By Hal Eisenberg
February 22, 2014
I worked very late last night transferring footage onto our external hard drive, so even though I am excited and a bit anxious to return home (my conflicting feelings continue internally and quietly), I am very exhausted and feeling a bit disconnected from myself. There are still things I will need to get off Kishner’s camera when we get back to New York, but I have almost all our material. The footage we took is immense and I am excited to go through it. I am sure it is going to take me some time with all the blogs I want to put up, as well as analyzing/editing over 4200 pictures and 600 gigs of film. It is mind-boggling and I am going to need some tedious hours set aside to do this. I am beginning to think that this documentary is much larger than we anticipated, and we may need to come back to Haiti in order to film more. So many people and professionals are interested in what we are trying to create. There are other points of views we did not get into this movie yet, that I feel we must get on camera in order to produce a well-rounded message. There are other ideas I have and I need some time to mull it over. It is insane how you have a vision, and as you are marching towards its completion, it takes on a whole new heartbeat. Maybe by the WOO Film Awards in August we will get a trailer done, but definitely not the full length feature. Maybe we will, but we will see how it goes. We have not even created a title yet but we have definitely have toyed with some ideas. It has to be different – and something that draws the audience in to the message that challenges the stereotypes that most people have of Haiti. I fully love the whole process of creating a story on film with a solid message – and something with this intended impact should be done correctly. We are thinking about doing a version in English, French, and Creole, which are basically 3 films. Ugh, I am getting a headache thinking of that undertaking.
As I awoke the sun peaked through the window, and my deep thoughts of the past 9 days led me to take a final thought provoking stroll up the stairs and to the rooftop of the hotel here in Port Au Prince. I feel blessed as I stand out in the hot sun knowing that somehow we made it back to the capital. It is truly a miracle being here and knowing that we accomplished what we set out to do. I decided to take some silly videos of myself talking about all these feelings and thoughts I have. Why not? I am all alone on this rooftop in the middle of another country. I am sure this moment of childish quirkiness will not make the movie at all but I wanted to get some of my serious viewpoints down while they were fresh on my mind. From the rooftop you could see major cracks in the foundation of the building and later on we learned (because I asked about the building appearing to have major damage) that this very building was going to be torn down and rebuilt due to the Earthquake damage. I had not really thought about the Earthquake much since I was here, because there is a much bigger story going on around me. I think the Earthquake just attracted light to this country. I can see that most visitors sense this and that realization keeps bringing them back to help and be immersed in the breathtaking culture of Haiti. I guess the help here never got to buildings like this one because they had to prioritize and deal initially with what did come down and the enormity of that cleanup. The ones that were standing stayed operational until later notice. 4 years have gone by and this hotel is still open for business despite the obvious impairment. That realization did not make me feel very safe. I am glad I did not see this structural damage before I went to sleep.
As I stood on that rooftop and looked out at the mountainside, it looked like the favelas of South America I saw in the movie Fast and the Furious. I don’t know if that is what they call them here, but it looks exactly like that. They were very colorful and lit up the mountainside like one of Patricia Brintles’ paintings from her charity art show she has every year. I thought to myself “I wish I had the Monte here – Lol” but then I really thought to myself “Haiti is so beautiful.” Yes, there is poverty, but all I keep seeing over and over again is a sense of pride. It appears to me that the people of Haiti see their inner beauty and do not use money as a factor that justifies their identity or develops their souls. They identify through education, health, hospitality, and spirituality. Their incredible spiritual beliefs stretch from Voodoo (and not the stereotypes that we automatically picture in our head when we envision that word) to Catholicism. They do have environmental issues and basic necessity issues, as well as a massive internal and external infrastructure that needs to be built. Despite this necessary reconstruction, it seems to me that Haitians are a hard working people, even with the limited resources they have. From an outside observation, it seems to me that the entire country is working together to forge forward and overcome their limitations to build a better tomorrow. I am not sure I have sensed or felt that anywhere else. I detected the emotional shift after Hurricane Sandy in New York and of course after 9-11, but it is different here. You see half built roads, dynamite explosions to make way for a new street, makeshift business that lines every block, and a hustle in the steps of many. It seems chaotic at times and if you aren’t looking for the “story behind the story” it may even seem out of control, but upon observation I sense the passion of these citizens. One of the interns from Paradis Des Indianes, Marie, whom we interviewed, actually said something that stuck with me. She said that Haiti has its problems, but she finds that it is a complete country. They have their good and their bad, but the good is just as apparent and present as the challenges.
This trip has really opened my eyes. Haitians are welcoming and grateful, and remind me that there is no reason to be anything less. We all have our demons and struggles, but to embrace the negative is so counterproductive. However, to stride towards the positive despite personal roadblocks, is the lesson I hope stays with me. You never know what is waiting for you around the corner. I was exhausted; emotionally overwhelmed, and facing challenges, but who knew I would turn the corner in the middle of a mountainside and find unexpected beauty. Who knew I would find 13 schools that want to work with Windows of Opportunity? Who knew that despite our long history of success this was actually becoming a new beginning that is truly groundbreaking? I count my blessings this week – and all the blessings of who made this trip possible. I cannot wait to go back to the states holding these lessons deep in my soul and focusing on becoming a more improved leader. Many people do not get what I am about and misjudge me, and I am sure that will still happen – but it is okay. We are all human beings and have our challenges. Time to get off this rooftop. I’ll be back in a few…
We just boarded Delta with 14 minutes to go before takeoff back to The United States of America… Prior to that, and from the moment I climbed down the rooftop (reflecting on my words above) the morning led to an adventure. Of course it was supposed to be simple, but why would just going to the airport, meeting Patricia, and getting on the plane for a nice ending happen smoothly? That would be too easy! We got a tour of the market place where I learned to haggle for some souvenirs. Once the vendors saw that we were going to spend money we were surrounded by sales people giving us their best pitch. There was incredible artwork that lined the street and I almost took a piece home, but I just could not narrow down which I wanted, nor did I want to bring that on the plane. Then a 20-minute drive to the airport became an hour in traffic. Traffic and crossroads with no signals and mass mayhem. It was completely fun! I think that is when the stress began to build. We saw a lot sitting in traffic and I was taking it all in, wondering when I would be back. We went to a food market near the airport where Kishner thought I would be scared but it became a great experience as I watched how people begged us for money, and saw the vendors cooking in front of us. Patricia’s plane showed up an hour late in Jeremie because it picked up some famous star for the Canaval ceremony. It was totally insane and stressful, though part of me was laughing on the inside at the continued absurdity we were attracting in our travels. I knew we would be able to laugh about this for years to come. Patricia got in an hour later than she was supposed to and we thought we were not going to get on the Delta flight. With the time ticking, she finally made it off Tortug ‘Air and we raced over to the main airport. After all we went through – the bulls, the dynamite, the 10-hour drive, constant dust blown in our hair, etc. to get here, we almost didn’t make it because “someone famous” was coming in. I was seriously laughing to myself with that thought, and if I had to stay in Haiti to wait for Patricia, I would have had no problem with it, but as I got on this plane, I did feel a big sigh of relief and accomplishment!
I am going to try and rest for this flight home. I will do one more blog with my after thoughts, but here is my last contemplation before I close my eyes for an attempted nap – I truly cannot wait to come back to Haiti and I hope that my return will be in April. There is a lot to do in order to make that a reality, so I am going to need my rest before I put the pedal to the metal. I have much to tackle upon my return and I am ready. Good night…