Haiti is quite a place. I guess for me, it wasn't really a shock to see the crazy hustle in the airport, the sweltering heat. In many ways my first impression of Haiti reminded me very much of India.
Fabrice, one of the students and administrators at the school was ready to greet us. He traveled over 3 hours that morning from Jacmel to receive us. Fabrice is a sweet, adorable and jovial young man with chubby cheeks and a dimpled smile. He instantly put us at ease.
The drive from Port Au Prince to Jacmel felt like eternity. Port Au Prince, as you may imagine, is extremely overcrowded and dirty- people everywhere on the street, working, selling just about anything to make money, just utter chaos- but all the while a swagger, pride, and strength they maintain.
Where Port Au Prince was stuffy, sweltering and very stop and go, the next portion of the journey was extremely picturesque and serene- tiny, narrow, windy roads cutting across huge peaks and valleys of greenery and palm trees.
The drive was over three hours, and the heat made it unbearable at times. Finally, though, we made it.
The Jean Baptisse Dessaix music school is a small school nestled in a row of other businesses and houses. Most of these are very hut like, old dilapidated houses- nothing in this town is new, but there is a charm in the aging and wearing of these buildings. The colors down and around the street are vibrant- orange, green, blues, yellows everywhere.
One of the musicians, Heidi, who came with us from Boston, was actually born and raised in Haiti. She left Haiti when she was 18 and came back for the first time in 15 years with us. She said she was in absolute shock around how things have worsened in this country over the last 15 years that she has been gone.
Our conditions were definitely a bit of a shock to me at first. It's manageable but everything is minimal. The power goes out several times throughout the day and running water is not always available. Not gonna lie, the bathroom freaks me out the most but I am trying to adjust!
Once arriving at the school we were taken to a small home where we will be eating our meals for the time we are here. It's quite dilapidated and such, so at first it felt like an uncomfortable experience to be eating here, but the food is absolutely amazing, and I feel as though it allows me to get a better sense of Haiti.
After lunch our schedules were not set as of yet so we had some free time. The heat in the afternoon is unbearable and so I really did not know what to do- and I had a moment where I really wasn't sure if I would survive this trip.
Around 5 pm, Aline (one of the teachers at the school who came over from France for two years to teach, she's amazing and more on her later) asked if I would like to help out with the choir that comes every Friday.
This is when things started turning around. The choir, albeit small, was full of sweet music aficionados, both young and old - all excited to sing. I watched them sing this cute French song called Les Comediens by C. Aznavour and P. Martin- Bres.
After hearing them sing we did some warm ups and then Aline left the class to me. I wasnt really sure what to do- I didn't even have any choral music. So I played some jazz for the students and then we worked on summertime. It was just so fun to see them grooving out and enjoying learning. It was extremely difficult in moments to teach with the language barrier- If I ever come back, it's so important that I at least learn French. It just can be so frustrating at times and the worst part is that I can't even get to know some of my students because we can't communicate. But despite the language barrier I have been finding ways to make it work.
The rest of the girls had already left to go To this hotel in town JD had told us about. I said I would meet them as I was teaching until 7 pm. It was a bit scary walking alone to be honest- stray dogs everywhere, burning trash dotting the sides of some street, young boys darting around on scooters, getting every so close to you but just barely missing you. I finally found my way, entering into this very old bungalow style exposed brick bar with old straw bar chairs, straight out of 1950s Havana , Cuba or at least how I imagine it.
I can't find my colleagues anywhere but a guy approaches me asking if he can help in anyway. I am smitten immediately, he is SO sexy. Olive skinned, dark hair, tall, beautiful smile. I am a little tongue tied and nervous, he's just too sexy to look in the eye!
We talk for a bit and I ask him where he's from- turns out he's from Berkeley, CA, helping out on his dad's hotel. He says he hasn't seen the girls anywhere, so I decide to go exploring a bit as I can see the ocean nearby.
I walk around as the sun is setting and see some beautiful mural art as I stroll down to the beach.
The beach is alive - boys playing soccer, people sitting outside a cafe eating and relaxing.
The beach itself is dirty unfortunately - trash everywhere. But there is definitely an energy out here that I love. I take a look around and then walk back to the hotel, where I run into the girls.
We all get acquainted with the sexy man (his name is Eli), and he joins us and we just spend the evening chatting and chilling. He even brought us four beers for each of us as a Haitian housewarming - the beer is called Prestige, and it's the Haitian local beer. It's actually pretty delicious, and cool and refreshing under the sticky June heat. Beer, good people, sexy man, wall fans... What more can I ask for in my first night in Haiti?!