Why do you travel? Maybe it’s to try new foods, maybe it’s to meet new people. Maybe you travel to help others who seem to have less than you, or maybe you want to run away to new and distant lands (this is where I find myself). Maybe it’s simply because you can. Whatever your reasons may be, it’s time you traveled to Haiti.
Not only is Haiti beautiful and friendly, with perfect temperatures, it also has that sense of home you’re not going to find in many other places. The culture of Haiti is extremely welcoming and loving, and maybe it’s just the hot sun, but they always seem to have the warmest embraces just waiting for their next visitors. So how can you get to Haiti? Go with Singing Rooster, of course!
Singing Rooster has been working in Haiti for 10 years now, and specifically, they work with coffee farmers and co-operatives, as well as artists in Croix-des-Bouquets (the metal art district) to get their products into the US market. (Yes, Haiti produces coffee, and it’s delicious!) They buy the coffee at a minimum of $3.50 per lb. (almost triple what Fairtrade requires), which ensures that their farmers are taken care of and, in turn, can take care of their families. This is what’s at the heart and soul of Singing Rooster: buying quality Haitian products at a price that benefits the farmers and artists and gives them the ability to be independent.
So, what will you be doing on this adventure? Keep reading and find out!
Day 1: You’ll arrive in Port-au-Prince and head to a local hotel. They’ll go over trip details, introduce everyone (don’t worry, you won’t play those terrible ice breaker games you did in school), and start learning a few Creole phrases, so you’re not totally lost while there. Some travelers might be nervous for the following days, some may be ready to go and eager to start the journey, but for both this will be a good night to get your mind and heart in the right place to truly experience what rural Haiti has to offer (and trust me, it’s a lot, in the best way possible).
Day 2: Make sure you eat a good breakfast (this will be provided) because it’s a long drive to Thiotte over some rough terrain. But don’t worry, this is where you can become best friends with the other people on the trip! Before you embark, you’ll stop to tour their roastery and processing center. You’ll get to learn some history of Haiti (bring something to take notes, there will be quizzes, lol), and you might get to see coffee beans being roasted or sorted or packed into bags, depending on when you come (the more times you go, the more chances you’ll have to see everything.)
Then you’ll load up in the Toyota Land Cruiser and head off into the mountains! A quick stop at the Pine Forest Saturday Market (who knew Haiti has pine forests??) to get some fruits and vegetables, and experience one of the largest markets in Haiti! (This is where your Creole training will come in handy). You can practice by bartering for produce, or let one of the trusted guides do this for you (this is what I did, and it was definitely for the better). Though the drive is long and bumpy, the views are breathtaking. You’ll want to bring your cameras, and don’t worry about losing them out the window on a crazy bump, their guides are masters at taking these types of pictures. They’ll get those views captured so you can always remember the beauty of Haiti (and be able to entice your friends to come once you go back home!) You’ll then visit a farmer co-op processing station where you can meet some of the incredibly hardworking farmers and get to see first hand why they do what they do. Just for a sneak peek (since you’ve taken some time to read this post) here is one of my favorite quotes from interviewing those farmers:
“I have been farming coffee for many years. I learned from my parents, who learned from theirs, and it has been something passed down through many generations. I have 3 children and they are all involved in coffee with me. We love the flavor of Haitian coffee, it tastes so different from any other type of coffee. When you drink a cup of our coffee, you do so much more than just drink coffee. You are giving a farmer, like myself, the ability to provide for his children. This is all we want as people.”Chrisnel
After you fall in love with the farmers (I know I certainly did) and learn some facts about coffee, you’ll spend the night at another local hotel. After a 4-hour drive and some time to hike, a cold shower and a nice bed are going to be exactly what you’re looking for. This completes day 2!
Day 3: Another bright and sunny morning with some more travel (but not as long as day 2)! You’ll see a demonstration farm where you’ll learn how coffee grows, and how it’s transforming the landscape of Haiti (for those who have been to the Dominican Republic, this is where you’ll really see the difference in the 2 sides of the island).
Deforestation is a major problem in Haiti. Coffee allows the farmers to not only have the financial stability to support their families, they also have to plant shade trees (since coffee needs 50% shade and 50% sunlight) which means … more trees for Haiti! Better environment for Haiti! Everybody wins! Taking care of the people and the environment, at the same time? Where do I sign up?! (Just check out the bottom of this post!) There will be some trekking involved on this day, so make sure you have some comfy shoes and a good attitude because we’re going to get down and dirty the Haitian way (small, slightly rocky, sometimes slippery paths, sometimes no paths) but with even more of those breathtaking views. I say this from experience, being a part of the landscape, actually walking the paths and feeling the grass and different plants in your hands and around your feet, is so much better than simply riding in a vehicle through the landscape. This is where you’ll start to truly understand what goes into your (many) cups of coffee every day.
Day 4: More farms! To my city people, this will be all new to you, so I suggest taking a lot of pictures, but don’t be scared! This adventure is for everyone! To my small-town country people (this is more where I come from), you’re going to feel right at home. But still, bring your cameras! You’re going to want to remember this scenery forever (and it’s the perfect thing to show off to your friends and family and get them interested as well!) Also, please bring questions! Their farmers, producers, pickers, roasters, literally everybody, is super friendly and willing to answer your questions! They love sharing their knowledge (and their coffee) with everyone! If you think your Creole is pretty decent, you can ask them yourself, or you can grab a guide and they will interpret for you. Be as curious as a kid! This is what’s going to make your time in Haiti a thousand times better than what anyone at Singing Rooster could make it for you: your own curiosity. There are no stupid questions! (Just don’t ask them their age, lol).
Day 5: Travel day! If you missed any shots on your way to Thiotte, here’s your second chance! You’ll take the same way out as you did in (because there is no other option), so keep your cameras out and your eyes open. They’ll drive you to Croix des Bouquets and you’ll have a chance to visit the Metal Art District there. I recommend bringing some cash because you’re guaranteed to find a piece you love. Singing Rooster works with many artists there, and they are all wonderful people as well as fantastic artists! They use recycled oil drums, cut the tops and bottoms off, pound it into a flat sheet, and then use a hammer and chisel to cut out their designs. You’ll be mesmerized watching these guys (I know I was), and many of them love having their picture taken when done respectfully.
I know many people get nervous in markets like this one, and being a young female I definitely used to be one of those people. But these guys are so friendly and they were all very respectful, I never felt uncomfortable or like I needed a second person with me (although I did have help when bartering for a certain painting). If you have an idea for a custom piece, something you’ve been thinking about for a while or something you think of on the spot, they can do that! Once everyone is done shopping and looking around, you’ll head to a hotel and spend the night.
Day 6: Time to relax! Make sure you bring a swimsuit (or clothes you can get wet in) because we will be headed to Haiti’s largest waterfall – Saut D’Eau! This place is absolutely beautiful, and you’re going to want to get in the water because it’s said that bathing in this waterfall will free you of bad energies, and bring you peace and prosperity! You’ll get to learn a little about the history and practice of Voodoo, and hopefully, it will change the way you think about Voodoo. But this is not scary, this is a beautiful learning experience and even if you remember nothing about Voodoo, I can guarantee you’ll remember lying in this incredible, refreshing waterfall.
This brings us back to actually being in nature versus just driving through it. Water has such powerful properties and often powerful values in many societies, so having this wash over you, with an open mind, you can really feel all your burdens and fears and worries being washed right off you (and that’s something everyone needs). Finding your Zen center is not required there of course, but the cool water is a nice contrast to the hot sun. And then you’re all done!
Day 7: Wake up and have coffee and breakfast. We’ll talk about the whole trip, see what you enjoyed and what we can do better for your next visit to Haiti (you’ll want to come back, I promise), and say our sad goodbyes. You’ll be taken back to the airport and back home.
Your Haitian journey does not have to stop here!!
Keep buying Singing Rooster coffee! That’s the best way to guarantee that the farmers you met while in Haiti will continue being able to support their families. Buy for yourself or for a friend! Get your church or office or company to buy! Just one bag makes a difference, but why not share this wonderful coffee with everyone?!
Tell your friends about them! This can be through just talking about Singing Rooster and Haiti whenever you get the chance, following and sharing their social media posts (facebook + instagram), you could also have a coffee party! Get a group together, make some Haitian coffee, and sit and talk. A lot of people still have never tried Haitian coffee, so just getting a cup in front of them helps them grow so much! The more people who know about Singing Rooster, the bigger the market gets for Haitian coffee, the more people will want to go to Haiti, and the more financially stable their farmers and artists will be!
Stay invested in people! This is what makes Singing Rooster so unique: they are invested in the people of Haiti. Their heart’s desire is to see the people of Haiti independent and thriving, like every human deserves to be. Not dependent on aid from foreign countries, not dependent on people from foreign countries. Completely independent. This is what they want, so this is what we should want.
Singing Rooster loves Haiti. They want you to love Haiti, too. The best way to do that is for you to come to Haiti and see what Singing Rooster is all about. Come see what Haiti is all about. This experience will open your eyes, mind, and heart to who Haiti is. What you’ll see is that Haiti is kind, loving, warm, funny. Haiti is full of beauty and grace and determination like you wouldn’t believe. Haiti is so hopeful, so cheerful, so full of people who want to share their work with the world. The groups they take to Haiti are small, and that’s for a reason. When we travel in smaller groups to places we’ve never been before, places off the map, off the path, we find parts of ourselves we didn’t know we were even missing.
This trip will change you. It’ll change the way you look at a single cup of coffee, it’ll change the way you look at farmers, it’ll change the way you look at your own life, at the whole world. You’ll start to think differently, interact with people differently. You’ll be inspired to do some crazy things because you’ve seen the crazy things other people can do. This goes beyond farmers, this goes beyond artists, beyond coffee, beyond you and me. This goes beyond. I can tell you everything I went through, every thought that ran through my mind since my feet touched Haitian soil, but none of it will prepare you for what you’re going to feel. Even if this trip doesn’t change you as it did for me, you will never be able to look at your cup of coffee the same again. After following a single coffee seed from being planted in the ground, to seeing the coffee trees grow, to picking and de-pulping cherries, washing and drying the beans, sorting, roasting, grinding, packaging the coffee, to finally making your morning cup of joe, it’s guaranteed to taste differently, and you’re guaranteed to look at it differently.
If this sounds like the trip for you (and I’m really hoping it does) please reach out. They will be so excited to talk with you and share what they know about Haiti and about this experience. I know I can’t wait to see you on this adventure!