I’ve not been there. I’ll likely not go. I’ve interacted with a few Haitian folk, pretty briefly, for the most part, one a young woman who was dying of AIDS back when AIDS was first a thing, but really, not much, at all.
And I remember, quite well, the boat, not a ship, not that big, a boat, that worm eaten hunk of rotting timbers that was at the marina in Jupiter, Florida, not outside of Mars, the one that had carried a few hundred Haitian refugees in its less than fifty even I think feet, and thinking, holy crap, that many people came that far on that thing?
I knew the sea; I’d not have done it, no way.
My friends Ren and Susan and maybe Christine, I’m not sure if Christine went, and really, she was more just someone I worked with, but they all went on this trip to Haiti to do a service thing, and Susan, a microbiologist, had a little research project that involved looking at the coliform (et al., so let’s just say) microbial populations of the wells where the local folks collected their water.
They were all set for adventure.
Local was central Haiti, one hell of a road trip after the flight, from what they said, and the site that was base was some old convent or school or some other white man’s mostly abandoned building that was now (then) used for folks like the good scholars and saints from Rivier who would visit.
They didn’t have any chairs.
That was the first almost lose it thing for Susan and Ren and Christine and the maybe three or six students who went with them, they had this building and there were some cots set up in some rooms, and there was a space over there where they could set up cultures, mostly they’d brought their own stuff, the loops, the bunson burners, the collection bottles, there was some gas, they’d been told that, they had bleach and bottles and all that great stuff that biologists carry, they felt really well prepared, even of there was no autoclave, they’d manage.
But there wasn’t any place to sit down. Except maybe the floor.
The reality of life in central Haiti was not something any of them were prepared for, at all.
The locals scurried off and found chairs for them.
They reported, dutifully, on the colony counts of various bacterial species, at least those they could grow and identify, in the wells from which the folks in that particular region of central Haiti drew their water, often after walking many miles to get to them. The wells.
They reported, dutifully, on how hard life is, relatively speaking, in Haiti. Oddly, they did not report on the horrific dysentery that the flora of the local wells was thrashing the local community with, because there was no disease happening there, other than that of economic poverty.
Susan wanted to go back. Ren didn't want to eat any more of their goat, make demands of the local chairs, he liked it just fine, the goat, but they were fixing it up special, just for them, and he knew that it cost them, dearly.
One might think the students would have gained great lessons there, but no. The report was from the students was that life without chairs sucks, and it’s a whole lot more fun in Costa Rica and the Virgin Islands where Dr. Ben and Dr. Joel took them. Dr. Susan’s trips sucked. In Costa Rica and the Virgin Islands, they not only have chairs, they have drinks.