I could write for hours about the wild, unforgettable adventure that was supposed to be a relaxed morning trip to the Palais Sans-Souci and Citadelle from our hotel L’Habitation des Lauriers – the ride up and down the hill to and from the hotel, the motorcycles, the arduous climb up the mountain to the Palais Sans-Souci in heavy rain and wind, the horses, the villagers in the mountains, the vendors. I could write extensively about the amazing jam session we had with the brass players from the Holy Trinity Music School on the steps of the Palais Sans-Souci. I could write all about the incredulously long bus ride from Port-au-Prince to Cap-Haïtien, the uneven dirt roads that slithered precariously up and down mountains, and the oppressive strength of the AC on the bus (I think some of our souls are still on that bus). And those are the tales I’ll be raving about to my friends and family back home in the States once we leave the Dominican Republic. But that’s not what this post is about.
As we drive away from Haiti on a Dominican coach bus, I can’t help but be amazed by the incredible human connections we made in Haiti. Personally, I feel very, very lucky that I had the opportunity to learn French at a high level in high school from excellent teachers and that I was able to remember almost all of it. We’ve eaten dinners where I’ve spoken more French than English; it was amazing to be able to connect to the students at the Holy Trinity Music School in that manner. The first dinner we had in Port-au-Prince, I thought it was so funny that my conversation with a girl from the Holy Trinity Music School resulted in her giving me her number (she only spoke French). Since then, I have connected on WhatsApp and Facebook with quite the handful of HTMS students. I was amazed by how down-to-earth, geniune, fun-loving, and amicable they were. It was an absolute pleasure getting to know them over our short trip in Haiti and having the opportunity to play with them in concert in commemoration of the 2010 earthquake and to promote peace and reconciliation.
The students we met were absolutely delightful, but they are among a privileged few; a vast majority of Haitians don’t attend universities, stopping after primary and secondary school. I couldn’t help but notice the rampant poverty and hear about the political corruption that contributed to a general common inquietude about the state of the country. Even seven years after the earthquake, the city of Port-au-Prince is still suffering from the damages, as the American earthquake relief efforts were very poorly planned and executed. Over 300,000 people perished in the earthquake, including many in the HTMS boys’ choir as well as other members of HTMS. In this light, it meant even more to play with them in concert. At our first concert in Port-au-Prince, there was a brief moment where many people were angered by the arrival of the President, as his adminsistration has been corrupt and ineffectual. But even despite the hard times Haiti is going through, the people are proud and love their country. Coming from a country like the United States, I feel extremely lucky to live the life I live, and even here in Haiti, I felt extremely lucky that we were given among the best of services the country had to offer.
In the short amount of time we spent in Haiti, we also got a perspective on what life is like here. We truly got to understand the phrase “Nothing works, but everything works out,” as time after time the flow of the day’s events deviated from the planned schedule in such a fantastic manner that it was miraculous that we, our bags, and our instruments made it to our concerts and hotels. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that plans are so flexible here in Haiti, but coming from the Northeastern United States, it was a quite the culture shock.
I loved making new American and Haitian friends and making new memories in Haiti. It was a completely humbling experience, and one I will never forget.
–Michael Yee, trumpet