haiti: the people

The Haitian people are some of the kindest people I have ever met. I was struck by their generosity when they have so little.

Some had walked for days to see the Eye Doctors, many with cataracts, infections, trauma or even blindness that had never been treated. They patiently waited for hours or days to be seen.

They are too cute for words.

They work so hard. Young and old.

They are so thankful and appreciative.

The children would yell “blan” which means white or foreigner and in the school courtyard they would run up and hold my hand and were so excited and curious to see us. I picked up one girl and she stroked my hair and face, probably wondering where I had come from and why I have blonde hair and blue eyes.

On our ride back to Port au Prince we talked about how although most Haitians are struggling to survive, that their life is so simple and is oddly refreshing. It is almost like going back in time. Life is slow and they take the time to enjoy and be thankful for what they have. They are not worried about their 401 k’s and a raise at work. They live life day by day and their faith is nothing short of inspiring.

They have affected me more than I could have ever imagined. I began to look at my own life and reflect on all the things I have and that my life is often lived in excess. Not always in a materialistic sense but also my OCD tendencies about everything being perfect and clean – all the time. I need to slow down and really take the time to enjoy those around me. Dirty floors and all. I know that not a single day will go by that I don’t think about the people and my experiences in Haiti.

haiti: the overview

At the Miami airport it hit me. I would be in Haiti in mere hours and I was starting to get a tad nervous about it. It all had happened so fast that I didn’t even really have time to think about it. Which may have been a good thing. When the opportunity arose I answered with an instant yes and once cleared with my boss the planning and preparation began and it was a whirlwind.

“It will change your life,” a native Haitian told me on the plane, “but you will love it and want to come back.”

As we flew over Port au Prince I felt so much different as we departed than when I had arrived. It was so easy for us to pack our things, get on a plane and be in the U.S. in less than 2 hours. So many Haitians would do anything to come to America – desperate for a chance and desperate to leave poverty behind them. It didn’t seem fair and in an odd way I didn’t feel ready to leave. I was trying to prepare myself on what I would say to people when they asked me how Haiti was. I was at a loss for words. “It was a great experience” does not even begin to explain what Haiti now means to me.

On my way home I read “On That Day, Everyone Ate” by Margaret Trost. This inspiring story and vivid descriptions of her time in Haiti left me longing to do more. Her foundation, What If? is a food program that feeds thousands on a daily basis and has brought with it joy and hope to a community who needs it. $0.70 provides a meal and the love that comes along with it. This is a charity that I can definitely feel good about supporting.

restaurant: Bun Mi

Bun mi, eat mi, love mi. If Bun Mi is any indication of what a Subway tastes like in Vietnam – I’m there. This was a sandwich packed with so many flavors and so far from the turkey subs that I am used to. And quite frankly, I’m not sure I could ever go back. Why bother? Yes, I suppose it is higher in calories than a plain turkey but there are times (most of the time in my world) when calories are just not important. Wait, am I allowed to say that? Let me rephrase: there are times when calories should not be the end all be all when delicious food is on the line. ;)

What is a bánh mì you may ask? According to Wikipedia: a Vietnamese baguette  made up of thinly sliced pickled carrots and daikon, cucumbers, cilantro, chili peppers, pate, mayonaise and various meat or tofu fillings

I had read about this restaurant in the Mpls St Paul Magazine and it just so happens to be on the U of M campus, which I like to visit and pretend I’m still in college…. ahh….the good life…for me. Not my Dad.  They recommended the Bun Mi Special which is BBQ pork and “specialty eggs”. Specialty eggs for the record are essentially scrambled eggs in some special seasonings. Not from crazy birds like I had suspected. Silly mi. This was amazing. In fact, it might just be the greatest sandwich I’ve ever had. Grilled pork, eggs, cilantro, jalapeno, carrots, cucumbers, etc……and sriracha on the side?

The other sandwich? I just wasn’t that into it. It was the “Vietnamese Classic” though so I did want to give it a try: BBQ pork, pork roll and pate. Pork roll? Pressed, steamed and sliced into little spam-looking pieces. The taster did enjoy it though and was sweet enough to trade me halves. I will stick with the “Bun Mi” Special from now on.

jam & mascarpone

The sweet take on my mushroom & parmesan pillows. By the way, in the future I will just use the phyllo cups. So much easier – and more room for filling! These sweet treats contained a dollop of mascarpone cheese and a dollop of Crofter’s Superfruit Spread – South American (Maqui & Passionfruit blended with Morello Cherries & Red Grapes). I’m not really a big “jam” person but this is not your average jelly. So flavorful and so different from anything I’ve tried before. It would be perfect on some crusty bread with goat cheese.

Unfortunately the fillings did not want to stay inside and burst a bit at the seams but no worries, it had no effect on the flavor and was delicious none-the-less!