Hi, my name is Katie and I live in Haiti (and yes, I know it rhymes 🙂 ). I grew up in small towns surrounded by cornfields in East-Central Illinois, and never planned on leaving– until I fell in love with the country of Haiti on a short-term trip to Sonlight Ministries in Port-de-Paix in January 2012. Just over a year later, I moved to Port-de-Paix, and began teaching at Sonlight Academy, where I continue to teach Preschool and various other classes. I am an avid musician, bibliophile, coffee addict, and follower of Jesus. (photo credit)
I love seeing the sunrise over the mountains from my apartment window every morning.
This is my fourth year teaching Preschool at Sonlight Academy, an English immersion school in Port-de-Paix. As a teacher, most of my days look a lot like this: coloring, tracing, singing the alphabet, and the sweet cacophony that comes from having thirty-two four-year-olds in one room.
(left photo) Taxis (motorcycles) and tap-taps (pickup trucks) are our main modes of transportation in Port-de-Paix. You never know what you’ll get with a taxi driver, or “chofè,” as they’re called. They might give you a Creole lesson. They might ask you for an English lesson. Or your phone number. Or your hand in marriage. You never know.
Side note: Yes, the chofè was driving when he smiled for this picture, which both amuses and concerns me.
(right photo) My view from my taxi. With very few paved roads in the area, travel is rough and dusty, even over short distances. Tap-taps are often packed full, with as many as twenty people (and “always room for one more”) crammed in the back. However, you quickly discover that the more tightly packed you are, the less likely you are to fall out.
This is Bendjy. He became my walking buddy not long after I first moved to Haiti, since the kid knows the entire city of Port-de-Paix like the back of his hand, and I was afraid of getting lost. He has since become my friend, and self-appointed bodyguard (or stalker, depending on who you ask).
One of my favorite places to go (with Bendjy often tagging along) is Sè FaFa’s coffee stand, about a twenty-minute walk from my house. Haitian coffee is often brewed with milk, coconut, and cinnamon, and is as sweet as it is strong. It puts Starbucks to shame (although, I’ll admit that this time of the year I do get jealous when I see pumpkin spice lattes all over social media).
The Mache Fè (Iron Market) in Port-de-Paix has been “under construction” for over a year now, though no signs of progress have been made for a while. Some of the machann (merchants) have started to move back inside, but most of the market is now spread out in the surrounding streets.
I often come to buy produce on this street. After a while, some of the machann have started to remember me, which makes shopping more fun. I have certain ones that I go to for different things, like bananas, mangos, grapefruit, and plantains.
(left photo) This is the inside of Mme. Gerard’s, one of the stores downtown. Many of the things on the shelves have been here since I moved to here…almost four years ago.
(right photo) When you go downtown and can’t find any of the things that you actually needed, but they have dozens of something you probably won’t ever need (there were even more cake decorators piled on the floor). #expatproblems
Parades are a common occurrence here in Port-de-Paix, although it’s sometimes hard to tell what they’re about (like this one). They’re done for weddings, funerals, school events, and political rallies or protests. Sometimes it’s a group of Rara (voodoo worshipers), or a church. And sometimes I honestly wonder if it’s just because they have nothing better to do.
(left photo) Since Port-de-Paix is right on the Northwest coast of Haiti, there are a lot of fishermen in our area. It’s incredible to watch how hard they have to work just to cast and bring in one net. Unfortunately, except for a few small fish, the net was empty when they brought it in. This isn’t uncommon, as the channel between Port-de-Paix and the island of La Tortue has been severely overfished in the past several years.
(right photo) Some boys were playing on the beach while the net was brought in, and quickly caught the fish that were too small to be sold. This boy is holding a small fish and playing with what he said was a dead jellyfish.
There are only a few ways to get to Port-de-Paix: a long car or bus ride, or a chartered flight through MAF. This is the airport. And by airport, I mean runway. And by runway, I really mean dirt road. A few minutes before the plane lands, a guy with a megaphone runs out into the street to warn all taxis, people, and animals to get out of the way. Usually, they listen.
No matter how many times I’ve seen them, the sunsets over the ocean always take my breath away.