Haiti is pronounced “Hay-I-Tee” by those who actually live there I found out when I visited Labadee today. Royal Caribbean’s private destination has been described as “about 100 miles North of the earthquake area” by many, including me, who talk about the powerful earthquake that hit a couple weeks ago. We were all wrong. The earthquake might just as well have hit right down the center of the pleasure island Royal Caribbean calls at bi-weekly.
“Please go back to the ship and tell everyone to come ashore, we need them”
Behind an honest and sincere attempt to make guests coming off Freedom of the Seas have a great day on their vacation, reality simply and purely overcame the moment. The effect of the earthquake is just as real here as at the center of destruction. Haitians I talked to today were of a proud, hard-working breed reminiscent to me of Jamaicans right after a slow-moving hurricane pretty much leveled the island. I remember writing at the time that they seemed so proud yet so desperate.
Here they are proud but beaten down by a reality so stark, so clearly overpowering that a fight is not even an option. Their world has been turned upside down. They are desperately looking for something to hold on to.
“We don’t have a president. President Bill Clinton was a president. We don’t have a president”"
We pulled into Labadee about 8 am, had breakfast then off to the island to see what was going on. We were not sure if we would simply get off, walk around or stay for a while then go back to the ship for most of the day.
Once on the island we were totally impressed with the quality of the operation and how very nice it was. I hate to compare but this one is way better than the other private cruise line islands like Princess’ Cays or Royal Caribbeans other private destination, Coco Cay in the Bahamas.
As suite guests we were admitted to Barefoot Beach, free for Suite guests but bought an oceanside covered cabana for $200 which made it a simply wonderful experience, with Haitian native “Franclin” as our cabana attendant. I asked Franclin about the earthquake and how things were going. His reply to me was a bit unexpected when he said
“Everyone knows many people who are dead or missing. I know 27 dead and 45 missing. That’s usually the way it is with every man here”
But what he said next set the mood for a day to be remembered.
“Thank God for Royal Caribbean. We would have nothing without them” and in a dismissive way I would find typical “Not to worry, we will be good, we will be happy, we will have joy”
After several hours at that beach, without another word spoken about the earthquake, we waived good bye to Franclin saying back to him what he said to us all day “Happy Happy Joy Joy”, a trademark for the demeanor of most everyone we saw there. Always a friendly wave, always courteous and helpful but not pushy or beggy.
Yeah, I said “beggy”
They don’t want anything to do with the whole notion of them being so down and out and helpless.
They don’t buy it.
They don’t sell it.
They don’t want it.
Talking to a trio of merchants in the expansive and collector-quality impressive marketplace in Labadee, I learned more about what is really going on there than having cable news on 24/7 for a week after the quake. Not about the quake or number of dead or injured but about the real, pressing, in-your-face issue that can’t be denied, renders blame irrelevant, and demands change.
They’re down, they’re out, and they’re begging for a chance. An honest chance. They’re willing to work, willing to do what’s right and just waiting for someone to take the bull by the horns and lead the way.
“We hope President Bill Clinton will fix this, make this right, get us (a) chance”
Sitting here now on the balcony of our stateroom, looking back over to where we were for the day the resounding message I an charged to share with you is clear.
Get off the ship and have a good time.
Then when the cruise is over, consider others just a little bit more. We are fortunate to have the capability to read what you see before your eyes, even more fortunate to be able to agree or disagree with it and way more fortunate than we know to have the ability to impact the lives of others in a positive way.