I did not go to Haiti on “mission”. No, I did not go for work either. And I wasn’t visiting family. I went to Haiti for vacation, more specifically to visit my 50th country.
I wish I could say that I was taken aback by the reactions to my sharing the news that I was traveling to Haiti. I was met with shock, awe and in some cases out right disbelief. The reaction of people who have been to Dominican Republic was particularly funny considering that Haiti and the Dominican Republic sit on the same piece of land.
Haiti was the first independent black nation. When it gained its independence in 1804, it went down in history as the only nation in the western hemisphere to defeat three European superpowers and more importantly, it is the only nation in the world that was established as the result of a successful slave rebellion. Who wouldn’t want to visit a place with so much history!
Beyond its incredibly rich history and culture, Haiti has very beautiful beaches. And since this was a vacation that was long overdue (I require a vacation about once a month and six weeks had passed since my last) I couldn’t wait to lay out in the Haitian sun.
As with all of my trips to new countries, I reached out to my extensive network of friends and got a few recommendations. This coupled with a couple of Google searches made it easy to put together an itinerary for my short four day, three night adventure.
We arrived on Friday afternoon and were picked up by the hotel’s driver. Upon exiting customs, a smile creeped across my face. The hustle and bustle of taxi drivers trying to secure their next fair reminded me of Uganda and many other African nations. I smiled because immediately, Haiti felt like home. I walked outside and scanned the sea of black faces, hoping to spot my name on a sign. Within seconds I saw a sign with my first name and a chopped and screwed version of my last name on it, held firmly in the hands of a Haitian man whose beauty had me thinking about relocation.
I made eye contact and we made our way into the van and out into the streets of Port-au-Prince (PAP). Driving through the streets of PAP felt comfortable, it felt familiar. I could see clear damage from the earthquake that devastated the city, but more importantly I saw a resilient people, living their everyday lives as only they know how. While on the way to the hotel we spotted sugar cane being sold on the side of the street. Of course we had to stop and get some, you can’t get fresh sugar cane in Washington, DC.
While chewing on our sugar cane and sitting in traffic, we spotted another hawker selling plantain chips, so we grabbed some of those too. Twenty minutes in and this wonderful black nation had won me over. It’s the little things.
For our one night in PAP we stayed at the Kinam Hotel in Petionville. The hotel was very nice and the service was great. I definitely recommend it if you are staying overnight in the capital.
We had planned to explore PAP but our anticipated quick bite before leaving the hotel (let’s just say the service was slower than we could’ve imagined) ended at sunset. Since we didn’t want to just go back in the hotel we went to the park across the street and just had good conversation and mango infused vodka.
A few of us went out for a night on the town and fell in love with rum sours.
Saturday morning we hired a driver and headed to Jacmel, a coastal town in the south of the country. Three hours after departing PAP we arrived at the beautiful Villa Nicole. This quaint boutique hotel is owned by two brothers who made us feel like we were at home from the moment we arrived.
The food was amazing! I have never eaten so much lobster in my life! Every meal we had lobster and it was the BEST lobster to have ever graced my tongue. For our last dinner we were informed there was only one lobster left so in the spirit of selflessness, we had it chopped up and put into pasta along with some grilled conch, so that everyone could have some. The other thing that made every meal perfect was the garlic butter sauce that was made fresh EVERY time we ordered it. And we ordered it a lot.
The hospitality shown by Yves-Nick and Stephane, the two brothers and their awesome staff made us feel like we were spending the weekend at the beach house of close friends. Late nights were spent hanging out around the pool drinking whiskey and champagne, listening to the crash of the waves on the beach, having great conversations and laughter that left me breathless.
On Sunday we took an excursion to Bassin Bleu, a must do if you are in Jacmel. After a short hike and climb down a small cliff, we arrived in a serene cove with a beautiful little waterfall. There were several levels from which you could dive. Fear got the best of me, but I did manage to jump from two of the three levels.
The experience of Haiti and more specifically Jacmel solidified Haiti as a permanent fixture on my vacation list. I am now committed to taking more people to the country so that we can change the narrative about Haiti. Will you join me?