Wednesday, March 10, 2010

En Route

In 2008 I tried to start a blog, and it failed. Thus, I am resurrecting this address (a play on words relating to climate change) for my Haiti Volunteer Travel-Blog. It also follows from my Mom's contradictory "mandatory-request..." to do so. :)

Following the best practices of travelogues everywhere I meticulously prepared my bag of items for the trip, laid them out in a near-perfect rectangle on my made bed in D.C., took a picture, then proceeded to hail a cab (rather than metro) because I had wasted so much time quintuple-checking and photo-blogging my packing job.

This is a different experience for me. Yes obviously volunteering in a broken country is new, but more specifically I mean I have never packed so defensively. Typically I either permit, or even embrace vulnerability while abroad or in the wilderness... (so what if I get cold, or can't find a hostel for the night?) But the current risks in Haiti are not ones that my formidably stiff upper lip can overcome. Thus... lots of redundancy between my two headlamps, two tents (monsoons!), two sets of spectacles, multiple grades of insect repellent, and comprehensive inoculations and malaria pills.


Tonight I wooped it up at the Fort Lauderdale Hilton. Mom made my 13 hour layover between DCA-FLL and FLL-PAP more enjoyable by picking up a room for me by proxy at the Hilton. I was able to sweet-talk the manager into free wifi and took advantage of the Jacuzzis and hammocks. How can Paradise be located this close to the airport? Late that night I walked to the only place still open in the quadruple digits of time to grab two rum&tonics (in Dad's memory 2 years passed), eat deep fried and battered porcini mushrooms, and teach some local Floridians how to play cutthroat. Flossies Bar and Grill is a true gem, hole-in-the-wall Biker Bar on the perimeter of FLL airport, with a great bartender- Keri (the kind of person that learns your name before asking for your order). I recommend them highly!

Earlier that day I also made a new friend, Louisa, a Hatian stewardess who had lost her 25-year old niece in the earthquake. On my Spirit-Air flight we got to talking about Haiti and volunteer intervention- and it challenged some of my thinking regarding the thin line between helping/distracting, ignorance/historical-perspective, and ulterior/sincere motives for entering Haiti. I chose to volunteer with Hand on Disaster Relief explicitly because of its goal of helping in ways that were not addressed by NGO's, its lack of bureaucracy, and its commitment to long-term legacy projects (they are still rebuilding in Indonesia). And yet... its still hard to tell if Leogane is asking for this specific help right now, if I am secure enough to help more than any other strong Haitian, or if I may not just as easily be diverting finite resources from already fragile populations.

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