With only 1 day of official residence left in Sainte-Suzanne – the remote village in the mountains of the North-East department that has been my home for the past 4 months – I find my departure to the city of Cap-Haitien (called “Okap” in Creole) bitter sweet.
There is much that I will miss from living out among the paysans…and much that I will not be sad to leave behind.
First and foremost I will miss the mountains. Many of which I’ve hiked up in the past months and many which still remain undiscovered. The peace and beauty of the sunrises that I have witnessed here is truly remarkable.
On the other hand, Sainte-Suzanne is as far removed from my own culture and people as I have ever been. Once you’ve met the people you can relate to here, there are rarely new relationships to build upon – there are no tourists, other expats or foreigners here. There are no libraries, cinemas or events, so one has to be creative with entertainment and leisure activities…which is undoubtedly a good skill to develop but does bring with it an emptiness and over-simplicity that my Western mind is not accustomed to. Thank goodness we have an Internet connection but it is slow and still leaves me feeling somewhat cut off from the rest of the world.
We have also been living in a camping-like environment which has its charm but also its drawbacks: constant bugs and critters (I really draw the line at roaches and rats..yuck!), cold nights in sleeping bags, mosquito netting, unsanitary loos, cold showers and unreliable electricity are all things I can do without. Going camping for real is one thing; trying to work and maintain a professional energy while smashing June bugs is another. The chickens pecking around, the cute baby goats, the lush greenery all around us and my friends and colleagues here – those elements I will truly miss.
I jokingly (but in fact very truthfully) told one of my colleagues that my perfect day in Haiti would go something like this: a restful sleep in Sainte-Suzanne followed by a morning jog in the mountains, shower (cold or otherwise), breakfast and my beloved taxi-moto ride down the mountain and to Okap where I’d spend the rest of the day and evening. I’d return to the village to sleep…and do it all again the next day. It’s unrealistic because of the commuting time and energy involved, from 1hr to 1,5hrs one way trip on motorcycles and tap taps, but if I could teleport or take a jet plane, it would be ideal! Where Okap has all the restaurants, night life, good Internet connection and cultural events…Sainte-Suzanne has the tranquility, nature and real Haitian connection. The Suzannais people know me, and I them, whereas in Okap, to the Haitians, I am simply another blanc.
Sunday morning we move to the city. In the meantime I will continue jogging and hiking as much as possible, trying to cram in all the meditative moments that you can’t “stock up” on anyways…
Here are a few of my favourite Sainte-Suzanne moments from the past months…
dear little village in Haiti that has been my home – I will miss you!!
silly times with friends
and fun times with fellow interns :) – (thanks again Dom for being the resident hair dresser hehe)