Nothing prepared me for the chaos of post-2010 Haiti. It was a level of chaos that thrilled me to the core. It was the kind of chaos that overwhelmed most people and sent them packing for home. I sought bigger and bigger bites out of Haiti while falling more and more under its spell. It’s a terribly dirty, smoky, dusty, fragrant, wild, late afternoon sunshine, citron-filled spell. Pop-up fried chicken stands on the garbage strewn streets while 20 people in the back of an open air tap tap went screeching and honking down the street. Swimming in ocean blue water while men waded thigh deep into the water to force you to dismount your dreamy sky day dream and deal with their bucket of spicy conch skewers only 10 gourds a stick. Being accosted by 8 well meaning people all selling the same art, on the same street.
The plane jutted to a stop. It was one of Jet Blue’s first flights into Burlington, Vermont. I was there to teach wetland ecology through a Federal Education program at Vermont Technical College. Somehow Jet Blue lost my suitcase and as the shopping options in Randolph, VT were nil, I ended up cutting the arms and legs off my thermal long johns. A smart first impression in the classroom, combined with my actual lack of college level ecology knowledge and I was already knocking it out of the park. My students and I made it into the local newspaper for our macroinvertrebrete discoveries on behalf of a proposed development along the Connecticut River. Later I flew back to California to resume my undergraduate degree.
My summer was vastly different from almost everyone I knew.
I moved every 6 months after college. I camped on friends couches. I took spare bedrooms. I was a Craigslist Queen for a no-lease shared house. I only kept what I could cram into my car (at times a red 4Runner, white Volkswagon Beetle and Mazda RX-7). It’s difficult to make up your mind where to live when each idea you have is more exciting and thrilling than the place you are currently in. Jobs come and go. Somebody always knows a guy who needs someone to do XYZ.
Many friends worked hard on their entry level jobs, coming home exhausted onto couches — living for the weekend. I couldn’t stomach it. It wasn’t until I discovered I could churn my chaotic creativity into art that I finally settled down. It was only then that my purpose was allowed to be the chaotic thing and my life could settle down. It was during this 7 year period between ages 30 and 37 that I first traveled to Haiti and fell in love.
In Haiti it is possible to see the lives of generations past. You can see old women leading pack donkeys loaded down with pots and pans, shoes, oil and cloth. Modern day <<<Name of trraveling Sales Man from Laura Ingalls Time>>> You can see sagging architectural renderings that most assuredly were constructed around the time of the slave revolution around 1791. The sounds of drums and homemade instruments hit the streets for a rara on a monthly and often weekly basis, these sounds of the island began with African ancestors 500 years ago.
Even now, today. I am writing this last page as 6 things are happening on the “quiet patio” I’ve rented in Sud Les Cayes Jacmel. The most interesting are two distant fishermen rowing a small boat in the distance illuminated by the sunset. I wondered what they will do when the sun finally sets leaving them into chaos. I also briefly considered heading out to the beach to see what they caught, perhaps I want to eat it. The least interesting thing happening on this quiet patio are two small kittens fighting over a fish head. The other four things are unimportant. But important to mention that just finishing this book about chaos is to overcome chaos. Chaos continues. What are we without it?