It’s 4:50 in the morning, but thoughts just wanted out. Again and again, in the last six months, I’ve ran into people who have been completely exhausted by Haiti. Haiti has this tendency to just plow through good people. It saddens me because these are people that I like and care about. It scares me because I can easily envision it for myself.
Part of it stems from the sheer immensity of the project at hand. The problems of Haiti are so deeply rooted in its culture that it is hard to know where to begin or that if anything you are doing is making any sort of difference. This is a people who have grown so beaten down and desperate that it is hard for them to envision any other way of life — much less to know how to try for that other way of life. Desperation and hopelessness inspires compassion, but this hopelessness manifests itself daily as just a kind of laziness. And this laziness simply frustrates.
It is easy to stand from the side and talk grand themes of empowerment and how that will lead to Haiti’s eventual revival. But when you are caught in the dailiness of it all, that is not how it happens. One cannot always keep perspective.
Haiti is a place where our familiar concept of reciprocity simply does not apply. I want to clarify here, that by reciprocity, I don’t mean a lack of material reciprocity — which, I think, everyone has an easier time understanding. But here in this NGO republic, it’s more a wish for another kind of reciprocity — whether it be some form of recognition or just meeting half way in effort. It’s more often just ban mwen kob la (give me money), ban mwen telefone ou (give me your phone), ban mwen manje (give me food). Always just give me, give me, give me. It isn’t fair to say this is everyone in Haiti, but it is also not uncommon.
Between here and developed nations, there is an obvious gap of material means, but I think people more easily forget how great destitution also leads to gaps in more intrinsic qualities. It is much easier to understand the gap in material means, but harder to forgive certain things like work ethic or just simple morality. It’s hard to see people who are at times, just so unwilling to make the minimal effort to help themselves. I remember one of the first few words said to me when I was here last time was “poverty makes good people do bad things.” I think of those few words often, but when you are concerned for your own safety simply because you are a blanc (which is what they call me as well) — it becomes a little harder to remember and comprehend.
What is inspiring this post is actually just being around a friend of mine here, who works on biosand filters. I met him during my last two weeks in Haiti. The project is on a scale far different from it was last summer, but he has also paid a price as a result of it. He has grown more shut down, more uninterested in people in general. I think, it’s in attempt to preserve some bit of himself from the daily ugliness of it all.
I wish there is a better way of ending this post, but all I can leave you with is that — I am scared. I’m scared shitless about what this will do to me as well.