Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Beyond Miami

The other night we entered a conversation with Emmanuel and Tipap about where we are from. (Geographically, I mean, not like the birds and bees, I hope they understand that part already.) I was telling them that Minnesota, the state we are from, is farther away from Florida than Haiti is. It was obvious that they thought I was either an idiot or had lost my mind entirely. They asked over and over if it was true, just to make sure I was an idiot, and shook their heads at me. They even called in a third witness (Merilien) to confirm that they were not hearing things. I reassured them all that there were places in the world farther away from Haiti than Miami.

In the Haitian experience, geography seems to consist of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Miami, New York, Toronto, and Boston - in that order. These are the places flights to/from Haiti travel (and where Haitian immigrants have settled), so therefore they are all that exist. Except for Japan, which produces the best "machines" - as vehicles are called here. In review, the world consists basically of parts of Canada, the US, Haiti, Dom. Republic, and Japan. This is evidenced by the hand-carved globes they sell as art here. The geography is atrocious. The last one I looked at had Philadelphia somewhere in Texas and Georgia bordering Canada.

We had fun showing them a puzzle the kids have that shows North America, and pointing out the states and cities they are familiar with, and their relation to Haiti. It was obvious that they were quite surprised at Haiti's small size in comparison.

Then things got really interesting. I turned on the computer and showed them the Google Earth program. It shows satellite images of the entire world, in relief and detail down to streets in some areas. As we searched for the places they were familiar with, the globe spun and zoomed in on the different countries and cities. These three guys were totally amazed by it, and probably a little freaked out. Then we turned our attention to Haiti. There are detailed photos of Port-Au-Prince, down to streets, and relief maps with cities marked for the rest of the country. We spent the next hour or so looking all over the country, and they talked incessantly about every new city and village name that popped up - who lives there, how much rain they get, when they visited that place, etc. It was really fun, and a definite learning experience for us, too. We often take for granted all of the education opportunities and experiences we have had. People without those luxuries are often so eager to learn, but don't have the chance. All three guys left that night shaking their heads at how big the world is. -Troy