“My name is Paola, and I am from Haiti. Petion-ville, Haiti to be exact. I have been living in the U.S. for over a decade, and every year, I feel closer to Haiti than I have ever felt when I lived there. Everyday, I think of the life I had there, and how much of it I miss. I think about the people, the economic state, the art, the music, the city, the history, and the deserted mountain tops. I think about the stories I used to listen to in the dark whenever there was a blackout. I think about the “Tim tim? Bwa sech” jokes we used to repeat in soft candlelight. I think about how beautiful it used to look during Christmas when I glanced outside, and the entire street was populated with street vendors and their candles and lamps over their merchandise. The street at 11:00 pm was transformed into a giant christmas tree. I also think about the many things I never got see, like the Citadelle Laferiere, Jakmel, Gonayiv, and other parts of Haiti. I think about the country’s beauties as well as its misfortunes. Lastly, I think about its godforsaken poverty every single day.
Of course when I lived there, I hated more things about Haiti than I loved. I hated the sudden blackouts when I was trying to read. Although now I’m thinking about how much I loved making shadow puppets in the dark and listening to those jokes and stories I would always give my full attention to. They were so fascinating back then! If it weren’t for the darkness, those wonderful things that I remember so clearly about my childhood would not have existed. If it weren’t for the darkness, those strange thoughts that still haunt me here at night, which I think make me stronger today, would not be part of my story. I owe a lot to that darkness.
I still have flashbacks of when I used to lie in the dark thinking about a different life. A better life. A more exciting life! Don’t get me wrong, I had everything I needed as a child. I attended a great school. I had countless dolls I would misplace. Some were decapitated by my misbehaved, spoiled little brother. I had tons of books to read. I had an after-school tutor, and household help. But I could not stand it. I felt imprisoned, suffocated, glued down. I was always curious about life elsewhere…
One of the best days of my childhood was the day I discovered the box of books in an attic-like space in my house. I used to climb up there and stay there for hours and read romance novels while I was covered with dust and spider webs. I used to hide them because at that time, I was too young to read these kinds of books. I learned about kissing, falling in love and other things I have never experienced before. I paid close attention to the different lifestyles, and the way the characters behaved and interacted in the novels. Then I began to act like them. I demanded coffee. I put on a bathrobe when I got out of bed pretending it was chilly although it’s always intensely hot where I lived in Haiti. I had a bedside lamp which I would turn on to do my readings just like those characters even though the electricity was out 80% of the time. I became a daydreamer. I used to escape in my books. I used to get yelled at because of them. Hell, I got beaten because of them. I was in a trance, and nobody could get me out.
Now here I am, living in New York City. Living in a wonderful studio apartment on my own. Speaking fluent English. Wearing fluffy bathrobe because it actually gets chilly. I graduated college with a BA in economics and French literature. I have an amazing
boyfriend fiancé whom I love very much, and a very supportive family. I take everyday as a new adventure, and I learn something from it as well. I can’t wait to meet more people. To see more. To feel more. To taste more. And to love more.” -findingpaola.com
Find Paola's beautiful headscarf line, 'Fanm Djanm' here (Photo: Alejandro Cerdena) More on Finding Paola