When I was in the Peace Corps, I celebrated my one-year mark in the Dominican Republic by going to the beach with a couple of friends, enjoying one or eight Presidentes, and generally reveling in all the great things associated with living on a Caribbean island.
This Monday, I celebrated my first anniversary in Haiti by heading down to work, despite some oh-so-typical intestinal issues and an even nastier cold. I took a half day.
On that day in the D.R., I remember contentedly sitting around with my group of friends, feeling like I had come so far, and learned so much. One of those traveling three-man beach bands stopped by our table, playing "La Bamba," looking for tips, and my little group of gringos requested all the best Dominican classics, because we knew all the words.
This week, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on how little I seem to know about Haiti, while at the same time giving myself a little pat on the back for at least being able to speak fluent Kreyòl and being able to navigate the city. In some ways, the two experiences aren't so different. A lot of the same tricks that I picked up in the D.R. -- spotting a helpful person (nearly everyone) versus someone who is looking for trouble (precious few), flushing a toilet with a bucket of water, reading by candlelight -- are useful to me here, too. I also learned that I need to keep blogging or otherwise I'll let this thing sit here for months at a time without updating. So, maybe that's the real point of this entry, to keep a little continuity, although it does coincide nicely with what should be some nicely thought out reflection on all I've learned over the past 52 weeks or so.
It's a cop out, I know, but I recommend reading Steph's blog for more of what we've been up to over the past month. (Oh yeah, Steph and her cat, Mittens, moved in. That's news.)
Mittens in her D.R. days, eating cookie batter or something, because her mom spoils her.
Before I do something crazy like posting more pictures of cats on my blog, I'll finish up this entry with an impromptu list of goals for this next year:
- Learn more about Haitian culture. It is shockingly easy to live and work in Haiti and have the most minuscule amount of interaction with Haitians. Ask 90% of the expats who live here. While I'm happy that almost all of my coworkers are Haitian, I am going to try harder to make more Haitian friends outside of work and, in addition, try to learn more about the culture.
- Improve my Kreyòl. It's pretty good, but it could be a lot better. This is closely related to the above point.
- Attend a voudou ceremony. I've been missing out.
- Find other interesting volunteer opportunities. There are tons of interesting things that people do that I'd like to get involved in. My friend has a creative writing group for a group of Haitian kids downtown -- it sounds great, and I still haven't gone!
- Meet more interesting people. Haiti is filled with fascinating people, Haitians and expats alike.
- Keep learning. Sounds kind of cheesy, I suppose, but I've recently felt how easy it is to get into my routine and stop challenging myself. That's no fun.
Looking over the list it seems like I could just sum all of those things up into the general category of "get out more." That I can do!