Along for the ride
Last week, Ted and I had a “first.” The University of Maryland made its third annual Learning Tour to Haiti, with MCC as their host, accompanying agency and logistical guide. And we were along for the ride!
After their Week One in the Dezam countryside, the group of 8 students plus their fearless UMD staff leader, made it to Port-au-Prince for a week that was largely guided by Ted and yours truly.
From Day One, meeting them at the Ouanga Bay beach on National Route 1 for their “take a breather” day, to the final night of free-styling songs and sharing their personal reflections on the trip, Ted and I came away with many good memories of meaningful conversations, sight-seeing “firsts” around Port-au-Prince, and opportunities to see our Haitian partners and their work with fresh eyes.
On Day Two of the group’s stay in Port-au-Prince, Ted and I had the opportunity to roll out our first Advocacy 101 Workshop, something we had given thought to periodically over the past months. Starting with a “definition of Advocacy” and moving into the “how to,” we enjoyed the rich dialogue that developed from the students’ very thoughtful reflections and contributions. UMD is definitely a group that prepares well and comes ready to learn.
A couple memories we will not soon forget:
Rocking to RAM
We enjoyed our first ever RAM concert with the Maryland group. RAM is a racine band led by the owner of Haiti’s famous Hotel Olaffson. Every Thursday evening, starting at 11pm, RAM plays a two-hour show. All we knew of RAM beforehand was … not much. The awesome horns and jumpy beat surprised us and kept us awake enough to drive the group home at 1am!
A 3-hour lecture from friend and former MCC Advocacy employee on Haitian history kept the group engaged and reminded me why I love history so much. The gentleman who provided English interpretation for our group even said that this session “changed” him. He hadn't heard the history of Haiti from colonial times to present conveyed through such a stirring narrative.
Three days later, the group traveled to visit Na Sonje, a private foundation couched in the hills beyond Port-au-Prince. This foundation is dedicated to the retelling of Haitian history with an emphasis on raising global consciousness on the horrors of colonial oppression. The Na Sonje theatrical production takes you swiftly through seven centuries of Haitian, African, and European interaction. It is a moving experience that is hard to forget. One goal of the Learning Tour is to expose groups to a variety of perspectives so they can better understand the rich and varied landscape of Haiti today and in its past. The visit to Na Sonje definitely serves to meet this goal.
On our final night the team remixed the final rendition of their "farewell song"for Ted and me. Starting with their traditional "So long, farewell, to you my friends," they then broke into a rap that explored their highs and lows, and key learnings from their two weeks in Haiti. How often do you get serenaded at the end of a "work" day?? This group was a real pleasure for us to visit with. We wish them well, and hope several will make their way back to Haiti in the near and long-term.
All in all; an unforgettable "first"for Ted and me!
A little taste of Ouanga Bay for us; first day
Awesome horns! At RAM
Mural above the stage, at RAM
This was re-posted from Katharine & Ted's personal blog, Stories to Tell.
Katharine is from San Diego, California and has served with MCC Haiti since July 2014 as Advocacy Coordinator and Policy Analyst. She studied History and Religious Studies at University of California Davis, then International Development at Eastern University. You can follow her Instagram on life in Haiti @katharineoswald, Haiti advocacy news on Facebook, and her personal blog, Stories to Tell.