I wish I could tell you that while I am in Haiti I travel freely. That I am ‘one with the people’. That I really know Haiti. But the truth is, I don’t.
Look closely and you can see the reflection of my phone in the pictures. Most of them were taken from the inside of my big white air conditioned prison, a Toyota land cruiser.
Every time I come here I tell myself that I should do things differently, that I shouldn’t stay in a nice hotel, that I should get out more. But then I don’t. The security is not great. My trips are planned in a hurry, my days are full and so are many of my nights. Plenty of empty excuses. Next time, next time.
My morning commute is usually spent clinging to the door, cringing, covering my eyes, peeking through my open fingers. Admittedly, I think that Alex, my driver, is crazy. That, and I can be a nervous nelly in a car. We share the road with so many others: cars and buses, people, goats, chicken, dogs. Oh! So many puppies. I used to scare Alex with my gasping every time we drove near one. He would slam on the brakes, “qu’est ce qu’il y a?!!” “What??” He would ask. Now he just laughs at me and pins the gas.
Luckily, the trip is interesting. We never take the same route twice. Alex knows the city and its steep, winding vein-like roads and alleys like the back of his hand. Every day we drive up tree covered slopes, hug the corners atop sharp drops, fly past markets and art displays. Most of all, we sit in bumper to bumper traffic, horns blaring, cursing at the other drivers who are even crazier than Alex.
This trip, though the driving has not changed, I have. I suddenly have this sinking feeling that I may not return to Haiti, and a desperation to capture what I can of it before leaving. I used to get irritated with people snapping pictures all the time. I thought it was distracting and disrespectful. Now I find myself in a frenzy of picture taking, desperate to catch every ounce of the city’s color before I go.