Worst Week Ever

This past week was the worst week ever. Apart from learning that a colleague was hit by a car while driving a motorcycle to conduct a field visit (he wasn’t wearing a helmet), two high profile Haitians were murdered/assasinated (one of which happened in my neighborhood), there was an earthquake that literally left people shaken up, and unnecessary panic and chaos ensued pending an announcement from President Michel Martelly regarding his nationality.  (There has been rising political tension over the last month or so, primarily due to an investigation of the nationality of some elected officials, including the president. Former Prime Minister Garry Connille supported and cooperated in the investigation, and as a result, he was forced to resign after just four months in office. Also, three secretaries of state resigned when it was discovered they hold foreign passports. Martelly showed eight Haitian passports on national TV in order to dispel rumors that he holds an American passport, but skepticism remains, as there are accusations that the president has a second identity as Michael J. Martelly.) To be sure, things are getting increasingly tense and unstable, specifically in Port-au-Prince.

Whenever bad things happen, I try to look for the lesson or use it as an opportunity to make a change in my behavior. So from the incidents last week, I’ve been reminded that:

1) I need a helmet. I will not get on a moto again until I have one. Period.

2) I need to check the credit balance on my phone everyday and make sure I have enough credit to make at least one phone call. Earlier on Wednesday evening, my call with Felix was disconnected because I ran out of credit. So that night when I tried to call him after the earthquake, I couldn’t. I had to go online to Digicel’s website to add credit to my phone. Luckily, I was able to get Internet, but I may not be so lucky next time.

3) I need to charge my phone everyday. When I couldn’t use my personal cell phone on Wednesday night, I tried to use my work-issued phone. But the call wouldn’t go through because the battery was too low. I have consistent electricity now, so there’s no excuse for me not to keep my phones charged.

4) I need to keep a small, packed bag with a change of clothes, my passport and credit card near the door. Perhaps I’m being paranoid but given the political tension in the air and this country’s vulnerability to natural disasters, I feel like I should be prepared to leave in a hurry if necessary.

5) I need to make sure I always have an ample supply of Prestige beer and/or Barbancourt rum at home. Throughout last week, I kept putting off going to the market, and planned to stop on the way home on Thursday. But of course with the President’s announcement, that didn’t work out. So I was left with one Prestige in the refrigerator, unsure whether or not I’d be “locked in” for the next few days. That won’t ever happen again. Ever.


A Legacy of Sisterhood

Fifteen years ago today, on March 6, 1997, I became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. It was one of the best days of my life.

Founded on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1908, Alpha Kappa Alpha’s mantra is to be of service to all mankind. The sorority’s membership includes prominent businesswomen, entertainers, politicians, educators, athletes and medical professionals. In other words, extraordinary women striving to make a difference in their communities and throughout the world.

March 6, 1997: After initiation with our Dean of Pledges

The chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha that I pledged, Delta Tau, was founded in 1964 on the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. During a summer journalism program on campus and a subsequent visit as a senior in high school, I decided that I wanted to be a member of the organization. Finally in my junior year, I received an invitation to join and began the membership process.Through that process, I learned a lot about the Sorority’s history, the chapter’s history, what it means to be an AKA, and most importantly, sisterhood. It was a humbling and challenging experience; one that contributed greatly to my development as a young woman.

Alpha Kappa Alpha has allowed me to create friendships and bonds with women from all walks of life, especially the six women with whom I was initiated. We’ve laughed and cried together. We’ve been by each others side during deaths, births and weddings. We’ve watched each other grow and evolve. No matter where I am in the world, I know that I can call upon my sorority sisters to be there whenever I need them.

August 2010: After dinner at the Tap Tap Room in Miami

To my ship, SS Nisus: Thank you for your sisterhood and friendship. Thank you for sharing in the ups and downs of life with me. My life is richer because you are in it. I will never forget our journey together into this sisterhood. I miss you all dearly and think of you often. I look forward to our next reunion…in Haiti (hint, hint).

Skee wee!

Two Years and Counting

Two years ago today, I landed in Haiti for the first time ever. It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Even now, I cannot adequately articulate why I fell in love with this country. The only thing I know is that Haiti feels like home.

As I look back at some of my favorite memories captured with a camera (trust me, there are tons more that weren’t photographed), I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all of the wonderful, inspiring people I’ve met, as well as the joyful and heartbreaking experiences I’ve had thus far.

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Love Lessons

For the first time in my life, I’m in a relationship where the only person I try to change is me. It took me a while to get to this point. And truthfully, sometimes it’s a challenge. Okay, it’s often a challenge. I mean, it’s much easier to tell someone else about their flaws and imperfections versus taking a closer look at yourself and realizing that you aren’t Perfect Peggy (or Peter).

Much of the credit for this improved me goes to Felix. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but he is the first boyfriend I’ve had that inspires me to be a better person because of his own desire to be the best person he can be; who God intended him to be. For a long time, I didn’t really understand why I’d been drawn to Felix. Our contrasting personalities, cultural differences and language barrier have caused significant misunderstandings and miscommunication. But I’ve finally come to understand and appreciate his purpose in my life. 

As I’ve accepted Felix as is and have focused more on myself, I’ve noticed that he is changing and growing too. I hope it lasts forever and we continue to grow together, but the fact is, I don’t know if it will or not. Which leads me to another important lesson that this relationship has taught me: enjoy the present moment and stop trying to predict what’s going to happen in the future. Love, like everything else in life is unpredictable. Enjoy it while it lasts; however long that may be.

The Fortune Cookie

A couple of weeks ago, I finally went home to St. Louis to visit my family. It was the first vacation I’ve had in six months. I was only there for six days, but it was the best six days I’ve had in a long time. It was the perfect break from Haiti.

The night before I left the US, I, along with my nephews and my mom, went to Stir Crazy, a casual dining restaurant with Asian-inspired cuisine. After we finished stuffing our faces with Thai sticky wings, potstickers, kung pao chicken and fried rice, it was time for each of us to read what was inside of our fortune cookie. We started with my youngest nephew, then the older one.  Next, it was my turn. I opened my fortune cookie and looked down at the tiny slip of paper in disbelief.

For the last few months, I’ve been considering taking a leap of faith. What’s been holding me back is a fear that my decision will lead to economic instability. I’ve been praying for guidance and direction, so I can’t help but think that this “fortune” is God’s way of telling me to go ahead and leap.

A Haitian Cure for the Common Cold?

Yesterday, I spent nearly the entire day in bed sick, watching season 2 of Weeds, eating saltine crackers and drinking Haitian tea. I asked the housekeeper, Madame Franky, to make my favorite Haitian tea with fresh ginger and cinnamon. (A colleague introduced me to this tea, and for a week, it replaced my morning coffee. Of course, that was short-lived because nothing can break my addiction to Haitian coffee.) Madame Franky agreed, but also offered to make me a different type of tea that she said is really good for colds. About 45 minutes later, she knocked on my bedroom door and told me the tea was ready.

Haitian tea brewing

Despite how good it smelled, I have to admit that I was nervous to drink it. Sensing my hesitation, Madame Franky assured me that it would be good, and that she would strain it, then I needed to add a bit of sugar. I decided to just trust her. Besides, I’d been wanting to try Haitian herbal remedies, and this was my chance.

A closer look

I slowly took a first sip. Not bad. It mostly had a minty flavor (I thought I recognized mint leaves). It didn’t have as strong of a taste as I anticipated, so I continued sipping until it was all gone. I don’t know why, but I expected this tea to immediately cure my cough, sore throat, congestion and runny nose. It didn’t. But I did find it soothing and relaxing.  In fact, soon after drinking it, I fell asleep.

This morning, I’m back at work, and my Haitian co-workers are giving me more advice on what to do to rid myself of this cold. Drink lime juice. Eat a mandarin (orange). Have some tea. Go home early. Hmm…I think I’ll do all of the above.

Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas)

It’s 3:08 am. I cannot sleep. Or shall I say I cannot go back to sleep. I was awakened just after midnight by fireworks, singing and kompa music. Very loud kompa music. To say I was annoyed is an understatement. If I thought anyone could hear me, then I would have opened the window and shouted, “Quiet down please folks. I’m tryna sleep ova hurr.” (That’s my Midwest politeness combined with my St. Louis accent.)

But as I sit here now, some three hours later, wide awake, the annoyance has disappeared. I can still hear the kompa music, and occasionally fireworks, but I also hear laughter, clapping and the roar of men’s and women’s voices. Obviously, people are having a good time. A really good time. And they deserve to celebrate the holiday in this traditional Haitian way; especially because last year, most people didn’t feel much like celebrating at all. This is the first Christmas since the earthquake that many people feel hopeful and happy again. With last year’s tragedy, many Haitians felt like they couldn’t truly enjoy Christmas as they had in year’s past, and most didn’t have the financial means to do so.

So with that in mind, how can I possibly be annoyed? Let them party on. If I had the energy, then I’d join them. But since I don’t, I’ll just continue eavesdropping on the festivities until they end or I fall asleep. I wonder which will occur first?

Joyeux Noël!