Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sak Pase?

So before the earthquake in Haiti, I was making plans to visit with a few friends during their carnival season. I always knew that I wanted to learn the language, so a month after I moved to this side of the island, I began to take a Creole classes with a friend. The deal was that if I taught him how to speak English, he would teach me all I needed to know about his culture and his language. I was thrilled and so our classes began. I learned the alphabet and as the good language student that I am, I learn most of the sounds in the language (I am obsessed with learning new languages and have the ear for it too ;) ).

So, right after my teacher/student and I began make plans to resume our classes after the holiday break, the earthquake occurred. When it happened, a lot of people in the Santo Domingo apparently felt it, I didn't. What I do remember, is being with my best friend and getting ready to buy our dinner. She received a call and the expression on her face immediately changed. She said to me, "we have to go." I knew something was wrong because this girl and I don't play with our food, I mean to say bye to our dinner and to one of our favorite spots, it meant that whatever was happening was big.

And so we left the restaurant and she told me that there was a tsunami warning for the island and that we needed to go home and change into comfortable clothing and grab our documents (the clothing, in case we had to run? and the documents in case we had to take a flight out? I think). Wow, writing about it makes me re-live that feeling of complete insecurity and fear. I don't mean to be dramatic, but I thought there was a great possibility that we were going to be washed by the waters of El Malecon, we did live much less than a mile from the shores.

At this point, I had called my family and friends in the island to inform them and ask them to take precautions. My uncle the told me that there was an earthquake in Haiti that had caused the tsunami warning, but that only a few schools and hospitals were down. Now imagine that, I live on the other side of where the catastrophe occurred and we didn't even understand the magnitude of what happened until the following day.

When I finally understood the situation and what it meant, my heart sunk and a feeling of ineptitude, incompetence, and again fear just to took over my body and mind. What to do, was the question. How can I help? I know that millions around the world were asking themselves the same questions, but I felt so close to the situation yet so far and divided by the many sociocultural conflicts between the neighboring countries. During the days after the earthquake my friends and I did all we could to help. I have to admit that I was astonished at the way my country responded to the tragedy, the way that Dominicans of all socioeconomic backgrounds were coming together and helping their neighbors. I remember being in a supermarket and this women was telling her friend that for her birthday, her daughter had asked her to buy water for the people in Haiti.

More than a month has passed and still all eyes should be on Haiti and countries that are facing similar situations, by this I mean that prior to the earthquake, there was a situation being ignored in this country (as in my own, both DR and the US for that matter).

I prepare myself today for my first trip to Haiti. Tomorrow I will be crossing the border with a dear friend and colleague to solidify our collaboration efforts with a camp. I am looking forward to seeing what's happening with my own eyes and understanding what needs to be done to make things better.

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