The first thing I noticed stepping off the plane was the familiarity of it all. The new surroundings somehow brought comfort, the scents of a developing country, the fact that I stand out walking through the airport all somehow confirming that this was where I needed to be. Haiti. A new country for me, familiar in it's developing infrastructure and cuisine, yet so new in the culture. Port Au Prince was larger than I imagined, sprawling with building layered upon building. We drove by the fish market with windows down [air conditioning is a luxury so we swapped air for clean scent without a second thought] and past the enormous marketplace. It was hard to distinguish home from abandoned store, both colorful yet having the same air of weather worn use. Metal siding count as roofs and gates in this land, motos run the streets and traffic has no laws. This country has so many hints of Nicaragua and Uganda thrown together, but there is a distinct vibe that I cannot place my finger on. Perhaps it's the spirit of a people who have survived such harsh natural disasters and yet remain hopeful. Perhaps it's the upcoming election that has the cities buzzing. Or it could be the recent local gossip just reaching the ears of a passerby. Regardless, Haiti welcomed me with arms wide open to explore the vibrancy found there. I touched down on the tarmac just a week before Hurricane Matthew touched down and am grateful for the timing of taking off two days before he stormed through.
I came to Haiti after reaching out to an organization called My Life Speaks, a multilayered advocate of community, education, and special needs awareness- just to name a few. I heard of them through several friends in both Texas and Tennessee alike and just knew it was an adventure I had to get on board with. I'll post more images from their organization over the following month! They reside in the village of Neply. A truly welcoming community, this village is nestled along a lazy stream and rolling pastureland. The mountains watch over this village hazily in the background, the beach only a ten minute walk away. My words cannot do the beauty justice.
The first day I walked around, I was welcomed inside by Asho, the resident ladies man, and his cat Mimi. We simply sat, the language barrier [theirs a mix of Creole, French, and English] not stopping the laughter or music from flowing freely. This is a culture that revolves around others. You walk the village not to get from point A to point B, but to mingle, linger, sit and talk, share space. I think that's what stuck out most from this trip. Oh the things to be learned if we simply paused to listen and to actively appreciate others. Neply is full of proud people. Not arrogant, but deeply in love with their country and home. Many have lived there for their entire lives and are comfortable sharing the joys of this village with outsiders, graciously accepting this English speaking girl in Chacos with a camera around her neck photographing everything in sight. Enough of my ramblings about Neply, the sweetest little gem of Haiti. There will be many more stories to come, but for now it's time for you to see a few glimpses of the beauty held there.
There is a spot deep in my heart for travel. Not the travel that hits the tourist traps, but the kind that leaves you in love with a culture and with admiration for a people group. My recent trip to Haiti inspired just that- a deeper desire to partner with organizations that celebrate these cultures and capture the work they do in these countries. If you have any organizations or nonprofits you love that could benefit from a photographer and storyteller on the ground, please comment with their name or send me an email telling me about them! I'm always looking for new causes to join and crusades to document!