Do not, under any circumstances, forget:
-various boarding pass printouts
-press pass and student card, to carry around instead of passport
-Chinese phone, charger and adapter
-phone number of gentleman at hotel
-Canon camera and charger
-clothes for two weeks, including shorts, swimsuit and summer shirts
What am I packing for? Not a return trip to Burundi, although that would be nice.
In five days, I’ll be in Haiti!
With my mother!
I’m very, very excited to discover a new country– especially a warm one, one that has fascinated me for years, since I first started reading about it after the earthquake. I picked the brains of everyone I knew who had been there for information– my former boss, my classmates, the Haitian head receptionist of a youth hostel in New York. I called the head of the Haitian postal service for a piece on post-earthquake reconstruction in my old job, and was charmed by the French people there speak– slurred but slow, like the rhythm of a rocking chair, mixing half-eaten words and polished literary turns of phrase. In August, the last time I was in Baltimore, she and I went to the farmers’ market under the bridge and a lady was there selling imported Haitian beaten-metal artwork. “I want to go over there and talk to that woman about going to Haiti,” I said.
“The best way to help Haiti isn’t to just donate old stuff, but to go there and spend money,” said the art importer.
In Quebec, I was invited to cover the opening of the extraordinary new Haitian art exhibition at the Musée des civilisations (more on that later) and had the privilege to see and hear jaw-dropping things and meet a group of young Haitian artists.
I had no idea my mother would take the art importer at her word, but in early November, I got a Delta Airlines ticket to Haiti in my email inbox. Afterward, a few small journalism assignments.
In five days, on Christmas, I will land at Port-au-Prince with my mother. If all goes well, a gentleman named Jean-Marie will pick us up at Port-au-Prince airport. I will then sort my stuff out and find a way of shooting a $50 photo-essay entitled “Noel à Port-au-Prince.”
On Boxing Day, I’m going to visit a home for intellectually disabled children to do a follow-up piece for the Chronicle-Telegraph. I also want to visit an art co-op, a radio station, the national performing arts school, and (for mom, but for myself too, let’s admit it) a beach. The hotel where we are supposed to be staying is also, legend has it, the one where all the journalists hang out, so with a bit of luck I’ll be able to do some networking over cocktails as well. If I like it enough, when I get back to Quebec I’ll start calling and emailing my way around to find a way back. Is six days really long enough to discover anywhere? I have my doubts.
Planning is tough. If you don’t plan enough, you have the impression of having spent hundreds of dollars on a wild goose chase. If you plan too much, it’s harder to sit back and let things happen. I think I’ll just go in with the aforementioned bullet list and talk it over with the hotel receptionist.
Writing this, my nervousness has turned to 100% pure excitement. Every new destination is like a huge box full of presents. And I’m a kid, and it’s almost Christmas Eve…