Haiti – it was a good omen. Followers and fans of Wanderlust and Lipstick recognize me as the new kid on the blog. I’m still working my way into a literary niche. But don’t worry, It’s going to be great. When I logged into WanderLit for the first time I discovered my fresh blank wordpress dashboard sporting the “Passports with a Purpose” widget dedicated to raising $100,000 to build wells in Haiti. That’s when I knew I was meant to be a wander-blogger. Haiti is special to me.
I was there only one day many years before the earthquake. I spent that day at Labadee a carefully guarded resort on a northern beach wondering about the Haiti beyond the sheltering wall. I enjoyed the warm beautiful surf, a barbecue and drinks then ended the day with a “cultural exhibition” (Our tour operator thought that would be safer than exposing the group to any actual culture.) I resigned myself that this was as close to Haiti I was going to get, so I made it count. I sat right up front and after a few demonstrations of drumming and dance, the troupe drew audience members onto the floor with them. I was the only one easily lead.
Two women, one on each side of me, taught a simple rhythmic dance from the top down. First I learned the head roll then the flexing and extending of arms raised shoulder level. (I added a gentle chest thrust on the off-beat because it seemed like that is what the best dancers were doing.) Last, they showed me how to extend each leg to the side alternating and shifting my weight just in time to catch my balance each time. That thing they did with their hips, though… well, I still haven’t figured that out. To this day, even though I sometimes exercise using that simple but hypnotic dance, the hip thing is still a mystery.
Many years later, watching the 2010 earthquake footage from my Ohio living-room, I thought of my two dance teachers. I remember them smiling, laughing and dancing in impossibly yellow skirts. Are they alive?
“Passports with a Purpose” has given me a chance to reconnect with the day I danced in the sand to Haitian drums. That one day inspired a story, which became my first novel-length draft, and is now a treasured work-in-revision. I will have to go back to Haiti to finish it, I think.
I made my Passports with a Purpose donation. If those women are still there, maybe these wells will benefit them or their families. Certainly it will benefit their country. A humble, remote but so sincere gift in gratitude for one of my most treasured memories that still inspires my imagination over decade later.
So compassionate wander-readers. Have you ever experienced “love at first sight” with a destination or cultural experience? Has it ever inspired you as a writer to journal about it, write a story, or even a novel about it? More importantly, have you clicked on that “Passports with a Purpose” widget yet?