I regret to inform you that Jillian and I will be leaving Haiti tomorrow, and moving back to the States.  This isn’t an abrupt decision, it’s actually one that we have put an enormous amount of thought into, and made before the New Year.  Back then the choice seemed like an easy one to make: we were ready to go back and leave the troubles of Haiti behind us.  Now, it seems like that decision is so much tougher.

In typical fashion, Haiti has been great to us in the three months since we decided to leave, as if right after we booked our tickets all the pieces that we couldn’t find before started to fall into place.  We have such great friends here, and have experienced so much, that it’s impossible to not feel like leaving is a mistake.  Whether it’s playing football on Sundays, or experiencing Kanaval in Jacmel, the last three months have made our decision to leave seem like a short-sighted, and ill-researched, conclusion to our brief stay in Haiti.

During that stay we have experienced more than we had ever anticipated.  After the earthquake there was the (attempted) recovery, and then cholera, and then tropical storms, and then the elections, and then the riots, and then the return of Duvalier, and then the return of Aristide.  Bottom line, you couldn’t ask for a crazier year.  Scattered among those were random other experiences that have changed our perspective on life, and have changed us as people, in a way that we are still trying to define.

But the reality is that after almost two years, the country has taken a lot out of us, and we need to regroup.  I’ve told everyone that has asked why we’re leaving that regrouping is the key, that we need to step away from the craziness of life here in Haiti, and focus on ourselves, and each other.  We only gave ourselves a month after the earthquake to regroup before we returned, and that just wasn’t enough.  We have gone through so much while we’ve been here, just because we live in Haiti, but also because we have a lot of things that we need to work out together.  We’re pretty sure that will be easier to do when we don’t have to worry about midnight earthquakes and cholera.

But right now regrouping seems like such a scary, and enormous undertaking.  I was recently in New York City and could not stop comparing life there to life in Haiti.  “$45 for a taxi from JFK to the hotel?!?! Do you have any idea how much a tap-tap to the airport is in Haiti?!”  Or after a glass broke in a bar and everyone started to freak out screaming “Is anyone wearing flip-flops?!?! Watch out!!!” catching myself thinking that I could introduce these people to a couple million kids who walk barefoot on glass everyday in Haiti.  “In Haiti, In Haiti, In Haiti…”  This is going to be a problem, and something that I’m going to constantly have to keep in mind so I don’t become “that guy” who won’t stop talking about how in Haiti we have potholes as big as your car (it’s true, I’ve seen them…)

But like I said, Jillian and I can’t stop thinking that we are leaving a good thing, and continue to question our decision.  When we left DC to move here we had these same thoughts, and I remember laying in bed together  asking each other: “Why would we leave when things seem to be going so well for us?”  We have great friends, we know the place, and we have really interesting lives.  But it was that decision to leave DC that gave us this incredible opportunity in Haiti, and taught us so much both professionally, and personally.

Another problem is that after living in Haiti for a bit, life in the States just doesn’t seem that interesting.  And that’s one of things I fear the most: that once we return to the States and our lives become exponentially easier with the help of smooth roads, customer service, and fast food, we will realize how truly boring life is in the States because you barely have to fight for anything.  Everyday in Haiti is an adventure, and that went from an incredibly exhausting undertaking to something that we thrive on.

A good friend of ours explained to us that you should never leave a place when you’re fed up with it, rather deciding to leave when you know that it will be hard to say goodbye.  More and more I agree with that statement, as I’m glad that Jillian and I didn’t leave before Christmas with a negative outlook on the country.  Instead, we are leaving with truly fond memories to go alongside those truly horrible ones, which I think will leave us connected to Haiti forever.  The earthquake will forever connect us here, but our experiences since that time has intertwined this country, and the people in it, with our internal fabric in a way that keeps a part of our hearts here forever.

So as our friend’s eyes glaze over as we tell stories about being teargassed in a tent camp, we will realize how much this place has really changed us, and how our perspective on life has changed in a way that only a place like Haiti can do to a person.  We’ll never look back at this time and regret it, in fact I think we will look back and know that it was some of the most important years of our lives.  We’ve become who we are now because of this country, and even though many of the days have been tough, it’s taught us what we are capable of doing, and on the flip-side, what we’re not capable of.

Right now leaving Haiti is the right decision for us, and I would never rule out us deciding to return.  We will keep the blog up, at least for now, as I have some backlogged stories that I would like to finish, and I’m sure our reintegration into the world of over-consumption and 4G networks will be an interesting (if not frustrating) one.

Thank you to the Haitian people, who have given us so much perspective during our time with them.  While I might not always appreciate the way they walk into the middle of the road without looking both ways, they have taught me so much about how to live when life just doesn’t go your way.  We take soooooo much for granted, SO MUCH, and it’s a great thing to have that shoved in your face from time to time.

And lastly, thank you all for joining us through our journey, your support over the past year and a half has truly helped us make it through some of the toughest moments, and helped us laugh during the good ones.  To our friends in Haiti, we will miss you dearly, and life will not be the same without the company of some of the best people in the world.  This is not a ‘goodbye’, it’s a ‘see you later’, because our experiences here will forever connect us.  Haiti can do that, I know it can.  Because after you wade through the rubble and the riots, the trash and the traffic, you find some of the most amazing people on the planet, and that’s why it’s just so hard to go.


According to Wyclef Jean, and the people around him, ‘Clef (as the kids here call him) was driving down Delmas 65 in downtown Port-au-Prince Saturday night around midnight when he got a phone call.  Because Wyclef does not like talking on the phone in front of his driver (weird, I know…), he told the driver to stop the car so he could hop out and have the phone conversation privately on the side of the road.  While having said conversation, Wyclef claims to have heard a gun shot, after which he looked at his hand and saw blood dripping from his palm onto his shoe.  Wyclef had been shot!  The bullet had grazed his palm!!! Right?!

Well, according to Haitian police, Wyclef refused to talk to them about the incident, and some people think he just cut himself on a piece of glass.  That’s right!  Rumors are flying that he made the whole thing up, and that the whole gun shot incident is just a story.  Why he would make up something like this is beyond me, but I can venture some guesses.  Maybe he got in an embarrassing argument with a can of pickles that just wouldn’t open, and needed a better explanation for his injury than “I just could not open that jar of pickles, so I broke it…on my hand.”  Maybe he’s looking for some street cred in anticipation of his next hit album.  Maybe he actually got shot, who knows?

But what we do know is that he’s not shy about the injury whatsoever.  In fact, while voting today at a polling center on Delmas 29, he made it a point to insert the ballots into the ballot boxes not with his good, un-shot (and completely functional) hand, but with the bandaged hand that required a polling center employee to assist him in the process.  He then walked out and gave several interviews to various press organizations about the incident.  He explained to my friend Allyn, who was working for CNN, that he didn’t want this to be a distraction to such a historic election.  Hmmm…

Wyclef refused to speculate as to who could have possibly shot him in the hand, and because he refuses to talk to police it sounds like justice in this case may never be served.  But I think we were all taught an important lesson from this incident: that you should NEVER stop on the side of the road in Port-au-Prince at midnight on a Saturday and get out of your car to take a phone call.  You live and you learn, right?


And P.S. He voted for Martelly.  More on that later.


Exiled former-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide is scheduled to returned to Haiti by the end of the week, leaving a country gearing up for it’s second round run-off elections on pins and needles to see how his return will be received.  While Aristide has repeatedly claimed that he is not returning for political reasons, his timing could not be more political, coming just days before Sunday’s elections are supposed to take place.

Aristide has been living in exile in Pretoria, South Africa for the past seven years after being ousted (or forcibly removed, however you see it), in 2004.  He claims he wants to return to Haiti to help with the earthquake recovery, and pursue his passion, which is education.  He also mentioned that he has had a number of eye surgeries while in South Africa, and that his eyes would be better maintained if he returned to Haiti (which doesn’t really make sense to me considering all the junk that is flying around in the air here, but I’m not an optometrist).


There are a few reasons why Aristide may have chosen this specific time to return to Haiti:

1. He is worried that after a new President has been elected he, or she, will not allow him to return.
2. He would like the elections to be annulled and conducted again (his Lavalas party was banned from participating in the elections).
3. He really wants to come back to help.
4. He’s worried that he will become irrelevant once the elections are over.

There are rumors that Preval had a hand in this, making way for the return of his former colleague in an effort to cause chaos during a run-off that his hand-picked candidate was left out of.  Either way, it’s a tense time in the country, and everyone is wondering what is going to happen next.  It’s not outside the realm of possibility to think that supporters will take to the streets once he returns, in fact, it’s inevitable.  What effect this will have on the elections is the question on many people’s minds, especially the US State Department who has (again) encouraged him to wait until after the run-off is complete.  His comments once he arrives are going to be crucial to whether Sunday happens or not, so stay tuned, and stock up on your water!


Haitian Heaven


I went to the island of Ile a Vache with some friends of ours last weekend, and it was pretty amazing.  Ile a Vache, which is a 30 minutes boat ride from the southern coastal city of Les Cayes, has no roads, no shops, and just beach.  It was pretty amazing all together, but this picture above seemed to portray everything that is good in the world: about 20 langoustine (kinda like lobster), and a bottle of Barbancourt rum (5 star).  If this was a math problem, this is how I would break this equation down:

20 Langoustine + 1 bottle of Barbancourt = Heaven
20 Langoustine – 1 bottle of Barbancourt = Still pretty awesome (but I’m thirsty…)
1 bottle of Barbancourt – 20 Langoustine = I’m hungry (but tipsy!)
20 Langoustine × 1 bottle of Barbancourt = OMG, THE POSSIBILITIES!!!

I’m not sure how you would logistically multiply the two, but if some physicist somewhere figured out how to achieve that he would be a Nobel Laureate in about 10 seconds flat.  Bottom line, this combination is killer…in the best possible way.


If you would have told me a year ago that moving to Haiti would result in us become one of those “Cat People” who has a ton of cats running around their house, I would have never believed you.  But Beatrice made that dream come true yesterday by giving birth to a healthy litter of four little kittens.

It all began in our backyard garden, as just when I was getting ready to leave to run some errands I found Beatrice laying under a small bush with two new additions to her family.  I freaked out and called Jillian to ask her what to do next, as giving birth out in the open with Bumble Bea (her other, older kitten) jumping around and batting at the newborn kittens didn’t seem like the best situation.  I took out an empty box and put a towel in it, and Beatrice moved the two kittens there, and then had two more!


The five of them are safely holed up in the box in our living room, and even though the little kittens cry all the time (the bags under our eyes this morning was proof of that), they are a welcome addition, and it’s exciting that all four of them appear to be healthy and thriving.  Now please excuse me as Bob Barker is on the phone, we’re discussing plans to get this momma spayed!

You didn’t think we were going to leave Carnival without picking up some of those awesome masks, did you?!


On our way out of the city, Jillian and I picked up some masks to commemorate our Carnival experience, and judging by the two, we clearly had different experiences:


We got Jillian’s in a little shop by the water that sells Haitian art.  It’s pretty awesome, and will be perfect for Halloween later this year (expect she can’t exactly see when she wears it because she wears glasses and doesn’t use contacts…oh well).  We picked up mine from one of the artisans Ben and I followed before and during the festivities.  The mask was actually used during the parade, and while kinda scary, is a really beautiful piece of art once you’ve gotten past the huge teeth and beady eyes.  Now, we just need to figure out how to get these back to the States…

Caught in the Act

As I mentioned before, while taking pictures of Carnival in Jacmel, one of the Lanse Kod, or “The Rope Throwers”, who take sugar cane syrup mixed with charcoal and cover their bodies in it, got me in the face while I was traversing the rows of paper mache masks during the parade.  Well, a photographer friend of ours, Allison Shelley, was in the right place at the right time (or the right place at the wrong time), and snapped a photo of the aftermath.


Pretty funny…and she was even kind enough to help me attempt to clean myself up with a piece of cardboard I found on the street while she snickered at how ridiculous I looked.  Our attempt to wash the black soot off didn’t work, and so I had a large black splotch on my face and arm for the remainder of the day.

But what’s even better about this is that I was looking through the photos from the parade the next day and found that I was actually taking a picture of the guy who did this to me, while he was doing it!


Yup! That’s his hand wiping the black gunk all over my face, after which I stepped back, gave him a look trying to say to him, “Come on!!!”, and then he ran away.  If you see this man, please ask him to contact me, as I would like for him to replace my t-shirt, which is now covered in black grease (just kidding…).

But in reality, it came right off.  Jillian had a big black mark on her back from one of these guys doing the same thing to her, and after a quick rinse with soap and water it simply washed away.  No harm, no foul, and a fun time had by all.

In Other News…

…there was a small earthquake last night around 4:15am that had Jillian out of bed and by the door before I could even open my eyes.  The scary thing about this one is that, while relatively minor, it lasted for almost 10 seconds, which is MUCH longer than most of the tiny earthquakes that made our nights sleepless during the middle part of last year.  Jillian and I had our usual talk about what she needs to do (or yell) to actually get me out of bed, and stop me from just laying down in a daze wondering what to do next.  We discussed for about half an hour, and then attempted to fall asleep again.  The quake didn’t register on the USGS website, but it was enough to remind us that getting too comfortable here is, at times, not such a good idea.


This weekend Jillian, Ben, Alexis and I traveled down to the southern coastal town of Jacmel to see what this whole Carnival thing was all about, and it was pretty amazing.  Hundreds of thousands of people were there to see what had to be thousands of hand made paper mache masks in one of the coolest cultural celebrations I have ever experienced.





Like I said before, Carnival was canceled last year because the earthquake had hit less than two months before, so many of the mask-makers still had the masks that they made for last year but were never able to use.  In addition, many of them made a bunch of new masks for this year, so at times the streets were just packed with them.


The parade lasted for HOURS, with artisan after artisan showing off their creations.  There was also a concerted effort to get out the word about issues that are currently hitting Haiti.  There were a few groups that used their paper maching abilities to portray cholera, and show what people need to do to avoid it.  There was also some political messaging as well, with some groups calling for the return of Aristide, and others showing Preval as an alcoholic devil. (All in good fun, of course…)


But Carnival is actually more than just scary masks, music, and dancing.  There are a number of groups who decorate themselves symbolically in a way that portrays a time in Haiti’s history.  For instance, there are the Chaloska, who “mimic Charles Oscar Etienne, chief of police who in 1915 killed the political prisoners which led to the fall of Vilbrun Guillaume Sam and then to the American occupation.” (Thanks Christina Schutt!)  Their enormous red mouths filled with large protruding teeth make them hard to miss, and they march down the roads acting out the prosecution of said political prisoners.  It’s actually kind of creepy, but incredibly interesting at the same time.




Also there was the Lanse Kod, or “The Rope Throwers”, who take sugar cane syrup mixed with charcoal and cover their bodies in it.  They are meant to portray the slaves that made up this country before becoming the first independent nation in Latin America after it revolted in 1804.  The ropes signify their slavery, and they run around blocking roads with their ropes and asking for “ti-kob”, or a little money.  They also run around terrorizing revelers, and spreading the black paint all over the place (I ended the day with a big black splotch on my face and arm).




There were a ton of other groups which I’m not really sure of their origin, or what they tried to signify, but it goes without saying that it was incredibly interesting and made for some amazing pictures.  It was really nice to see the people here stepping back from the normal craziness of life in Haiti and just enjoying themselves and their culture.  The country needed this, they needed to be able to celebrate something, and having Carnival has given them something to be happy about.

Ben and I are working on making a multimedia with pictures and video that we took from the festivities, and once that is finished (and hopefully bought by someone), I will throw that up here for everyone to enjoy.  Until then, feel free to click the link below and check out some more pictures from the weekend!

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All the King’s Men


Duvalier’s lawyers decided to call a press conference yesterday to discuss the case against their client, and here’s a quick synopsis of what they said:

1. Duvalier is innocent!
2. The statute of limitations has run out for him to be charged!!!
3. The courts have messed up, so he can no longer be charged!!!!!
(the number of exclamation points indicate how emphatically the statement was made)

That’s pretty much it, nothing we haven’t heard over and over again before.  Because of that, I’m going to leave to leave it at that, and just make this a “Picture of the Day”.