few extra hundred Haitian Gourdes to break his route and take us around to some of the other surrounding islands. This is my rad view I had perched at the tip of the boat as we put-putted around islands that looked as if they were straight out of Jurassic Park.

On a boat in Haiti
(click to indulge in travel-gasms)


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Weekly Photo Mojo is about stimulating your cortex with retina rupturing and awe-inspiring photos from around the world to help you reach Terminal Vicariosity (The point where the mind reaches maximum capacity from living vicariously through someone else, and chooses to start actually living.

Diggin’ the view from the boat?

 

Dig this photo? Check out more gnarly adventures from Haiti HERE!

Advice About Haiti: Don’t Judge a Country by Its Media Coverage

*This is an article from 2013 when I traveled to Haiti for the first time. Since then, I’ve returned to this amazing country once more in 2015. For more on Haiti, check out the Haiti Travel Page*

It’s been nearly two weeks since I returned from my 10-day trip across Haiti to film a documentary on an amazing sustainable energy project under development. Now that my intense reverse culture-shock has subsided, I wanted to straighten out a few things about the bad reputation Haiti receives.

The moment I stepped off the plane in the capital city of Port Au Prince, Haiti, I realized my fears had been false. That all fears of Haiti from others had been false. That the preconceived notions had been false.

Ignorance bitch slapped me across the face for the next 72 hours as I adjusted to the fact that everything I thought I knew about the country; destruction, sadness, squalor, and violence through word of mouth and news — was all false.

All of those “observations” most make lay only on the surface, hiding an amazing and vastly misrepresented country.

It’s as if Haiti this whole time has been a worn book with a blank cover, passed around from person to person. Each time, someone passes on the book to the next person without reading it and tells them what they heard the book was about.

From person to person, the book would collect more dust and wear. The story would change to something completely different. The person receiving it would see the state of the book and hear what it might be about. Then, instead of exploring it themselves, they would let it sit around until they could pass it on to another. And of course tell someone what it was about without actually reading it.

Haiti was presented to me, like this old book metaphor I described, and it wasn’t a book would have been interested in reading either. But I’ve grown to learn by experience. To find the truth for myself. And I am happy I did.

I can tell you one thing for certain. Haiti was nothing like I had heard.

Peering out from the mountain fortress of La Citadelle

After traveling the country, it is one book I would read over and over again. And I happily state “Haiti” when people ask me what my favorite country is.

Usually people are shocked or confused when I do. Just like when I first told friends and family I was going to travel to Haiti. These were some of the responses:

“Don’t get shot!”

“Don’t get aids!”

“Don’t get kidnapped!”

“Be careful, it’s dangerous!”

“Don’t get cholera!”

“Why would you go to a place like Haiti?!”

“Oh, you are going to help with the earthquake stuff?”

These are the examples of the rubbish most people regurgitated at me. Warnings, opinions, and fears that were all unjustified and not from actual knowledge. Just information implanted from somewhere.

At first, I would laugh it off and tell them I’d try not to get shot or killed.

As the trip grew closer, my responses to challenges back at them. I would ask them why they thought I would be killed. I would ask them why they thought Haiti was a place they would never visit.

Where did this influence come from 100% of the time? Their answer: The news.

All news is always bad news.

That wicked media construct of chaos, death, and destruction meant to always have us shaking in our boots about the world. And meant to, mostly, keep us from finding out truth ourselves. For Haiti — the media painted a picture of exactly that: chaos, destruction, death, violence, danger. And still does for the most part.

Well, I’m here to break down the false image of Haiti before your eyes.

I read and watched the same things about Haiti as you did over the past few years. If my best friend hadn’t been Haitian and the most wonderful person I’ve ever met, it’s possible I would have believed everything I heard. And I would have never traveled to Haiti.

He told me of beautiful places in the country and the history, but it seems some of the bullshit had sunk in. All I could picture was collapsed buildings and crying babies. That’s all that damn media shows us! But I was looking to be proven wrong. Hoping to be proven wrong.

Then the day arrived and I landed in Haiti.

As we passed through customs at the airport in Haiti, it became apparent how much fear the news had driven into me.

Suddenly, those preconceived notions I tried to fend off at home took over. I fought it, I really did. But I’m being honest with you. That fear still lingered.

Someone is going to run up and snatch my camera and my bags. I held everything tight to my body.

A mob will break in any minute with guns blazing just to kidnap us. I scanned the airport continuously with worried eyes.

But of course, nothing happened.

Nobody even asked me to carry my bags to the door to trick me into tipping them afterwards. I thought that was a given.

Nothing.

When I left the confines of the airport, the journey from ignorance to truth began.

Yes, there is plenty of destruction on the surface. Driving through Port Au Prince, the damage from the magnitude 7 earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010 is still apparent. Yes, shanty towns crawled up the mountains around the capital. Yes, little kids scrambled through traffic to wash car windshields.

If you sit there and think this is what the whole country is like, that is all you soak in. You won’t see the good in anything, no matter where you go. In Haiti, you need to look under the surface a much more, because it deserves to be discovered, and it is such an incredible country once you do. Open your eyes.

Once you do look under the surface, you begin to see how the country really is…

The guy on the side of the road creating one of the most beautiful wood carvings you’ve ever seen.

The music reaches your ears as you let your guard down.

That amazing aroma, the Haitian cuisine, it’s damn delicious.

Nobody sits alone — everyone is always conversing with another.

People are doing their best with what they have and nobody complains.

Nobody is too busy to help another person.

Children running around and smiling.

Just beyond the crowded capital lies tall mountains, rolling hills, pristine white-sand beaches, crystal blue water, and rich history.

(Gorgeous valley on the way to Cap-Haïtian)
(Gorgeous valley on the way to Cap-Haïtian)

Honestly, not one Haitian mentioned the earthquake the whole damn time we were there. I even hate mentioning it now because it has no place being associated with a country so optimistic and progressive-minded country. And it seems like Haitians feel the same way.

Yes it happened. Yes, Haiti has had a history of unrest and natural disasters or manmade tragedies. But it has a heart, a people, a culture, and a beauty as well.

Not one Haitian ever talked about being miserable or unhappy. Most Haitian’s we spoke to talked about the need for progress and to clean up the country. Most knew the name of every head of ministries and the mayors of the cities. Most Americans cannot even name their senator or governor or mayor.

But wait, the government says Haiti is dangerous and to not travel there!

What about the danger of an American traveling there? Or anyone for that matter?

The U.S. travel advisory warns travelers of increased violence, theft, and injury to American travelers to Haiti. Searching Haiti Travel in Google shows autofill results of warnings and safety advisories. Oh, and the Haitian government disagreeing with those warnings.

Want to know something crazy?

Most of the time I was in Haiti I felt safer than I do in most parts of Washington D.C.

Baltimore, just a short drive away from my hometown, has a reputation for highest murder rate in the USA.

Google Search Haiti Travel

Example: We were grabbing some street food in Cap-Haïtian in northern Haiti. After a delicious meal of pork, rice, and plantains, we waddled out with round bellies and happy faces. After walking a good two blocks, someone came running back to us shouting.

We turned around to see one of the people who had been eating at the same table running toward us. Turns out, my friend left his expensive shiny watch on the table and the person ran after us to return it.

I can’t recount any instances where I’ve left something behind in the U.S. and someone chased me down to return it. This person who returned his watch was someone that we probably would have never seen again and could have taken it for himself. But he didn’t. A country full of thieves and murderers eh? Nope.

Do you begin to see a pattern here?

Of course I am not saying that you should frolic about carelessly through all countries.

And I’m definitely not saying that you should travel around from country to country not believing any types of travel warming. You should always be conscious and careful wherever you go.

Travel warnings in places with past turmoil, such as Haiti has experienced, shouldn’t be ignored. I was even warned by Haitians that Port Au Prince can be a dangerous place at times, but they noted it was mainly when political violence erupted there. And when foreigners are injured during those moments, it’s because they’ve gone in to get their Insta moment and have gotten caught in the mix.

Outside of the capital? They all said there was nothing to fear. And I can vouch for that.

Inform yourself. If there is a local newspaper, read it. It’ll be a much more honest resource about the state of the country.

If you are going to a “third world country” don’t travel with fear, travel aware. Be prepared but have an open mind. Travel there with someone else, or a group. Don’t put yourself in risky situations. Know what you need to stay healthy and be safe.

But don’t just believe everything you see or read in the news. Don’t let it hold you back. Don’t live by other people’s opinions.

I took the time to open that dusty worn book and read what was inside. It is quite amazing. I’m happy I read more into Haiti, and it will always have a special place in my heart.

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” So be willing to read it yourself.

Weekly Photo: Shimmering Boats in Labadee, Nord, Haiti.

As the sun was retreating beyond the distant mountains, we pulled up to the beach of Labadee, Nord, Haiti.

Sunlight danced and shimmered on the water with the silhouettes of boats rocking with the tide. Decorated with bright (though faded) colors and verses from the bible, the rickety and leaky wooden boats await on the shore to scurry passengers of to beaches close-by.

Beaches not Labadee.

Labadee is leased by Royal Caribbean and nobody except tourists from the ship are allowed. No matter, these took us to a much more beautiful and secluded beach. You can find this beautiful area of beaches and mountains located on the northern coast of Haiti.

Boats in Labadee, Nord, Haiti
(click for ooh-ahh)


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Weekly Photo Mojo is about stimulating your cortex with retina rupturing and awe-inspiring photos from around the world to help you reach Terminal Vicariosity (The point where the mind reaches maximum capacity from living vicariously through someone else, and chooses to start actually living.

Dig the photo? Spread the love for Haiti and comment/share with your friends!

 

Update: Home From Haiti (This Contrast May Kill Me)

Culture-shock is a bitch. Well, it’s now dawned on me that reverse culture-shock is an even BIGGER bitch.

My mind buzzes in and out like static on an old television set. I am standing on cold granite surrounded on three sides by polished steel. Staring aimlessly out the thick glass storefront, I fight to keep my eyes from slamming shut. My knees feel weak and my stomach twisted.

Robotic beings flutter and frolic by me to grope shiny aluminum clad gadgets, gizmos, and iThingy-mabobbers (you can guess where I work). Ritzy sports cars drive passed, posh people and their purse poodles strut by, and everyone has a Starbucks coffee glued to their mouth.

These images relayed to my muddled brain seem as if I’m in a Hunter S. Thompson novel — except I’m not on any hallucinogens, I’m just mentally and physically exhausted to the ends of the surreal spectrum.

American Airlines Haiti

Less than 24hrs prior I was in the capital city of Haiti, Port Au Prince, barreling down the dusty roads past houses made of cinderblocks with no glass windows. Colorful tap-tap trucks hauled 20+ people around like a rolling sardine can. People sat under the hot sun attempting to make a few dollars on a marvelous piece of artwork birthed straight from their calloused hands.

The difference was that these people with the little they had were infinitely more happy than a guy in a $1,000 suit that  drove by in a Mercedes-Benz.

 My brain is having a melt-down processing this culture mind-f**k.

Driving through port au prince

My flight landed at 2am that morning. For the past 10 days I had been non-stop filming a documentary all over the western half of Hispaniola with my good friend David and Viky who is leading the project there (if you haven’t read the run down on it, check it out).

It was endless in-the-moment-run-and-gun filmmaking at it’s finest, but it definitely took a toll on my body.

Most mornings I was up at 5am to film time-lapses of the sunrise. If not that, it was to get prepared for the interviews with high-up government officials from the Mayor of Cap Haitian to the Ministry of Energy. Most nights I was going to sleep at 2am after grubbing down and discussing the days events with each other.

Or just talking about the amazing things we had done that day.

We drove, hiked, walked, ran, crawled and swam, and chillaxed all over the Northern territory; from bustling cities to white sand beaches. We traversed up steep mountains, across arid plains, through rolling valleys, and over azure blue ocean to areas that resembled Jurassic Park.

(I Spy...a T-Rex!)
(I Spy…a T-Rex!)

Hell, we even clip-clopped up a 3,000ft mountain to massive stone castle on a scrawny horse.

All the while recording the beauty Haiti has to offer under the surface of all the media fed negativity.

500GB worth. Woo.

Today, I have recovered some of my energy back so I could write an update to you all. We’ll be beginning the lengthy process of sorting the videos and photos and mapping out the documentary in the coming weeks.

Below I’ll be listing some of the gnarly articles, videos, and photo essays you can expect this month as a theme my blog around my trip to Haiti for March. I hope you are ready to have world opinions of Haiti rocked and see some amazing things!

Coming Soon…

 

TALES

  • First impressions of Haiti
  • Horseback to La Citadelle, Fortress of the North
  • The Mountains and Valleys To Cap-Haïtian
  • Myth of the Blood Sucking Demon
  • Real Street Food of Haiti
  • A Walk around Belly Beach
  • From the Mouths of Haitians: Progress
  • Hilarious Things We Encountered
  • Real Haitians Aren’t Allowed on this Haitian Beach?
  • In Retrospect: The Pearl of the Caribbean 1950’s
  • Why do Haitian’s Hate Photos? It’s Obvious.
  • Haitian’s Should Be Professional Rally Car Drivers

 

GUIDES

  • Must Know Phrases in Creole
  • How to Barter like a Haitian
  • What to Pack for Haiti
  • Haiti Survival Guide 101
  • Where to Go when You Go to Haiti

 

PHOTO ESSAYS

  • Belly Beach, a Slice of Paradise
  • Tap-Tap Trucks
  • Living the Life in Labadee
  • Palais de Sans Souci
  • Inside a Haitian Cemetery

 

(Mis) Adventures

  • Oops! This is a Whore-house, Not a Hotel!
  • Broken Engine…Stranded in the Caribbean
  • A Deadly Drive down the Mountain to the Capital

 

VIDEOS

  • Hectic Life in Port Au Prince
  • Tour of a Haitian Market
  • La Citadelle
  • Belly Beach & Labadee
  • Port Au Prince
  • Cap-Haïtian

And so many more to come. This is just off the top of my head, but I have plenty!

What would you like to see/know about Haiti from my adventure?

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo: La Citadelle – This Massive Fortress is in Haiti?!

You can imagine my surprise when this castle reared its epic face out from the palm trees as I clip-clopped along a cobble road on a scrawny horse.

Holy shit!

Yes, this was my reaction when I got the first glimpse of La Citadelle. A massive ancient fortification perched atop a mountain overlooking the countryside near the small town of Milot. This sandstone fortress, also known as “Citadelle Henry Christophe”, was commissioned by a King of Haiti in 1805 to hold the Northern territory against possible French invasion.

And this was my first castle I EVER visited. Who would have thought my castle virginity would have been snatched by Haiti?! Literally took my breath away…

So Gnarly.

(A full article on this epic part of my adventure will come soon, so stay tuned ;P)

La Citadelle, Haiti
(click to explode retinas)

Weekly Photo Mojo is about stimulating your cortex with retina rupturing and awe-inspiring photos from around the world to help you reach Terminal Vicariosity (The point where the mind reaches maximum capacity from living vicariously through someone else, and chooses to start actually living.

Honestly, comment and tell me if you expected to see a castle like this in Haiti!