Exile Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes— (Homesick for Haiti)


Having been home from Haiti for a number of months now, I’m missing it more than ever—don’t seem able to get the place out of my stuck-in-middle-America mind.

I wrote a while back that leaving Port-au-Prince felt like an amputation—that Haiti was the phantom limb, the one I dream about, the one that calls to me at night.

I miss it terribly.

And I’m terribly restless these days, as well.  My partner Sara and I have been back in the US for more than five months, but frankly I’m still reeling from the miracle that is Haiti—and aching to return.

So—longing for a place that changed me deeply and made me realize, not only how blessed we are in America, but how spoiled, as well, today I’ll share some photos.  Below are the people and places that have marked my heart.

I hope you can love these faces as much as I do—

children near Cabaret

slums built into the hillside of Port-au-Prince

baby sister to the girls above

tent cities still everywhere in Port-au-Prince

so sweet to hold the hands of these children

house pancaked by the earthquake

my camera fascinated the kids

the kind of housing common in rural parts of Haiti

gotta love this face

enormous eyes, even bigger hearts

I miss these people. 

I wish I were still living in Haiti.  But I suppose my exile was inevitable.

Eventually we all get kicked off one island or another.  A tribal council is convened.  The votes are cast.

And someone has to go—

What form does your exile take?  What do you feel separate from?

26 thoughts on “Exile Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes— (Homesick for Haiti)

  1. These beautiful children do make you feel guilty for having so much. I miss my life in Italy when I am in Australia even though I love my home. At least I know I can go back when I want to.

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    • You are so right. Their eyes are amazing. I think I feel less guilty now for having what I do and more motivated to do something to make a difference. I’m just not sure how. Haiti reached deep inside me and made me more, better–enabled me to see the world with more open eyes. It also made me understand that I have few answers–that the problems are complex–not easily solved. I learned about feeling helpless and not enough. I wish I knew what the answers were.

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  2. Wonderful pix. Thanks for sharing.
    Today, I’m missing my adopted Minnesota and all the friends who are there. After 20 years there, my bipolar illness booted me out. Remembering everyone and the bookstores fondly today.

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  3. Wow, what beautiful children. I would love to go to haiti especially since I speak French and love to volunteer. What earlier posts can you point me to as I’d like to read more about your experience in Haiti and what you did. Lovely post.

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    • Yes, French would be very helpful in Haiti. Most Haitians don’t speak it, but it is the language of business, politics, and international aid. Only educated Haitians have a chance to study French, unfortunately. For example neither our housekeeper nor gardener spoke anything but Creole–which was challenging. Fortunately one of our guards spoke Spanish, which I speak some, so we were able to communicate with them largely through him.

      I blogged at least 5 days a week from Haiti starting in November 2010 until we moved back to the US in mid-March. My first 6 months there, I didn’t blog–foolishly. Skim through and see what interests you. Titles and tags might give you a sense of what posts are about. I don’t know how exactly to direct you to specific posts you might appreciate.

      Haiti needs so much help!

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  4. Kathy-
    I too am in exile from Haiti and long terribly to be there. It helps knowing that my exile is temporary and will result in lots of projects that will be taking me and many volunteers to Haiti many times over the next several years.

    Being a writer, maybe there’s potential for you to join forces with us in our library projects somehow. The first site is already open in Pilate, next year will be opening in Ouanaminthe mid-2012, then Ferrier and possibly Fort Liberte) and would love to have yours and Sara’s insight. We’ve partnered with Harvard and the Parliament Foundation of Quebec, and are working on several other partnerships now.

    It’s exactly those faces you’ve displayed here in your photos that keep us going. Thank you so much for posting these pictures and for caring so very deeply about Haiti!

    ~ Dana Jean, Executive Director @ Universal Learning Centre

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    • Gosh, Dana, I would love to join you in a project. How amazing to bring libraries to these places. I’m wondering how you manage to locate books in Creole. I can’t imagine that there are many printed. Thanks so much for reading my post and for doing such important work for people I love!

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    • It does feel strange, Mark. I’m restless, as hell.

      By the way, I finished your novel, which I loved. Can’t wait for the next one. Perhaps you could turn Rachel into a journalist/detective of sorts and do a series on her. She’s a wonderful character.

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  5. Your pictures remind me so much of rural Africa – which holds my heart – I felt very disconnected when I lived in Europe for a while. I am so glad I am back here. My theory on this is that places where life feels more “real” – when you have to live in the moment, take hold of your heart and never let go. Lovely post Kathy.

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    • Absolutely, Jackie! Lisa has also said some of my Haiti photos remind her of Africa. I think you are right, though. Life feels more real when you are living in places that force you to live in the moment. Thanks so much! I’m pleased you enjoyed my post!

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  6. Such beautiful faces, Kathy. I can see why you would miss them.

    Lately I’m feeling more connected than exiled. I think that’s because of the outdoor commitment.

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  7. Your restlessness shows how alive you are Kathy! I’m sure the time you spent in Haiti was exhilarating.
    Love the photos you have shared here, as well as on the next post…. .they make the place come alive for me, a spectator, so far away. And my heart goes out to the survivors living in those miserable camps.
    But there is something curiously uplifting about people who have the resilience to survive hard times and difficult circumstances. I know how that feels after visiting a place like Shigar (in the northern areas of Pakistan)…..I came away wishing I could live there for some time, grow my food, work the land and survive the harsh winter….I made some friends amongst the children there, and would love to go back to see how they’re getting on, if they’re still going to school etc. And I long to go back some day, maybe as a visiting teacher 🙂 You just have to look at their smiling, beautiful, weather-beaten faces to know why. http://munzee72.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/shigar-part-1/

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    • I completely understand what you’re saying about living closer to the edge of need. Sometimes it feels so predictable to always have everything you need and even want–though I’m sure folks living with huge needs would feel otherwise. I will read the post you mention about Shigar. It would be wonderful to go to a place like that and teach!

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  8. Love all the photos! I think there’s something to be said for living a simpler life – like I imagine you and Sara were doing in Haiti. It’s easier to lose your sense of self when you’re surrounded by so much “stuff” and so many choices.

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  9. Seeing these photos really puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? It’s almost effortless here in Canada/USA to get caught up in issues and things that don’t really matter in the broad scheme of life… then you see or get to know people like the ones in your photos. Time to give my head a shake! 🙂

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