Top 10 Things To Know Before Visiting Haiti

Haiti 2011-740.jpg There are so many things to do before leaving the United States to visit a place like Haiti.  You may get shots, malaria pills, pull out your summer clothes, buy plane tickets, coordinate the details of the trip, and the list grows and grows.

This post is meant to be funny and a bit cynical.  We learned this stuff along the way and I am sure we will learn another 10, 20, 100 things in the coming months!

This could also be titled, “Top 10 things people don’t tell you before coming to Haiti”.  Some more important than others :-D.

Don’t:

  1. Ask who owns the wandering donkey, chicken, dog, pig or any other animal.
    • As an aside, if you end up accidentally injuring these wandering animals you will find the owner.  In fact, you will probably find multiple owners.  Get your pocket book ready!
  2. Ask what everyone is doing.  We don’t know.
    • I know you feel the urge to ask… the wheels spinning in your head as we drive down the street.  I don’t blame you, I wanted to ask the question.  It is only later you realize, what a ridiculous question.  If we were driving in Minneapolis and you asked me, Where are all the people in suits going?  I would just stare at you, blink my eyes and say, you’re kidding me, right?!
  3. Whistle songs.
    • Kids are taught from a young age to not whistle.  It is impolite and rude to whistle around people.  It’s a Haiti thing, let’s leave it at that.
  4. Think everything will go as scheduled.
    • What other place on earth can you go and get a money back guarantee that things will not go as planned.  Only Haiti.
  5. Wear brightly colored shirts that say, “Save Haiti!”
    • I want a “Save Wisconsin!” T-Shirt.

Do:

  1. Say Bonjou (Good morning) or Bonswa (Good afternoon) when entering a room.
    • You might be entering a room and think, why aren’t the Haitians saying, “Hi”? While they are thinking, “Unbelievable, why aren’t they saying Hi.” The person entering should greet the people in the room.
  2. Ask the Haitian permission before taking a picture of them.
    • Let’s not be the paparazzi. Treat these wonderful people with love and humbleness.
  3. Barter for everything.
    • I mean everything. From the fruit, meat, milk on the street to buying printer cartridges. It is not just limited to the gift shops.
  4. Have dogs for security.
    • Haitians have a fear of dogs because a past president said he would come back as a dog to kill them.
  5. Understand the real and fake currencies.  Market, stores and people will use the Haitian dollar.  It does not exist.
    • $1 USD = $8 Haitian = 40 HTG (Gourde).  So if you are in a store and it says, $12.  If it is in Haitian dollar and you need to do $12 x 5 = 60 HTG.  If you want to know in USD then do $12 / 8 = $1.5 USD.  Technically we are getting $1 USD = 8.10 HTG.  Now calculate this all up at the cash register or worse on the street when they keep changing the price!  Fun times, fun times.  We need to send kids down here for real world math lessons.

Runners Up:

  1. Don’t say it’s hot.  We know :-D
    • It stays about the same temp all year (varying a bit in the winter).
  2. Do be friendly and smile.  Say Mesi (Thank you).
    • Pronounced “Macy”. They might not speak English but saying mesi goes a long way.  Here are some more resources to help you pick up the lingo.
  3. Don’t give money handouts.
    • Read When Helping Hurts.  No doubt, there are situations that it is helpful.  Unfortunately, the majority of the time (especially as a visitor) it perpetuates poverty instead of alleviating it.  It creates a stronger feeling of inadequacy for the poor person.  Talk to your organization who is long-term in Haiti.  They will recommend the best approach.  Here are some other good reading materials.

 

19 Comments

  1. October 4, 2011    

    This is so funny! My “mission” friends and I who have gone to Haiti have been talking about making T-shirts that say “10 Reasons to Love Haiti”…one of them included the “stray” animals!!! If/when we get them printed, I’ll let you know. Also, our group “Mountains to Mountains” is on facebook. “Like” us if you want. I included our Mountains to Mountains website, too. I have a blog that includes some of my experiences in Haiti this last summer. I included that too. Blessings!

    • Ryan's Gravatar Ryan
      October 4, 2011    

      Kim – thanks for the wonderful comment! I would love to know about the t-shirts! So awesome! I am checking out the websites right now!

  2. October 4, 2011    

    Ryan this is EXCELLENT!!!! Both funny and true!! I’m a firm believer you can’t travel to Haiti with out a sense of humor…….have only a general over-all vague plan, and watches are useless.

    Oh, you need to add this to the Do List: Always accept a ride from the young American men, standing in the mass of people at the airport, holding a hastely made sign with your name scrawled on it. Even if you have absolutely NO CLUE who they are OR where they are taking you OR why they are the ones picking you up at the airport in PAP. (Thanks again for the ride when Real Hope For Haiti couldn’t get there!)

    • Ryan's Gravatar Ryan
      October 4, 2011    

      Holly – Lol. Love your comment, so great! Nice “Do” list addition! So true – how much trust you had! It was such a pleasure meeting you both! Blessings to you! I took a quick peek at your blog. Some really great pictures!

      • Holly's Gravatar Holly
        October 4, 2011    

        That’s quite the compliment……I don’t even take a camera to Haiti anymore, just use my phone! Good to know its working out!

  3. Tom's Gravatar Tom
    October 4, 2011    

    This is good stuff! Good to know you’re making good use of your math skills. I don’t know though, Wisconsin might be beyond saving. Okay, maybe I’m just a bitter Vikings fan. :-)

    • Ryan's Gravatar Ryan
      October 4, 2011    

      Tom – Love the Wisconsin comment! Lol.

  4. Dad's Gravatar Dad
    October 5, 2011    

    As always we enjoyed your recent posts and it certainly gives us a focus as how we can pray for you and the Heartline Staff. We wish would could just drive over and help you out like we could when you were only a few miles from our house. You are certainly living a Christ focused life “To the Fullest” and we know that is not without some stress and prayer and then more prayer. We miss you and look forward to our next Skype visit again soon. Love, Mom & Dad

  5. Tim K.'s Gravatar Tim K.
    October 6, 2011    

    One of your best blogs yet. Thank you!

  6. john mortier's Gravatar john mortier
    October 10, 2011    

    Do they take Mastercard, Visa, or Discovery?

    Thanks for the information, very funny.

    Love Dad

  7. Josh S's Gravatar Josh S
    October 24, 2011    

    Nice, Ryan! I like your points-they’re true and funny. And the whistling thing I didn’t know. Luckily I’m not a big whistler so I don’t think I offended anyone (at least not that way).
    I’m guessing this list will just grow and grow the longer you’re there…

    • Ryan's Gravatar Ryan
      October 25, 2011    

      Great to hear from you! How are you doing? Feeling comfortable with HC stuff? Yea, think your right… the list will probably grow and grow! Blessings to you guys!

  8. Patty Alley's Gravatar Patty Alley
    August 1, 2012    

    this was helpful and so was your FAQ sheet. I seen things I hadn’t thought about. My husband and I are coming to Haiti on 8/23. We are replacing Michele Rager. We met your wife at church one Sunday but I don’t think we met you. Tha malaria comment really has me thinking and we are trying to decide if we should take the meds or not. The doctor recommended it but I have a conflict and not sure. Can’t wait to meet you. Love the blog!

  9. March 30, 2013    

    Loved this post, wish I had seen before I had gone to Haiti, but it was fun to learn on my own as well. One thing we should add, is sitting in traffic for 4 hours while it rains isn’t all that bad,haha.

    • Ryan's Gravatar Ryan
      March 31, 2013    

      Jo-Anne –

      Lol, Thanks for your comment! I would agree with you and sitting in traffic while it rains :-)!

      – Ryan

  10. arianna's Gravatar arianna
    April 23, 2013    

    i am a hation. thank you soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much! it really helped.i seak creole.they have to speak it too.

  11. Rhouvemashli Jacques's Gravatar Rhouvemashli Jacques
    October 20, 2013    

    Sorry,but I have to say that,… not all the haitians Who’s scared of Dogs some are really friendly with them… :) :/

    • Ryan's Gravatar Ryan
      October 20, 2013    

      Rhouvemashli Jacques – You are absolutely right! There are a number of Haitians that are friendly with dogs! Thanks for the comment!

      • Rhouvemashli Jacques's Gravatar Rhouvemashli Jacques
        November 2, 2013    

        Yeah,cause I have friends that Love dogs!!

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