The Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Be sweet, and do awesome stuff all the time

Life, Love, and the Pursuit of the Haitian Dream January 9, 2011

Filed under: Awesome!,Haiti — themadmadmadmadworld @ 4:45 pm
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I’ve gone longer than usual without posting of late, and not for lack of interesting things to write about. The past 2 weeks have been among the busiest, and best, that I’ve had in all of my time in Haiti. Welcome back to The Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Let me tell you about life, love, and the pursuit of the Haitian dream.

Life – Public transportation in Haiti comes in the form of colourfully painted trucks called “tap-taps” (because you tap the ceiling twice when you need to get off…clever, right?), most of which have slogans painted on them that are reminders of how to best carry on, loving God and country. Today as my child-bearing hips were locked in a vice-grip between the other human sardines on the way home from church, I looked up and saw my favourite piece of tap-tap wisdom painted above me: “Lavi pa fasil.” Life is not easy.  Very true, for some more so than others. Seeing this on the back of a dilapidated truck crammed with people, as I whip past roadside shacks filled with those left homeless or worse by natural and human disasters, makes me think twice about ever using those words again back home. Heavy thinking for a Sunday morning hangover…

Love – On a much more upbeat note, I love my family! The now-world-famous Watsons of Phelpston made a brief but memorable appearance on a rubble site near me last week, and man was it fun. (To see the front-page article in our hometown newspaper click here!) It was amazing to have all 7 members of my immediate family sledgehammering in sync to smash up the better part of a collapsed roof in just one day. Our team leader called us “the Von Trapp’s of rubble” (stay tuned for an awkward family photo or 2…). Considering that everyone in my family falls more on the “nerd” side of the high-school yearbook spectrum (no matter how hard I try to argue my rightful “jock” status), I was pretty impressed with how naturally they all took to rubbling. Junior, one of our strongest and longest-serving local volunteers, took my 17-year old sister Mallory under his wing and within the hour they were an unstoppable team. By the end of their visit I didn’t see much of Mallory, as she seemed to be always covered in a pile of adoring Haitian children who wanted her to stay and play with them forever. It seems that whatever it is that I have that makes me do what I do is genetic, and I don’t think Haiti’s seen the last of the Watson sisters. Having my family come volunteer with me was a really special experience, and it meant a lot to me that they would put themselves so far out of their element to come and see firsthand what the work I’m doing is all about.

The Pursuit of the Haitian Dream – Although it’s hard to define what “The Dream” is for any country (except for Canada, where it is clearly finding attractive winter footwear), last night I felt like we were as close as we’ve ever been to seeing it for Haiti. After coming back from my break(down) in November, I switched from working with the mayor’s office project to assisting the coordinator of our local volunteer program (see my November 27th post for more on that). Since last April, All Hands has welcomed young men and women from Leogane and the surrounding area who want to volunteer to help their community in whatever way they can (see November 18th’s “Interview with the Volunteer” for more on the program). I was involved in the initial restructuring of the local volunteer program that happened back in June, when we created a mentoring program to make sure that our volunteers got the best possible learning experience out of their time at All Hands. The program has grown and developed since then, thanks to the volunteers themselves and the amazing project coordination of my friend Jess. Our original group of volunteers, which has grown to about 30 over 9 months, celebrated their “graduation” from the local volunteer program last night. The ceremony was great, with valedictory speeches and a slide-show put together by Emmanuel, an incredible 17-year old kid who has gone from a shy rubbler to head of our Bobcat operator program, over the course of the past 9 months. Everyone looked extra “fresh” (the adjective of choice for a well-dressed Haitian), and it was a beautiful way to celebrate an inspiring group of people. I’m proud to be a part of something that connects people with a genuine desire to help with the means and materials to do so. Every day I’m amazed by the energy and passion of our local volunteers, and the more I’ve gotten to know about them as individuals and about their circumstances, the more I’m blown away by everything they do. Lavi pa fasil, but my friends here in Haiti are proving that no matter who you are, there’s always something you can do to better it.

 

Christmas in red, green, gray and brown December 27, 2010

Filed under: Awesome!,Haiti — themadmadmadmadworld @ 10:59 pm
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Merry Christmas everyone!

 

It was definitely a holiday I will never forget. As I’ve said before, Haiti is pretty much the opposite of Canada in every way, so it was quite the location for my first ever Christmas away from home. It was a wonderful weekend, full of food, dancing, hilarious presents, and the strange comfort and feeling of “family” that comes in the form of a group of random people all in a similar situation, making the most of things. I celebrated with my Haitian family on the 24th, my international volunteer family on the 25th, and tomorrow afternoon marks the first of three days of celebration with my biological family, when the entire Watson clan lands in Port-au-Prince!

I’m definitely someone who loves her traditional family Christmas. I’ve done pretty much the exact same thing every holiday season for the past 20-odd years and enjoyed it fully every time. Every December 25th I get a wake-up call in the form of a whack on the head with a pillow from one of my 4 siblings. We jump out of bed like little kids to go open our stockings with Mom and Dad. This year I woke up to the sound of English Christmas carols on a nearby radio, sharing a single mattress with my friend Rose Daphney in a tent in her back courtyard (her 3-room house has about 8 other people living in it), feeling a bit shaky from the rum and kompa street dancing that we’d taken part in the night before. I sauntered my way over to the coffee lady to have a chat and exchange holiday greetings with my neighbours before they headed off to work for the day.

Although it didn’t look much like home, spending the day with the international volunteers had the same sort of warm, happy feeling that goes along with a traditional family Christmas. Being away from home for the holidays isn’t something I’ve ever aspired to do, but I’m glad that I did it here, with these amazing people.

 

 

I hope everyone had a happy and memorable holiday as well. Much love and hugs to those of you who I usually spend this time of year with…although it was a great experience, I think saving me a place at the table for next year is probably a safe bet!

xoxo Madison