Your Haitian Checklist

Aside

We have landed once more in Port-au-Prince. As this is our 8th time visiting Haiti, we have developed a sort of routine. It mostly involves a few runs up the EPIC  drive way passing the UN apartments, a few lunges back at the bottom to make the fruit and coffee that follows extra tasty, and us in high spirits as we are driven to the factory to work on our garments!

We were going to take a moment to write about the importance of building relationships with those you work with in order to create an efficient and pleasant work space. However, we have decided to create a sort of Haitian checklist. A list of things you can check off while you’re spending SO MUCH TIME in Port-au-Prince traffic. It’s CLEARLY a game you can’t miss out on, so come visit us on this beautiful, magnificent and crazy island.

1) Seen the most beautifully decorated Tap Taps (public transport) rolling through the streets: The artwork painted on the sides are beautiful vignettes of daily life, they look the kind of party bus you want to take despite the fact that they are often overcrowded.

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2) The most colourful artwork lining the streets

3) Full pharmacies wrapped around a basket and resting atop someone’s head

4) An entire family on a motorcycle expertly making their way through crazy traffic

5) Spent 2 hours in traffic to get somewhere that should only take 10 minutes

6) Everything you could imagine (and even what you cannot imagine) piled in the back of pick up truck.

7) Goats and pigs roaming freely between people and traffic

8) Scoured the pepe markets for hidden gems

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9) Sampled delicious lambi (conch) with breadfruit and twice fried plantains (it’s worth taking a rest break from traffic!)

10) Gun-laden security guards standing guard in front of every grocery store (even the corner stores)

11) A marching street band winding their way through the streets on sunny afternoons

12) Tasted the sweetest coffee from a street vendor. It tastes more like coffee flavoured sugar

13) A procession of school children in their perfectly pressed uniforms making their way down the street to school

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14) Potholes so large you fear the car might tumble down and never get out

15) Entire home furnishings crafted from wood made on the side of the streets

16) Mountainous hills which ascend right to the picture perfect beaches

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Landed and Planted

We are back in Port-au-Prince for our fourth visit. There is something so wonderful about coming back to visit the same place.  We have learned so much each time and continue to meet amazing people.

Many LB plans are in the works this trip including a photo shoot here in P-A-P, new fall designs and re-branding/re-imaging the LB. We are so excited to be working on all of it and cannot wait to reveal them all come the fall!

In the meantime, we will share photos of Furcy, where we visited for the weekend. Just an hour outside of Port-au-Prince, up the mountain, Furcy is a breathtaking weekend getaway. The colours are unbelievable. While much of Haiti has been deforested for the purpose of coal making and agriculture, we were happy to see reforestation projects in place.

The pictures below don’t serve it justice-you will have to come here and experience it first hand!

The Neighbourhood

It has been the most real unreal experience. It’s a difficult sensation to put into words. How do I express the events of the last few days without doing them an injustice? I’ve attempted to hang onto every moment with the intention of living into the vibrant pulse of life inPort-au-Prince. The pulp of experiences here has pierced my skin and reached my soul. I love this place for its kind people and incredible geography and I am challenged by the hardness of the life here at the same time. There is such visual contradiction it is astounding.

The rush of the moto was comforting, not to mention a dream come true. Everyone knows I have acquiring a motorcycle license on my mind;) But I’ll leave it to the PAP drivers to zoom me around these streets. These taxi drivers have mad skill…and madd style might I add. I can’t quite get over their winter tukes and hipster glasses. It is an amazing sight that makes me smile every time. I’d hang onto the back of one of these guys any day and will miss the opportunity inToronto! Granted that I have been won over mostly by the fact that moto drivers have been the transport for me and the Pepe to and from the market. Definite Local Buttons bias!

What at first came across to me as chaos has developed into some odd sense of routine I’ve begun to experience. It makes me smile to realize this adaptation I am feeling. Work in the morning, market shops once or twice a week, walking to the super market a couple times a week through a familiar neighbourhood, preparing meals and enjoying outings with some of the same people again and again. There’s a lot to be said for repetition. The familiarity is comforting and relationships grow stronger. Two weeks is a very short time, and a longer stay would allow for more depth, but I can’t get greedy 😉

It’s quite a sight. Hilly roads, swerving traffic, vegetable and product stands, garbage piles and bins on fire, enormous puddles, fallen houses some being raised to the ground by workmen and others left untouched. Automobiles the likes of which you’d have never dreamed could still moved and flashy autos of the bourgiousie, civil service, NGOs and UN. On the streets never once does someone miss a “bonjour” or “bonsoir” and you can imagine Anne and I are looked on with curiosity and twinkling eyes. The experience makes us laugh and we’re in the habit of greeting everyone…such that it will definitely stick inToronto. Sorry in advance 😉

Not sure how to leave off here. I’m still very much in beat with this vibe hanging onto its rhythm in the time I have left. Maybe I’ll dance the kompa tonight! But first some Kreyol food in Petionville…

A Taste of Creole Spice

It is wonderful to live so many new experiences each day. The atmosphere of PAP offers something new every day. There’s so much movement in the city to experience. I am hooked and never let down always given new information to process alone, with Anne, and with the people we’ve met and continue to meet along the way.

The opportunity to experience PAP by foot has been the greatest privilege of this trip for me. It only seems appropriate to be immersed in the daily grind such that when I finish the day I have the grit on my clothes and skin to show for it…as would be the case from any day spent in any city. PAP has its own flavour that I’m enjoying immensely and that ignites great curiosity to discover its secrets…

We laughed together so much in the Pepe market. All of us, vendors alike, were getting so much joy out of the choosing process. It looked funny seeing us hold up jeans, shirts, and jackets that were obviously far too large for us. Parez got his nickname “Grandpere Pimp” as he bargained a good deal to lend out his “femme blanche” to the eager Haitian suitors. No one could afford us however! We all settled for the bargains struck up for the Pepe instead. I’m happy with that;) It was so much fun, and I look forward to the next big shop tomorrow! HOT for sure, but entirely worth it!!

The nights have been particularly revealing of the culture. We’ve been whisked from the sidelines of the bar into the dance of the Kompat by Haitian enthusiasts. That was quite the fun washed down with far too much vodka in one glass! Never mind that we had a night ahead of us hitting up 3 or 4 places each time we’ve gone out. Each bar has been very different serving a clientele in pursuit of a particular vibe. I can’t wait to go back to one bar that’s hosting a reggae concert next week…I probably CAN wait A LONG TIME before I need to witness the prostitute bar again 😉 It just goes to show the variety and style of the people at large in PAP, where the foreigners have obviously shaped certain bars and where other bars remain in the many styles of the locals…

Emily never came but she quieted the streets as we all waited her predicted arrival. The calm created an ominous atmosphere for witnessing a sector of PAP that was devastated from the earthquake and remains so to this date. Enormous crumbling structures loom over the stands Haitians have set up to sell produce and goods along the streets. It feels like a ghost town resides above. Garbage and large murky puddles are impossible to avoid when walking that it takes being in a car to stay clean, which is the sole privilege of a vast minority. It was difficult to witness but Vincent’s incredible good humour talked us through the experience.

And then we were in Port-Salut! We drove out of PAP for the weekend into the beautiful south-western coastal region ofHaiti. Its fresh air the product of lush green trees and bush that cover mountains and valleys and blows onto sandy beaches, and such blue water! The hills were green and the waters blue…and us so white! We laughed a lot as we drew attention walking through the beach festival of Port-Salut and throughout the weekend proceeded to have such good times and adventure…

First Impressions

  Brooklyn was the best launch pad I could have asked for our trip toPort-au-Prince. The environment was so dynamic as we made our way alongProspect Ave.Along streets lined with tall brick apartments with their little metal gates that opened on to them. We paused for photos. We brunhed at a small Mexican restaurant where our eyes were wide from the sight and tastes of delicious bottomless mamosas, bloody mary’s (extra pimento), and exquisite, colourful, platters of Mexican tastes. We mozied on to paint our nails classy colours for our “workation”.

How fitting that Anne’s friend Carolyn had invited us to her pop-up vintage yard sale! I finally got the chance to walk through basement shutters that open up like trap doors on the sidewalk pavement, revealing staircases that take you down into the basement. We crossed under and up into the backyard where the clothing was hung on racks and laid out on blankets. Yummy sangria and lovely stylish ladies immersed in the sounds of catchy tunes passed the afternoon delightfully. I love the jumper I bought…and wasted no time to sport it inPort-au-Prince.

Here was another example of the need to up-cycle clothing either to a new owner or as reinvented pieces.

But what a feeling to arrive inPort-au-Princefor the second time. Hot and sunny we placed ourselves in front of a crowed expecting arrivals at the airport. The kindly Perez found and welcomed us (I cant imagine how he singled us out!? 😉 ) and we soon joined Vincent in his vehicle and were making introductions as we carried on to his home. We were beaming. Fast friends were made.  As we drove we noted how much cleaner the streets looked. That was exciting to see.

The house we were welcomed into is exquisite. It’s large open windows lets the inside air exchange with the outside air. The many plants make everything so green, lush, and cool the air…

The highlight of the day was being re-united with Hans and the tailors of INDEPCO, we were all laughing with delight. Mademoiselle was there just as she was before with the best coffee served. I want a chance to hug her…maybe by the end of the trip? And Seal had made another vest from our pattern. It was a feel good day! And to end with a dip in a pool, a glace citron, and play time with Vincent’s little Steffan leaves me so content and ready to rest up for tomorrow…