Lesson #14: People in Haiti protest, too

People in haiti protest, too. And I found that out firsthand.

Well, I’m back!! I would say, FINALLY, but… I’m not all that glad to be back. I wanted to stay on that dang pretentious cruise forever. And I’m not ashamed to say it. Between the friends, food, and fun, I had an excellent time. The weather wasn’t even super great; the boat rocked like crazy one third of the time, and I lost too much for comfort in the casino. But MAN, was my time away from home awesome, or what?! Our first destination was Haiti, and we didn’t even get to get off the boat, but I don’t care! My time cruising was superb.

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Wait, back up. Why couldn’t you get off the boat in Haiti? Hold your horses… I’ll tell you.

My boyfriend, Tim, and I hadn’t planned any excursions in Haiti, so we weren’t THAT disappointed when the morning we arrived, the cruise director came over the loud speaker to tell us we couldn’t get off the boat yet because of protestors camped out down the dock. Being still in bed, I peered out our small porthole of a window to sneak a peek at the Haitian rebels.

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Only, our room faced the ocean. So, I kicked off the covers and pulled on some shorts. Tim walked into the room then to tell me the cruise director wasn’t lying. There were actually people protesting outside our boat. But we were told it was because of the upcoming election–nothing to do with us. I was skeptical.

I climbed a few flights of stairs and emerged into the sunlight and leaned over the railing. Below me, perhaps a little too close for comfort, were maybe two hundred people, on land, and in boats, banging on tin and chanting. They did not sound angry. There were no fists being shaken. There were no weapons from what I could tell. You could have mistaken the protest in Haiti for a welcome party. Aw, thanks guys. Good to see you, too!

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I wanted to get closer.

So I walked along the railing and up a flight of stairs until I stood just off the front of the boat. Other cruisers were gathered around, watching curiously. I think we were all more intrigued than anything.

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A small security boat hung back in the water below us, not far from the chanting mob. Only one man was piloting. I wondered what good he would do if something went down. Then, a cruise employee saddled up beside me. He pointed to the security boat and said, “That is my brother,” in a foreign accent. He called him and told him to wave to prove it. He wasn’t lying. The little man in the little boat was his little brother.

I asked him what was going on; why were they protesting down there? Two other cruisers leaned in to hear. From what I could understand (his accent was strong), he told us that Royal Caribbean owns this port in Haiti, and it’s a popular company to work for in Haiti. I suppose because it’s so large. I eyed the red-shirted local excursion guides watching the protest a dozen yards back on shore, confidant they were pissed at the rebels for disrupting their business.

The man went on to say that after reaching a certain age, an age Royal Caribbean deemed “too old,” employees would be let go, without much more than a “good luck.” It didn’t matter how many years or months you had dedicated your service and your labor. It didn’t matter how badly you needed the money. It didn’t matter if you had seven kids in need of support.  If you were deemed “unfit to work,” you were let go. Naturally, this would make people unhappy. And according to my new friend, this is what the protestors were, well, protesting. No, it wasn’t about some upcoming election. It had to do with the very company whose boat we were on… according to this guy. I thanked him and went off to find Tim. I wanted to share what I had learned. USA Today would report on this not long after. 

I wasn’t surprised by what I had heard. A big part of me figured they must be protesting Royal Caribbean. Why else would these Haitians have come into private waters, to a side of the island frequented strictly by Royal Caribbean employees and cruisers? Because they wanted attention. They wanted to be seen and heard. I have to give it to them–they knew what they were doing. Between all the phones and GoPros I saw in the hands of the spectators around me, they got their media attention.

An hour later, Haiti was behind us, because the Captain had not wanted to compromise our safety, which made sense. He just forgot to mention that sticking around didn’t threaten our safety so much as Royal Caribbean’s reputation as a cruise line.

I have to say, I’m glad I witnessed a protest on the Haiti coast that hindered our chances of going ashore. Vacationing in places like Haiti, or Mexico, or Thailand is wonderful, isn’t it? But it’s important to remember that the resorts we stay at don’t represent reality. They are, instead, a romantic version of life. Diamonds in the rough. Because who wants to stay in the slums of Mexico instead of a five-star resort with pool and bar and all you can eat food? That’s not vacationing!

Still, as I stood on the deck of the Freedom of the Seas, staring down at the mass of Haitian people holding up picketed signs and dancing to a rhythmic chant, I felt goosebumps prickle my arms. I felt like a part of something important. A bystander, yes, but a bystander to the wonder of human nature. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t disappointed. I wasn’t disgusted. I was curious. Intrigued. I wanted to join in, simply for the thrill of making some kind of difference, no matter how small.

Tim and I hadn’t signed up for a Haitian excursion, but we got one.

Lesson learned? People in Haiti protest, too. Because when it comes right down to it, we’re all the same. 

P.S. MORE PICTURES TO COME! Perhaps a sneak peak just for fun?

Hell yeah
Hell yeah
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