Road Trippin’ in Haiti.

April 23, 2017

Right outside of Port-au-Prince is the village of Titanyen. I’ve been told the history here is gruesome and gritty.  I’ve been told in Hatian Creole, Titanyen means less than nothing. Despite the hands we are dealt, there’s something rather poetic, at times tragically beautiful, about perpetually yearning for more than everything.

Photos: Verdy Verna

5 Things To Do While Visiting Haiti!

April 19, 2017

If I told you that there were a plethora of sites to see and wonders to dive into once you landed in Haiti, would you believe me?

Behind the persistent portrayal of a country buried in natural disasters and ecopolitical struggles, lies a once insanely popular jewel of the Caribbean. In the 1970s, Haiti was at the forefront of island tourism. So thriving was this isle’s travel industry, that other islands desperately sought to replicate Haiti’s success. Despite being subjected to an onslaught of setbacks over the years, this tiny nation has plans to make a come back and with good reason too. Pristine beaches, roaring waterfalls and breathtaking vistas are just a blip on the radar of Haiti’s magnificence.  I won’t spoil everything for you by blabbing endlessly about Haiti, but I will give you a reason (plus four) to add Haiti to your future travel plans. So here’s a shortlist of five amazing things to do while traveling in Haiti.

Explore Port-au-Prince. From admiring the hillside homes of Pétion-Ville to haggling your way through Marché de Fer to being gutsy enough to ride around Turgeau in a tap-tap, exploring Port-au-Prince like a local is one of the best ways to get to first base with Haiti.  You’ll quickly learn that this capital city is rich in art, culture, music and food that has an unmistakable creole soul. While my good friend Verdy was kind enough to show me around, I would probably suggest using a local tour company to really dig into Port-au-Prince.  Now it would be sort of remiss of me to not mention the safety factor. Some of the stories that Verdy shared with me were definitely worthy of pause. Port-au-Prince, like any other major city around the world, is not free of its inherent dangers. I arrived just days after Haiti had selected its new president and a skittish kind of energy was still palpable within the country. HOWEVER, I did not experience any violence or mishaps while visiting Haiti. That being said, do as you normally do, keep your wits about you and always be aware of your surroundings.

TIP: Definitely sneak over to Hotel Karibe if you get a chance. If this hotel’s rooftop bar is even a third as lit as its parking lot was….well, I’ll let you figure out the rest!

Eat. Eat. Eat. I’m willing to catch some Sriracha type heat for this one but Haiti, hands down, has some of the best food in the Caribbean. Yeah, I said that. I probably should have prefaced such a bold statement by saying that I was exposed to Haitian cuisine as a young girl growing up in Boston. So when that pikliz hit the tongue and sent my senses ablaze, I was immediately transported back to a time when I would inhale pwason boukannen, patties and dire kole with no regrets. I ate at a little restaurant called Tchaka a few times and was almost never disappointed. Until my last visit. A young waiter told me that they were out of plantain and this African girl almost flipped the table (my hangry is not to be taken lightly). Other than that, come to Haiti ready to feast!

SIDE NOTE: I had to pass on the spaghetti shakes. You read that right the first time. It is quite literally spaghetti that is blended into a shake.  I’m just as adventurous as the next wanderluster but the way my intestines are set up…

Visit Jacmel. With its fading colonial facades, palm tree lined shores and much slower, cooler approach to life, the southern Haitian commune of Jacmel was a much needed serenity infused escape from all the commotion of Port-au-Prince. When I think of Jacmel, vibrant and chill vibes automatically appear in my wistful thoughts . Although visiting the waterfalls at Bassin Bleu is one of the top tourist attractions in Jacmel, I spent an unforgettable evening watching waves crash ashore, swaying to the soft sounds of twoubadou and eating grilled conch under the fluorescent moonlight. It’s just that captivating.

Day Trip to Côte des Arcadins. This was one of my absolute favorite things to do while visiting Haiti. Located approximately fifty miles north of Port-au-Prince is a developing resort side area that’s rapidly becoming a popular tourist destination. I’ll tell show you more about visiting Côte des Arcadins later but please be prepared for the overwhelming sense of FOMO that will consume you when you see these pics!

Cap-Haïtien. I’m throwing in a little curve ball here because I have yet to visit the way way north of Haiti. I was told that Cap-Haïtien, or Cap, was once the richest city in the Caribbean. Historical sites like the Citadelle Laferriere and the ruins of Sans Souci Palace tell the story of a city that, at one point in history, manifested true black Haitian pride. Just writing about this has me contempalting my next Haitian travels.

  Despite their struggles, Haitians appreciate what they do have and boy do they have a lot. I’m not talking GDP here folks. I’m referring to the intangible. Those things that money can’t buy. But don’t take my word for it, get out and experience Haiti for yourself! Hopefully, my small roundup has inspired you to do just that.

Haiti, from Me to You.

April 5, 2017

When I packed my already bloated carryon for Haiti, it dawned upon me not to forget an extra side of open mind and open heart for this journey. Haiti is one of those nations that is oozing with history, culture and beauty yet an all too familiar pop narrative persists, if you let a mainstream lens tell it. I had already thought better than to consume that rather narrow and banal story line of disease outbreak, earthquakes and hurricanes. The time had come for me to experience and know better.

Buses whipped by in technicolor blurs. Ebony skinned business men shouted Creole into their mobiles while crossing busy roads. Mamas sold their best fresh goods by the roadside.  To say that I landed in Port-au-Prince and hit the ground running would be putting it lightly, diet coke style. I learned very quickly that if you don’t have direction and determination in Port-au-Prince, be prepared to be swallowed whole by this developing metropolis. Crumbs and all. (Did I mention that I do not speak one single solitary lick of Creole? More on that poop show later.)

I quickly checked into my hotel room but y’all know there’s no rest for this weary traveler. I had just enough time to shower and tasmanian devil my once pristine hotel room (given just three minutes, women can execute this task with exact precision) before I met up with my friend Verdy. Despite his pretty busy schedule, Verdy allowed me to tag along for the rest of his day.

Verdy was born in Brooklyn. He’s lived all over the United States and would spend much of his youth shuffling between the states and Haiti. A few years ago, Verdy decided to pull the trigger and moved to Port-au-Prince full-time to pursue a life long dream. When I started to ask questions about Haiti, he gave me his honest, raw and insightful opinion. Over the next week, Verdy showed me his country. All of its vexations and all of its virtue. Being partially raised in the United States, Verdy regards the inefficiency of his country with much frustration. He complains incessantly about a severe lack of infrastructure and an unfamiliar slower pace that would drive any over achiever bananas. Yet through all of his complaints and disappointments with his Haiti, this native son holds stead fast to being proudly Hatian. When asked if he would ever leave Haiti and live in another country, maybe the U.S. again, his response? A rather firm, profound and resolute: “No, never.”

See that’s the thing. Despite the political, social or economical climates that make us shudder with shame or embarrassment for our respective birthlands, we can all relate to cradling searing passion for our roots. Often times, that slim line between love and hate doesn’t exist as we all hold on to idealistic views.  I, for one, truly believe that our best (American) days are still ahead of us! In the meantime,  come along with me as I give you a glimpse into Verdy’s Haiti. Try not to fall in love too hard, she’s already taken…

Photos: Verdy Verna

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