I’ll always remember my stay in Haiti. We had docked there for a few hours on our cruise. Every summer, my family gets together and we go out for vacation. It started off as small trips but over the years, it has now become a family tradition. To be honest, I wasn’t too fond of Haiti. I almost didn’t want to leave the ship but somehow my parents had convinced me. I expected the classic Haitian food, sightseeing areas, and their sandy beaches. But, the majority of what I witnessed will stay with me forever. After unwillingly stepping off the boat, my dad had hired a tour guide to navigate us through the streets of Haiti. He was very tall and wore a peculiar hat. He spoke to us in a heavy accent that sounded as if it was French. He warned us not to talk to anyone in the streets because they would try to steal anything we had. He had also warned us not to buy anything from the stores on the street, for the same reasons. I didn’t pay much attention to him to what he was saying. I looked around staring at the natives of the land, watching them go about their business. I had heard these speeches when we were warned about the people of Spain, where my family had vacationed last summer. I assumed the people here would be the same.
After the guide gave his speech, we drove to Port-au-Prince, one of the major cities of Haiti. The road was very narrow and unpaved. I remember thinking that we would never reach because of uneven path that almost broke down the car. We finally reached about half an hour later, I looked outside the window, hoping to see the sandy beaches and the restaurants that I had envisioned there would be. Instead, what I saw had shocked me. Huge flocks of people had immediately stopped and just stared at us. I felt like an intruder in their home just because of they way they looked at us. Many of them wore dirty, shredded clothing and were startlingly thin. My mom gently elbowed me while I stepped out of the car. With every step I took, I felt like the native people kept coming closer and closer to me. Our tour guide led us through these narrow passageways and on either side of us, there were small cottages built, where people used to live. I tried to stay as close to my mom as possible, but I accidentally bumped into a woman carrying her child. She looked up at me, with desperate eyes. In that moment, I instantly felt thankful for whatever I had. As we walked further, I saw skinny, emaciated children were playing soccer in the trash and filth of the alleyways. The alleyways were narrow, almost like every street we had been on so far, and this one had a very distinctive odor. I heard someone say that it smelled like marijuana – I felt so sorry for these people who had to take drugs to break free from their terrible lives.
I heard the screaming and crying of a little boy as I walked past. He was on the floor, sitting in filth, with his mother or father nowhere to be seen. I wished there was something I could do, something to go and help the child. I felt sick to my stomach and wondered how these people live and what they endure from day to day. As I got back in the car, I was glad to be leaving Haiti behind me. I couldn’t unsee any of things I just saw but thought about how difficult it must be for these people to go through these hardships every day, much more than modern Americans have to endure. I was leaving Haiti, but these natives had no way out of here. Even today, I hear the fascinating stories and the history of what Haiti is. But, the sights and sounds of the cities still haunt me. I suppose those thoughts always will.
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