What did I know about Haiti before I decided to visit? Nothing, to be completely honest. I was of course aware of the unrest and chaos typically associated with the country and also remember reading a paragraph or so about the Haitian Revolution during World History in undergrad a few years back. But that's not saying much - I don't believe knowing the cliff notes and stereotypes of a place translates to any real knowledge of it. After meeting Vanessa, a Haitian American whose love for her home country would become contagious, my ignorance quickly turned into curiosity. Her passionate description of its people and culture read like a love letter to the island, leaving me inspired and eager to learn more. "Ayiti", as she called it, was more than a click bait headline - it was home.
What did I learn after visiting Ayiti? That it's for those willing to step outside of their comfort zones; forcing you to question, learn, and experience deeply. As was eloquently put here, "Anybody who comes [to Ayiti] is stepping out of the ordinary. People don't come here to enjoy air-conditioning, color TV, pools and saunas. They come here to taste something that we offer, something that is very warm and very very real. But there is more than that, there is the human factor." And it's that human factor that stuck with me. The people that remain joyful and dignified as they survive with superhuman strength and resilience. The cheerful children that invite you to dance and sing with them like no one is watching. The colorful spirit and strong sense of community that lives within the island. More striking than the pristine beaches and breathtaking mountain views was a vibrant culture and rich history.
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