If you are too worried about life, you are not actually living.
The second day of our expedition was rocky, literally. I, along with the our squad of professional students, got the pleasure of riding on horseback up Mont De La Ramier, and that was a feat in itself (who knew riding on horses was soo taxing on the body?). My lucky horse was a very pretty shade of light cream with a silky black mane, though I’m still not sure why she was named Junkie. The reward was touring La Citadel La Feriere and learning firsthand of Haiti’s rich history.
Built in the 1800’s by King Henri Christophe, it was initially intended to ward off the french, dissuading them from returning to reclaim the lost territory after the revolution. According to legend there was no access to cement due to lack of water so it was substituted with blood. After it was built, it was the primary living quarters for Henri Christophe and his wife, along with La Palais de San Souci which stands at the base of the mountain. It was said the cannons were always prepared, and could fire a distance of 6kms straight to the sea should an armada arrive (all the cannonballs told me they were not kidding around).
Okay, history lesson over. Learning about the history is great but it’s truly the people that make the country La Perle Des Antilles. Rich in culture, respect (for both self and others) and a strong sense of nationalism, one would be surprised it is also the place some would use words like 3rd world and poverty ridden. They are also extremely inviting “unlike other country’s that I’ve traveled to”, 2nd medical student Alyssa adds. We can all agree when I say it’s been a pleasant stay this far.
The fact that the people are such hospitable hosts strengthens our resolve to help as much as we can. “The spirit of the people” 2nd year medical student Konstantinos injects “is uplifting”. In the face of not having much to start “the people hold themselves to such high esteem” William says “you can tell by how they dress and carry themselves”. Today’s cultural experience was all too enthusing.
Beyond the riding up and down the mountain, the properly placed “bonjours” and “bonswas”, the waving to adolescents who were all to happy to see us and tours we began the first real day of our mission. Per request we had a sexual education forum/discussion with the Cap Haitien community hosted by lLe Church Le Fondemont”**.
Contrary to popular belief about island life, Haitians are extremely reserved and cultural and religious stigma prevents open conversations about such topics. Thus we endeavored to debunk a host of misconceptions.
“No, having too much sex cannot make you blind” was a statement made by Christophe, a native and member of our Med Squad (Or should I say #Med Squaaad). The experience was extremely gratifying; seeing their reservations relinquished slowly by knowledge previously estranged to them was fulfilling.
We capped off the night with a delicious Haitian dinner and a group meeting. Truly endeavoring to dive headfirst into the Haitian culture helps us understand the people. I read somewhere “Good medicine is informed medicine”, and that’s a statement with which we can agree wholeheartedly.
From landing to touring, eating real Haitian meals, meeting the people, addressing the people, attending a church service (weee early in the morning), learning about the history and teaching the community about sexual health; where do we go from here?
We heal them.
We treat them. There’s is something about the environment that you cannot find else where. There is a certain sentiment in the air that is exhilarating. On an island that faces economic poverty and political strife you feel much more alive. As we were sitting in the van riding along the road to the city of Milot we were passing larger and much slower vehicles while simultaneously being passed by a motor bike with 3 passengers. It brought me/us to the realization that the people live unrestrained.
The troubles that would normally drive other places into depression or worse are brushed off like hair after an expensive haircut. Unlimited, and unburdened by stress or otherwise, the people are consistently reside in the moment, the now. After all, “what other way is there to live”.
Tomorrow we begin our, seemingly the most exciting part of our stay. As a doctor, once you meet the people, you treat the people. That is what we plan to do, with the help of a team of 2 MDs and well practiced nurses.
Cheers to late nights and early mornings (I’m not complaining, but more so boasting)