I had mixed emotions about Haiti. First of all, I thought it was absolutely beautiful. Haiti means "Land of Mountains," and it is surprisingly mountainous. I didn't realize an island could be that craggy. Royal Caribbean has a private beach on Haiti called Labadee. It is fenced off from the rest of the country, it is patrolled, and they advise passengers to not venture out of Labadee. Apparently Haiti is a rather dangerous place to be in these days.
The morning of our day there, we took a walking tour of the beach area. Our guide was Lamy, and he told us a little of the history of the island, as well as a bit about current conditions. Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Many families live on maybe $5 US per month. Lamy was paid $600 by RC last year, along with a $400 bonus, and he is considered a VIP in his family. He is paying for his brothers' secondary education (the equivalent of our high school), and he said that everyone is happy when the cruise ship comes in. It almost made me cry. We tried to impress upon the kids how fortunate we are here...they said something about the "cost of living," but we said you can't use that as a comparison. For example, the cost of living in the Midwest is considerably less than on the East or West coasts. Most of the population of Haiti lives in abject poverty, so it's not just a matter of "cost of living."
Lamy realized that much of the problem has to do with corruption and politics--he said there are currently about 30 political parties in Haiti. He also spoke with pride of his country, about how it was the first black republic, how the slaves won their freedom by overthrowing their owners, and that Haiti is called the Mother of Freedom in the Caribbean. It was all fascinating, but a little heartbreaking. I hope and pray that one day a visionary will rise in Haiti and lead them to a better life. It's a beautiful place, and they deserve better than dictators like Duvalier. Lamy was a neat guy--perhaps we'll read about him one day as Haiti's new hope!
Here is one of my favorite pictures from the cruise, taken on the beach in Haiti. I think this says it all about relaxation: lounge chairs under the trees, tropical drinks (ours were loaded, the kids' were not, of course!), and white sand. Ahhhhhh....