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Trip Report Trip Report: Haiti

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I finally got to go to Haiti a few weeks ago. I’ve loved the country from afar for some time now - long before the earthquake. I’ve read books about the place, studied its history, studied Voodoo (or Voudoun, depending on your spelling preference). I’d actually been to the cruise ship port of Labadee in the north (although I know that doesn’t really count) so, when the chance came to participate in a missionary trip there, I leapt at the chance.

The first thing that may surprise people who have not been there is that I didn’t feel in danger of physical violence while I was there. Yes, the people are poor - really, really poor - but they were very friendly. Having said that, I have to point out that I was part of a large group and I didn’t wander around Port-au-Prince alone at night. Whenever people are that hungry, there will be crime. I am told however, that most of the kidnappings are directed at wealthy Haitians.

If you’ve never been to Haiti before, prepare yourself to see poverty like you’ve probably never encountered before. Port-au-Prince is still a disaster after the earthquake - there is rubble and destroyed buildings everywhere. Many of the people in the group had done missionary work before but none of them had seen a place as devastated as this. We stayed on the Arcadian Coast and the feeling one gets traveling there is that you leave a slum to travel through another slum to travel through another slum.

The Arcadian Coast was lovely. We stayed at the Kaliko Beach Resort. This would be a modest resort on another island but it is extreme luxury on Haiti. The Arcadian Coast is where the other beach resorts are and it is the most tourist-friendly area. I still wouldn’t necessarily recommend Haiti for a purely recreational beach vacation. If you go, you are probably going to lend a hand. You can go there for a vacation, I guess, but it would be best not to go alone or to hire a full-time guide. After all, why go to Haiti if you are not going to experience its culture and just sit on a beach - you can do that anywhere.

The hotels in Port-au-Prince are like fortresses. I stayed at Le Plaza, which was serviceable but anonymous. I was told not to go out after dark but I hired a guide and went for a rum punch at the famous Hotel Oloffson - it is just as beautiful and charming as I imagined. My guide then took me for a ride around Petionville - a vibrant, wealthy city full of hotels, restaurants, and nightlife. (We saw the Karibe Hotel there, which looks truly exceptional.)

Haiti has so much to offer. I hope it becomes a place that people feel free to go to in the future.

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