2018 is starting and I’m here listing all the things that I want to do during the year. I’m not a resolution type of person. I never stick to them so I never make any. But this year, I’m trying to do better. So I write them down. And on top of the list, I have: Travel. Because yes, every year I try to visit at least one country, sometimes more and new cities. But it’s always hard to write about them because of my lifestyle and also because I’m quite lazy (yes, another thing that is on my list and that I’m trying to change).
I was lucky enough to start the new year, in Haiti, with my family and friends. A short but well deserved escapade that allowed me to re-visit my country and discover it at new angles. But while doing so, I realized how unique Haiti was. When I talk about Haiti to my friends, or when I invite you to visit it, I tend to generalize everything. To talk about the main reasons why you should come to Haiti: the history, the culture, the touristic places. But really, what makes us unique, it’s the little things that us, locals we do. The little unusual habits that we have, that may at first look weird, impossible but that make Haiti a must-place to visits. Because it’s always fun to hear people speaking in “crenglish”, walking in front of colorful cars, and playing soccer by the beach. So forget about everything that you’ve learned about Haiti so far, if you’re planning on visiting, here are 5 things that you can only do in Haiti.
5. Buying a “Papita” in the streets
Before leaving Haiti, I didn’t even think that you could find plantain Chips outside of the country. And I still remember the first time that I was able to grab me some in France. A life changing moment. But really nothing can compare to getting out of your car and run after a “machann papita” in the streets. It’s a weird feeling of seeing people turn around while you’re running and slowly start to help you call the seller that was walking away, his little basket over his head. Papita is the Haitian name for dry plantain. They are usually homemade and sold by hawker. Little snack that you can grab while waiting traffic, the papita is usually sold for 15 gourdes (GDES), approximatively 0.24 cents. Papita is eaten very salty in Haiti, so make sure you grab yourself something to drink as well.
4. Taking a moto taxi
Riding a moto is not unique to Haiti, but in Haiti, it is used as part of the transportation system. One of the fastest way to get to any place. Probably not the cheapest ( it varies from city to city) nor the safest ( they don’t use helmet). But it is for sure an incredible experience. You get to visit the cities, and listen to the driver telling you about his life story. If you’re not afraid of taking a little risk, Taking a Moto taxi is definitely made for you.
3. Drinking a beer with “chemizèt”
Now that Is something. Actually I dont even know how to translate “chemizèt” in English. Among everything, this is probably the most Haitian thing that I will have to explain to you in the entire article. The national Haitian beer is called “Prestige” . Without bragging, I can guarantee that it is one of the best beers that you will ever taste. 2 times winner of the gold medal of the world beer cup¹. But to really experience the Prestige as you’re suppose to, you need to let it in the fridge until it’s frozen. When the entire bottle gets covered with a light layer of ice, that is when you can drink it. And that is actually what they call chemizèt. (if one of you know the proper way to say it in English, please help a sister because, I’m lost over here). Anyway, the prestige beer is one of a kind. It’s a lager beer, very light and refreshing. You can find it anywhere in Haiti as the brand, the only national one so far, covers almost 98% of the market. However the price may extremely vary depending on where you’re buying it. In local businesses, you can find it for 60 GDES approximatively 0.96 cents. In bars, it can go up to 3$USD.
Don’t forget to drink wisely and never drink and drive.
2. Taking a Kamyonèt
I can flex, when I’m in my kamyonèt. The kamonyèt is one of the oldest system of transportation in Haiti. It is a common transportation, so there is not a lot of room for privacy. Matter fact, there is no privacy at all. In your 10 minutes ride in the kamyonèt, that is when you will know all the latest politics news, or what happened at this big concert last night. Squeezed between 2 persons that you probably will never see again in your life, you get to listen to this girl talking on the phone to her boyfriend, to this student talking about her homework, to the mum going grocery shopping, while one guy hooked in the back of the car is yelling at every stop so that you don’t miss yours. Forget about the American barber shop, welcome to the Haitian Kamyonèt. But despite all, the kamyonèt can be a nice way to discover Haiti, going through different places of the capital or in the provinces. The cars are usually very colorful with random slogan like “Dieu est Bon: God is Good”. It’s cheap, starting at 15 Gdes: 0.24 cents. When full, the cars can be hot, as they are open air, but the ride is never too long anyway
- Buying “Fritay” in the streets
You have probably heard of this before. The Fritay, which is actually one of the Haitian most famous street food is known as our fast food. Everything is fried, hence the name “fritay”: fried plantain, chicken wings, fish, Taso (fried beef), the famous Griyo ( fried pork), with some pikliz (our famous spicy salad). As soon as it starts to get dark, the little lamps light up in the street, and people start aligning in front of the sellers. They are the best cookers, sellers you will find in the entire country. Reason of their unconditional success: even when made at home, the fritay is never as good as the ones you buy in the streets. While in front of the seller, you can try yourself at “machande”, this Haitian habit in which you try to make a deal with the seller by asking for more with less money. So go on and ask for a “degi”. They might say no, but again you might end up with a bigger plate and a fuller pocket.
P.S: a special thank you to my friend, Marie-loune who agreed to wander in the streets with me every time that I wanted to, who accepted to be my model and most importantly for the incredible images that she took of me.