Monthly Archives: March 2010

Breathe, relax, breathe…

That’s what my academic adviser in college used to tell me when I would go in his office stressing out, rambling about all my worries at 100 mph.

There’s no need to worry, because I’m going to see these lovely people very soon:

Jaques Pereria

My dad

Maureen Pereira

Me and my sister.

Exhale. This will be good.

I’m going back to Haiti

Haiti from the plane

Haiti's west inlet: The view from the plane

Next Sunday, April 4th.

There are several reasons why I am going.

I want to see my family. My father and my sister and my step mother. The last time I saw them was when I went to Haiti in June of 2009. This was also the first time I saw them. (Well, I’d met my father before when he came to the U.S., but I was too young to really remember.) Going there and meeting them, being accepted and loved unconditionally, having them show me the country of half my genetic origin for the first time — it was probably the most profound positive experience of my entire life. When I heard about the earthquake the evening of January 12, I felt like someone had pulled a rug out from under me and that I had landed flat on my back on the floor, the wind knocked out of me. I pictured my little sister dead, crushed beneath the rubble of my dad’s beautiful house. I’m not religious, but I couldn’t help but think what a cruel joke that would be for a god to play on me. How exceedingly funny it would be for some malicious omnipotent being to give me a glimpse of what it’s like to have a loving, normal family, and then snatch them right off the face of the earth, like they never even existed. But they’re fine, so I’m going to visit them.

I’m going to see things for myself. Contrast has an important role in human perception. The presence and absence of light shapes our vision. We smell things when we walk into a room, but don’t notice them if we’ve been sitting in the room for a few hours. Haiti was fucked up in a lot of ways before the earthquake, filled with desperation and poverty illness, and it’s way more fucked up now. But the journalists who went there for the first time after the quake, they could only contrast Haiti to what else they knew — their comfy lives in the U.S. or wherever, the other places they’ve visited, the general media’s perception of Haiti, which is pretty warped and narrow. They couldn’t contrast Haiti to Haiti. I would like to think that it’s not as bad as everyone is making it out to be, but it’s probably worse. Anyway, the point is, I need to distinguish the contrast from my own frame of reference.

I’m going so that I can tell people about it. I am not a doctor, or a UN peacekeeper, or a humanitarian. I am a 23 year old girl. I experience the world in a 23 year old girl body with 23 year old girl eyes. And I talk about stuff with 23 year old girl language and think about stuff with a 23 year old girl mind (though I think I’m old for my age in that respect). I’m not dissing the humanitarians, but I think it’s hard for the average comfortable American to look at Haiti through humanitarian eyes. It makes people feel guilty and bad about themselves because they’re not being a humanitarian. I hope it will be easier for people to look at Haiti through my eyes. And then once it’s easy, I hope it will be as fascinating for them as it is for me.

I’m going to give the middle finger to all the people who advised people to not go to Haiti. They had their reasons for saying so, and I’m sure they’re valid. But I don’t care. I have my own infrastructure there. I’m not going to get to the airport and not know what to do or how to get around. I think there is value in going and experiencing something just to be able to tell a story about what you experienced. I’m not going to get in the way of relief workers. I’m not going to perform any surgeries, cut myself with a bloody scalpel and accidentally give myself HIV like this Scientologist asshole. I’m going to just be there with open eyes and ears. I’ll be fine.

Oh, and I’m going to go to the beach. Last time I was there I got sexually harassed in the most vulgar, offensive way I’ve ever experienced by a bunch of UN “peacekeepers”. So this time I’m going to take pictures of them in their Speedos and post them on the Internet.

I’ll be there until April 15th, after which I have an extended layover in Miami. Then back to home sweet Brooklyn.

In the time left up until I depart, I’m going to try to write as much as I can about what I experienced last time I was there. I’ve been meaning to do that since June. I’ve procrastinated a little, but now I’ve gotta get these thoughts out of my head and into the aether before they fade.