Hoodwinked - My Family Travels

When I first found out that I would be vacationing in Haiti, I had mixed emotions. Visiting exotic locations is one of my passions, but the idea of spending three weeks in isolated villages had me second guessing the trip’s initial appeal. However, the fact that I would be spending most of the time in my grandmother's cozy villa eventually won me over. After all, if she could survive the tropical storms and electricity shortages, then so could I.

After a three and a half hour flight to reach the island, I chose a window seat in our newly rented double-cabin pick-up truck. This way, I would be able to snap pictures of anything that caught my eye during the four hour drive from Port-au-Prince, to my mother’s hometown, Cavaillon. However, I immediately realized that I was getting more then I had bargained for.

Just one glance at Haiti’s mountains was enough to convince me that they should have been one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The mountains easily dwarfed any others that I had ever seen, and the view they created was magnificent. In some places, massive plantain, coconut, almond, and mango trees ensconced the mountains like a warm winter blanket. In others, trees sporting orange blossoms sprouted out of cliffs the color of red velvet cake. Everywhere I looked, exotic plants shaped like Christmas bells or tropical birds bloomed from the soil and assaulted my nose with their fragrant scent.

In certain regions, the mountains of Haiti were densely forested and interwoven so tightly that they could only be crossed by driving on dangerously narrow dirt roads. These roads twisted and turned so suddenly that only the bravest would dare travel them and risk the sudden precipices. In other regions, the luscious trees gave way to bare fields that spread across the mountains. Although scientists were right about the severe deforestation in certain areas of Haiti, the lack of trees didn’t diminish the landscape’s beauty. Instead, these fields blanketedthe land like a patchwork quilt.

From my seat in the dusty truck, I could make out the cows, goats, horses, and lambs grazing in the fields. On multiple occasions we would have to stop and wait for the animals to move on after they had wandered into the street. However, we soon learned that stopping in the middle of a mountain road could quickly result in the car rolling backwards towards the edge of a cliff and into the canyon below. Interestingly, instead of frightening me, this just added to the beauty of Haiti. One second, you could be admiring the view of a brilliantly blue beach, and the next you could be driving past the edge of a cliff that threatened to crumble at any moment.

The diverse landscape of Haiti during those 3 hours led me to realize that I had been cheated. I was always told that Haiti was a third world country where everyone was poor, and crime and suffering were the country's middle name. However, my view from the window allowed me to see that the people's poverty only accentuated their beauty. They didn’t have much money, but the landscape of their country made up for it. Haiti possesses mountains and beaches that combine to create a view that not only reflects the strength of the people, but is incomparable to anywhere else in the world. While sitting on my grandmother's yellow porch reminiscing about my first day, I realized that the next three weeks in Haiti would prove to be one of the best trips of my life.

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