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Published: January 3rd 2011
“Pass me the foie gras” are words I would never expect to hear in Haiti! But as is often the case here, unpredictability has its way… This time, it’s for the better, which helps to paint a broader picture of where Haiti currently sits and where it’s going – towards a BETTER PLACE!
With a couple of days until the press came down to cover Merlin’s work in light of the one year anniversary of the Earthquake, I spontaneously decided to head down to Petit Goave, a charming coastal town about 2 hours South West of Port au Prince, where Merlin has been operating mobile clinics, serving many nearby rural communities, providing primary health care since March. I figured, this would be a good opportunity to meet our team there and give them as much notice as possible about the press visits in the coming days, as well as identify a few key case studies and spokespeople. Okay, so it may also have been an excuse to get out of Port au Prince for a day, but a justifiable one at that!
Admittedly, I’ve never been the one to put any credible emphasis on the concept of New Years’
resolutions and fervently oppose the idea of planning anything more than a dinner amongst close friends. I’m beating around the bush here. Let me put it this way – I despise these elaborate New Years’ eve parties where much more often than not, you end up paying a fortune to be served a shitty glass of lukewarm sparkling wine by a jaded bar tender so that you can count down with a bunch of random people and toast to a “Fabulous New Year” by awkwardly hugging a complete stranger at midnight… NON MERCI! For the most part, I’d say I’ve been pretty good at avoiding these situations and hope that I can carry this trend for years to come. As trite as it may sound, the most memorable celebrations have often been the ones with the least amount of preparations and expectations. Let this be no exception. In fact, it was legendary and never to be forgotten. Nor will 2010 for Haiti…
And this is precisely why it was and is so important for the country to put the year behind and why everyone has been eager to ring in 2011. Now, I don’t profess to be the first
to come to this realization, far from it… I simply have an uncanny desire to voice it over and over! It has nothing to do with superstition nor religion or spirituality of any kind… It’s common sense. 2010 was an awful year (the worst) for Haiti, so turning the page and doing so as a collective, unified nation with the support of so many is indispensable. I am truly humbled and honored to have been part of this chapter and to be here to close it and move on to the next. You see, despite the misery, the pain and the suffering, I have had an opportunity to discover this incredible country with its even more incredible people who call it home. But this is absolutely not about me. It’s about the thousands, the millions of Haitians who woke up this morning smiling, laughing and crying, kissing and hugging everyone, uttering two of the most simple, yet significant words I have ever heard: “Bonne Année!”
I can’t help but think about a conversation I had the day before, with Merlin’s Deputy Health Coordinator, Makenzi, as we visited Merlin’s mobile clinics in the outlying areas of Petit Goave. ““What I
love about Haiti,” he proudly explained to me, “are the smiles… Everywhere you go, kids are smiling.” Makenzi, as it turns out, not only speaks four languages fluently but after studying family medicine in Cuba for 6 years, he’s had a several opportunities to work in various places across the world, making a very good living as a private Doctor. Yet despite these lucrative offers, for Makenzi, the choice is clear: he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Makenzi is just one of the many selfless Haitians who have been working tirelessly before, during and after the Earthquake to give back to their beloved country – something tells me that this will not change in 2011! So it only seemed right to show our gratitude by organizing a festive “al fresco” dinner in the backyard of Merlin’s guesthouse for about 30 people, locals and expats alike, including friends from a nearby NGO who had just come back from Belgium and had brought back copious amounts of foie gras, duck “magret” and smoked salmon, in addition to the lobster and fresh fish that we had just purchased from the local fishermen a couple hours prior… Pure decadence! When I say
a FEAST, I am not doing the term, and more importantly its depiction, justice. Perhaps it was the fact that I would never expect to enjoy such lavish delicacies at this particular juncture in this particular place, but I remember looking down at my candle-lit plate at one point and experienced one of those memorable epiphanies – moments of semi-clarity when I realized how incredibly lucky and happy I was as I stared at two lobster tails sandwiched between thinly sliced prosciutto and adjoining a sizable “tranche” of one of my ultimate, unapologetically favorite gastronomic delight – foie gras.
As my mind started to drift, contemplating the strategic approach to my imminent culinary tour de force, my jovial Haitian neighbor taps me on the shoulder and politely asks me to pass him the foie gras. Well of course… But before I even get a chance to hand over the prized plate, I see him hack away a 3 cubic inch thick, high and wide chunk which he proceeded to annihilate and consequently scarf down using his fork while completely disregarding all conventional protocol of such extremely rich (in the financial and fatty sense) indulgences (i.e. bread, caramelized onions and
of course, a controlled quantity!) What ensued was an existential conundrum – a self struggle against good and evil (picture the saint and the devil on each of my shoulders, battling it out)… Do I respectfully tell him to slow down and show him how to conservatively eat this luxury? 99% of me felt that I needed to, but surely the 1% prevailed. Who the fuck am I to tell this guy not to eat that much?! As far as I’m concerned, if there is anyone who deserves to eat all the foie gras in the world, it’s him! I’m pretty sure, even these hand-fed geese and ducks who live happily until their livers become so damn delicious, have had a better year than he and so many of his countrymen and women.
So for that matter and so much more, YES, I will gladly pass you the foie gras my friend and every other delicacy under the sun… Bring on the New Year!
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