1 Jun 2014

On Familiar Faces in Foreign Lands

On Tuesday evening I was invited to the Montana Hotel in Petionville hosted by the British Ambassador to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to welcome my friend and reverend Dr Leslie Griffiths, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, to Haiti. Leslie (as I call him) has known me for as long as I can remember, has watched me grow up and has been has become a second father and good friend to me over the past few years, so I was absolutely thrilled that I would be able to see him on foreign soil.

Many of you have asked me variations of the question "why, of all places, did you decide to go to Haiti?" That reason is largely due to Leslie. After spending around ten years as a missionary in Haiti in the 1970s, Leslie (as most others do when visiting this magical place!) fell in love with its history, its people and its promise. And so, after years and years of hearing of the wonders of this place and with a bit of time to spare before going back to law school this Autumn, I wanted to experience it for myself. And what an experience it's been!

The welcome event was a great opportunity to meet some of the parliamentary team that Leslie had travelled with, as well as other Haitian and Haiti-based representatives from companies and institutions covering a variety of sectors. As honouree, Leslie gave an address in both French and English, and formally introduced me to the guests by asking me to join him at the front (which I did not expect at all!) He closed his speech with a rendition of William Wordsworth's sonnet To Toussaint L'Ouverture (which you can read HERE), which I thought was incredibly apt as we are both English Literature scholars.

The following evening Her Excellency Pamela White, the US Ambassador for Haiti, received me into her beautiful Port-au-Prince residence for a dinner which also celebrating Leslie's arrival, and I was pleased to see a number of familiar faces from the night before and meet more of Leslie's good friends. The many stories of others' experiences of working abroad which were told over a fabulous three-course meal were so captivating that on many occasions I reconsidered my chosen career path in my mind! I am so grateful to Pamela for opening her doors to me and to Leslie for making me feel so welcome amongst his colleagues and oldest friends, and I have no doubt that I shall remain in contact with many of them in the near future.

Today is my last day here in Haiti. I have made so many friends, learned so much - about Haiti and about myself, and have been made to feel completely at home over the past four weeks. In many ways, I don't quite want to leave. Still, I am very much looking forward to being chez moi with my family, and catching up with friends. Before she left for home, one of my new friends from the Canadian volunteering group Third World Awareness made a statement to me that I completely agree with. She told me that it's the "Haiti magic" that makes people return after having visited once. I had heard the phrase used before my coming here and thought that it may have functioned subjectively: maybe I wouldn't like it here at all, maybe the twenty eight days would drag and I would yearn for home, or maybe I would feel compelled to pack my bags and leave earlier than planned. As I have mentioned in one of my previous posts, there is something about this place that makes such sentiment impossible.

This is not my last post, however (I still need to tell you all about our wonderful time in Jacmel, South-East Haiti) and so I will hold off on the sentiment. But I urge you all to give Haiti a chance. Particularly any of my fellow "Africano Brits" who may have followed this blog thus far. There's so much to learn here. I wish I had received my education sooner, and I wish for many of you who haven't to receive a similar education soon too.

P.S. Click the following links for Leslie's own musings on the events mentioned above:

http://lesliegriffiths.com/2014/05/28/haiti-again-2/
http://lesliegriffiths.com/2014/05/30/haiti-again-3/

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