My Old Kentucky Home


Having lived a year in post-earthquake Haiti and shipped 66 boxes worth of passion for Port-au-Prince ahead of our departure, my partner Sara and I, late last night, arrived home in Kentucky with 6 suitcases, 4 carry-ons, and two tired dogs in tow.

And today I am still too whip-lashed by re-entry (too shocked by easy access to electricity) to write much of substance, especially about my Saturday evening talk with Baby Doc, which in itself has left me dizzied with disbelief–clearly, the conversation of a life-time shaded by the half-light of infamy.

However, now that I’m back in the land of easy broadband, I can offer a few photographic highlights of our last days in Haiti:

Movers wrap everything, tables included, in cardboard

Lucy supervises shipping

Ralph visits Haitian vet to avoid US quarantine

Good bye party hosted by Sara's staff at Kalico Beach (near Cabaret)

Lucy oversees our departure for the airport

From atop Ralph's crate

Arrival at the Port-au-Prince airport

Lucy and Kathy wait at the gate

My talk with Baby Doc

Though I’m too tired to say much, I will add that, my 45 minute conversation with Baby Doc, would have been the coup of a life-time, were I a journalist in the traditional sense.  However, I was granted this access as a “friend of friend” and talked with Jean-Claude Duvalier, not about his recent arrest or allegations of wrong-doing, but about who he is as a man, as a president returned from exile, who sees his country suffering and is saddened by it.

I sat across the table and was stunned by the seeming humanity of an ex-dictator, some say committed crimes against humanity.   How could someone supposedly evil actually appear so warm, charming, and, above all else, humble?  I expected arrogance and experienced not one drop of it. 

Is this man maybe not what the world has judged him to be?  Are people capable of change, worthy of redemption?

Whoever Jean-Claude Duvalier is, he’s not what you’d expect.

38 thoughts on “My Old Kentucky Home

  1. Kathy–
    so happy to hear you and Sara made it home safely–albeit in tired heaps.
    rest up, rejuvenate, and let that story simmer–I know it will be ready to serve the moment you are ready to write it.

    blessings, and enjoy the broad (band)!
    jane

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  2. Wow, Kathy – it all happened so very quickly and now you’re back home. Be gentle with yourself, ease yourself back into your US skin slowly and carefully, and write when you find the words. Your photos are amazing.
    Sunshine xx

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  3. I’m glad you made it safely home. On your comments about Baby-Doc: perhaps he’s what you should expect. Often dictators rise to their positions of power because they are charismatic and either see themselves as doing good or fool others into believing that they act only in the interests of their people. Once in power, they are fighting against rebels and those who would challenge their authority and distroy the country they love; and only they are capable of leading the country in a way beneficial to all who live there. (Tongue in cheek, of course.)

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    • Yes, evil is always appealing, and maybe that’s what makes it evil. I guess I just haven’t known enough ex-dictators to know. It was just so eerily surreal. And I felt comfortable. Weird, weird, weird!

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  4. I’m glad you are home safe and sound. You deserve a rest, and we will wait patiently for the Baby Doc details. I think your non-journalist perspective is very valuable. As for redemption, change, and evil . . .well, I think everyone can change, but at the same time I would imagine that true evil can be hidden underneath charm. A devil who charms is somewhat scarier than one who doesn’t, wouldn’t you think?

    I reserve judgement until I’ve read more details, and maybe even after that.

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    • You are so right, Lisa. And who could ever know much of anything in 45 minutes. It was just so, so strange. In some ways, I’m hoping my non-journalistic slant will be even more valuable, since clearly I’ll see things more like the ordinary person on the street would–at least, I think I will/do. But I don’t know if white’s not black at the moment.

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  5. Welcome back to a more familiar reality! I’m blown away that you got an interview with Baby Doc, and I’m not surprised he was warm and charming. I think, when people have done horrific things, we tend to see them as 100% evil. But all human beings have a humanity about them. Not to make a joke here, but Hitler loved dogs and he had a real fondness for children. So, I can see where Baby Doc could be charming to you and genuinely caring about the plight of the Haitian people. I don’t think any of the humanity softens the atrocities these people have committed. It simply shows that no human being is 100% anything.

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    • Excellent point! It was just so damn surreal in real life, if that makes any sense at all! I know that the most evil can sometimes be the most deceivingly charming, but I just walked away so reeling. Truly reeling–still reeling!

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  6. Wow-cannot wait to hear more about that conversation. But Baby Doc is a smart chameleon, schooled and versed in dealing with journalists. Tough to trust anybody with his record.
    I hope your re-entry to Kentucky will be a smooth one.

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  7. Welcome back to the US, Kathy! (she says from Canada…) I’m happy to hear that your journey went well.

    Looking forward to more posts when you’re up to it. I know that moving and travel can be brutal on the circadian rhythms, and you had to do BOTH in one go. Good luck easing back into American life (for now at least)!

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  8. Welcome back to the US! 🙂 I have to say that Lucy appears to have done an amazing job overseeing all the packing and shipping. Is she too zonked out to direct the unpacking as well, or will she rise to her responsibilities? 😉

    Also, the photo of absolutely everything packed in cardboard was hysterical! I half-expected to see two dog-shaped boxes (complete with four legs, a tail, and nostril holes!). I guess the benefit of having everything shipped in cardboard (in addition to the obvious–your stuff will arrive without scratches) is that you kind of get to experience the excitement of opening gift-like boxes…even though you can already guess what they might be by their shape. 😉

    Welcome back, and I can’t wait to hear more about Baby Doc. But first: rest, rest, rest!!

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  9. HURRAH!! I’m so glad you’re home! I leave for Vancouver Thursday and have a crazy week when I get back, but let’s get together soon!!!
    Happy home coming, my dear!

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  10. Good to hear that you are safely home. Good grief, you actually got to meet Baby Doc!!! Am looking forward to hearing more about that. About his warmth and charm: there has to be some reason that he’s able to attract so many followers.

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  11. They say that true evil is seldom what you’d expect. I dunno. I have been fortunate enough that I haven’t met it yet.

    Welcome back to the States! I enjoyed your photos. I hope you’re well rested by now. (As you can tell, I am still woefully behind in catching up with everybody after my vacation.)

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  12. Hi, Kathy! Glad to hear you guys made it home to Kentucky safely. What a trip! The site of your farewell party looks divine, I must say. I hope you guys get settled in okay. I gotta move in a few months, and I’m starting to feel the anxiety that comes with being deconstructed. Anyway, welcome back to the States!….(and high-speed internet!)

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