First, my thoughts go out to all of those effected by the earthquake in Haiti on 1/12/10. I know so many people have been effected by the tragedy, in Haiti and the in Haitian diaspora around the world (especially the United States). It seems entirely unfair that just as the country was beginning to show signs of improvement a disaster of this proportion would strike. Word had just been coming out on the backpacker radar about the political situation improving and the future looking positive. This earthquake will surely only send Haiti back into chaos for the foreseeable future.
The last big tragedy outside of the country of similar proportions was the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. At that time I hadn’t done a whole lot of travel yet and never really knew the scope of the events. Other countries were still sort of just news headlines to me. Now, after spending time in other parts of the world and especially the developing world, I have found a greater connection when events like this occur. I don’t just see Haiti as a headline but instead as a destination that will forever be changed and people’s lives who will never be the same. I see friendly vendors in the street and hotel employees. I see students and children. I see homeless and I see the middle class driving decent cars. I see the poor and I see the rich. I see taxi drivers. I see ex-pats and English teachers and backpackers just like myself. I see all of the people effected not just the blank faces on the news. It is disturbing but at the same time, this is what I asked for when I ventured out of the country for the first time, a better understanding of life in other parts of the world.
Just a couple of weeks ago me and a good friend of mine (Daisy) were in the beginning stages of planning a May trip to Haiti to spend a night or two in Port-Au-Prince and then a few days on the southwestern coast in the town of Port Salut on the beach. Obviously, the events of Tuesday will change things. Tourism will surely be set back as Haiti recovers. I can’t remember a disaster in my life time where a city was so thoroughly damaged. Even in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, the epicenter of tourism was spared. As if Port-Au-Prince didn’t have a bad enough reputation as it is, this certainly isn’t going to help. In fact, it seems almost pointless to think about tourism right now, but as a travler I can’t help but find myself in a struggle between my own personal desires to see the world, even at its worst, and the reality of what so many around the world suffer through. Who am I to care about whether or not Haiti is safe to travel to?
That being said, I’m going to monitor the situation closely and keep in touch with the owners of Port Salut Beach House to find out what the situation is in their area. If airports are reopened and safe transport can be made from Port-Au-Prince to Port Salut, Daisy and I might just do our part in helping out by spending our money and sticking to our previous plans of visiting the country.
I urge anyone reading this to do what they can do help out. I use Mercy Corps.Org to donate but there are a number of good organizations out there.