Wednesday May 27th, 2009
Los Angeles, CA.
I’m back in Los Angeles. Back in my lovely home with its big backyard, and my two well- nourished cats, poring over the myriad choices that are available to me each day: What would I like to eat? Where would I like to go? Which dress shall I wear? Should I take the car, or walk? My dream job on “The Simpsons” notwithstanding, the fact that I have so many choices at my fingertips at any given time is what makes me wealthy. To me, choice is the brass ring in my life.
Since I returned, friends and colleagues have been quick to tell me how proud they are of me for going to Haiti and seeing Grameen Foundation’s work firsthand. It’s very flattering. But I have so much to learn that I feel like I didn’t do that much this trip. The most useful I felt in Haiti is when I tried to teach a group of women in an education center, outdoors under some shade tress, to knit with a pen and pencil for “needles,” and “thread” from a nylon bag of mulch! I still want to go back and really teach them. I would bring a whole suitcase full of yarn and needles next time so they could make beautiful placemats or afghans to sell at market. Anyway…
Other things I’ve been asked since I got back are, “Have you decided to part with most of your possessions and live a life of austerity?” “Did this trip change your life?” And “How was the food?”
As to question #1, I’m not sure how that would help the poor in Haiti –me, living a life of austerity. If I give up my bed and sleep on the floor, Adeline (who officially entered Fonkoze’s CLM program this past Saturday) will also still be sleeping on the floor. So I’m going to keep my bed and appreciate it with all my might.
As to whether or not this trip changed my life? I think I’d have to be made of stone to take a journey like this and not be changed by it in some way. I met the most wonderful people wherever I went. And isn’t life all about people?
I loved getting to know Alex and Kate in the evenings, as much as I loved seeing the women on every rung of Fonkoze’s ladder learning, overcoming, and ultimately succeeding. Both sides inspired me to work harder and become even more successful. It’s the best way I know of to support the people I admire who are already in the trenches doing this important work.
Last… Food!… One of the things about traveling to a foreign country, or even a region of your own country that you’re not familiar with, is how different the food can be. I ask for ketchup in London and I get something totally different than what I’m used to in California. Sure, it’s red, but that’s where the similarities end.
The first night Alex, Kate and I were in Port-au-Prince, Anne Hastings took us to a terrific restaurant for dinner called the Latin Quarter. Despite sounding as though you might find empanadas there, the food was French. I had a beautiful piece of sole.
When we moved out to the ‘burbs, however, things got a bit more eclectic.
Before I went to Haiti I was told they eat a lot of rice and beans. I love rice and beans! But if you go to a restaurant in Mirebalais they want to treat you right. So they don’t give you rice and beans, they give you goat: goat nuggets with salad, or goat stew with boiled plantains. Don’t get me wrong, I totally appreciate the fact that I was lucky enough to be eating a real meal in the first place. But it still didn’t make goat one of my favorite dishes. I’ll admit it’s better than Caribou, which I had in Canada once, but it’s not as good as approximately one hundred other things I’d rather eat.
I also drank a lot of Coke. I’m not a soda drinker in my regular life, but I was told I shouldn’t drink water from the tap in Haiti, not even to brush my teeth. So we had bottled water when we could get it. But sometimes the hotel would run out and the best restaurant in Mirebalais didn’t always have it, either. Amazing how a natural resource like drinking water can be so hard to come by, but there’s never any shortage of Coke.