Let’s Go Flaneuring in Haiti

Today we are flaneuring with Ruth Hersey in Haiti. Enjoy! I have to say I love one photo in particular, I think you’ll be able to guess which.

I step out of my gate and try to look at my street with fresh eyes.  I’ve lived in my house for 13 years, and the general area for longer than that, so each sight has layers of memories.

Sure, the rocky road is peaceful now, but remember that time protesters were burning tires right in front of the gate?They raise chickens at that house for cockfights.  The cockfighting ring used to be right there, but they knocked it down to make room for the house next door.  Come to think of it, there used to be a lot of colorful characters that hung out there; probably that move raised the general tone of the area.

That wall is a second attempt; the first one fell right down, into the ravine.  The neighbors pulled out chairs and watched while the owner worked on pulling his truck up the side of the hill!

I remember running down this road at 5 PM the afternoon of the earthquake, seeing fear in every face.  I remember seeing people sleeping in the streets because they didn’t trust that their houses wouldn’t collapse on them.

I remember when those houses down there were new; a friend used to call that area Miami because of the paved streets and because the houses were so big.  Also, because she hadn’t spent much time in Miami.

It’s a mostly quiet residential neighborhood.  Quiet except when someone’s having a party, or when dogs or roosters chorus at all hours.  Quiet except when there are gunshots, either rejoicing at someone’s soccer goal or scaring off intruders.  Quiet except for the calls of merchants, selling their wares from buckets or baskets on their heads, describing loudly what they have today.

Everyone in my neighborhood lives behind walls.  The walls have barbed wire or broken bottles across the top.  The houses have dogs.  Some have security guards with guns.

And yet, the people you meet are friendly.  They greet me, and though they call out “Blan,” it’s not usually insulting, but almost informationally, as a way of pointing out to me, as though I’d forgotten, that I’m a foreigner with white skin.  People are selling kitchen equipment, clothes, notebooks for school, soap, matches.  Some practice their English on me.  Others ask for money.

There’s a school, a government building, a church; there are chickens, goats, and stray dogs; there’s the chicken man, whose cooking we sometimes buy for dinner on the way home; there’s a lady selling candy and sodas.  Sometimes there’s a dead rat in the road; sometimes there’s a vehicle shaped like a rat belonging to the exterminators.  There are some abandoned cars and there’s a carwash.  There’s a spot where kids regularly play soccer in the middle of the road.  There are shoeshine men and people carrying brooms on their heads.  There’s a corner bar.  On New Year’s Day, the air is fragrant with pumpkin soup, the traditional celebratory meal.

rat car
I never feel unsafe walking in my neighborhood.  Even at the height of the kidnapping time, it felt fine.  After the earthquake my husband showed around a journalist from a major publication who was horrified to be out on foot because her editors had told her it was much too dangerous.  It wasn’t, he told her.

There’s a ravine full of trash.  When water pipes break in the streets (and they often do), people come from everywhere with buckets.  See that transformer?  We got together with our neighbors to buy it, because the city power company wasn’t going to replace or fix the one they had issued us, without which we couldn’t get their service.

From first light until well after dark, there’s always something going on in my neighborhood.  Maybe it’s a domestic squabble, maybe a teenager is going by way too fast on his ATV, maybe children in uniform are hurrying to or from school.  On Saturdays, the flower merchant brings a fresh bouquet to my door.  One morning last week, there was a fire burning in the center of the street, but it was just someone’s trash, not protesters.

Who am I kidding?  I can’t look with fresh eyes.  But I can look with amused eyes, curious eyes, loving eyes.  Lakay se lakay, home is home, they say in Kreyol.  This street, this neighborhood, this is home.

Ruth has spent 18 years in Haiti.  She is married with two children, both born in Haiti, and she teaches seventh and eighth graders at an international Christian school.  She blogs, mostly about books and poetry, at www.thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com.

Painting Pictures: The Third Culture Kid’s Struggle to Fit In

painting picturesToday’s Painting Pictures post is by Paige Porter-Livesay, a TCK who is still (barely) a kid. How fitting that the first guest post in this series (Who Are Third Culture Kids) was by Ruth Van Reken, co-author of the book Third Culture Kids and that the last guest post expresses the words of a TCK. I am so grateful for Paige’s willingness to contribute and for her honesty and courage in writing, her words and bravery brought me to tears. At 19, Paige is able to articulate things that I suspect my own children are grappling with but are, as yet, unable to fully express. I feel something tender and sacred in her words.


Growing up in Haiti, we had a countless number of visitors in and out of our house, ministry, school, and really, in our lives as a whole. I wish I knew how many people I’ve met in my life, I bet it beats the average 19 year old by a lot.

Some people left more of an impact than others. At times I didn’t even take the time to remember their names, others I thought I would be close with forever. Both extremes were wrong of me. There were many goodbyes. I didn’t realize it until this summer when I left the country that I grew up in to start college, how much those goodbyes affected me.

Meeting all these people growing up, I bet you might guess I have no problem making friends.

As I have been adjusting to life in the states I have realized how hard it is to “fit in” and stay true to myself. Making friends has been difficult, to say the least.

In some situations it can be easy making friends. Growing up as a missionary-kid, being a chameleon is a skill most MKs possess. Living outside of the USA, many different types of people come and go throughout an MKs life. Meeting people on your own turf, on the “mission field” is much easier.


We, as MKs, have needed to find our place in countless situations, and circumstances. Whether that is in a school where we were the only non-natives, or at a church where our parents were speaking. I generally found that it was easy to find some sort of place for myself during those moments. People knew a little bit about us and I didn’t have the work of explaining who I was.

Since moving back to my passport country, I have found it to be so difficult to fit in and make friends. I’m not quite sure how to stay true to myself while making new friends.

Now that I am going to an average community college, with other average people like me, it’s significantly harder to fit in (the way that MK’s fit in-which isn’t really fitting in at all.) When I enter a classroom no one knows that I’m different than him or her. (I don’t mean that in a snobby way.)  Nobody knows that I grew up in a insanely poor county, and this isn’t really home to me.  I look like I belong here, after all.

It’s harder to make friends than I ever expected it to be. In fact, I haven’t yet found a way to make a real, genuine American friend.

I’ve found that I have two choices. One: Be honest about who I am, and that this country is not my home. I would need to explain to them that I don’t quite know how to do life here just yet and that I don’t really enjoy life yet either. I would want to explain that poverty is something that isn’t a shock to me and that not everyone can even begin to imagine walking into a community college class. I would need to explain that rape and abandonment are tragedies I know well.

Or Two: To simply go along with what my fellow American “friends” are talking about, and pretend like I know what they’re talking about. I would need to play along like music and football are important to me too. I would need to pretend I care about the things they care about and stay quiet when ignorant or hurtful things are said about the poor about the minority or about the hurting. I would not be free to explain my heart and the things I’ve learned to love because of my beloved third-world country that raised me. The thing is, it feels to me like nobody understands or cares to know the real you when the real you isn’t the norm. They are afraid to try and don’t know how to talk about the odd life you have had so instead they choose not to talk at all.

TRL_0485I realize how downer this sounds; I’m not denying that. Although, as a fresh college student who just entered back into the US, I’m not yet at a place where I can be super extremely positive about this new phase of life. I know I’ll get there, through the prayers and help of others, and each time that I give the struggle of this transition over to God. I do believe I’ll make other friends that will understand my heart, but right now, I’m not yet there.

 Thank you Paige, it is an honor I do not take lightly, that you have entrusted your heart to Djibouti Jones.

Paige is the daughter of Troy and Tara Livesay who blog at Livesay Haiti.

*image credit

Go to Top