A quick, first trip to Haiti opened a window on a world that Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers had wanted to see for years. The occasion was the recent opening of the Best Western Premier in Petion-Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. Beyond the art-filled public spaces, halls and rooms of the hotel was another Haiti entirely. Gay's second and final dispatch follows. Click to read her first dispatch.
Don’t miss an opportunity to talk with Haitians, despite the Creole language barrier.
They’re warm, resilient people, and I found that a smile and a friendly "bon jour" went a long way. They reciprocated in kind, and I learned a lot.
Webney, one of the staff of 100 Haitians at the Best Western Premier, discovered I liked mango juice and went out of his way to keep me well supplied, always delivering with a smile.
Carine, a volunteer at Le Lycee Petion-Ville school, welcomed my questions about the kids at the school, half of whom live on the streets and have no families.
She was modest about her volunteer duties, but I later learned she teaches CPR to the kids and at another school works with young women who have been sexually molested.
Stanley, the head bartender at the hotel, told me he’s written a book — a fictional account of a fictional cruise line. Who would have guessed?
Souffrant, the spa director at the Oxygene Spa at the hotel, revealed that castor oil mixed with lavender “makes a radiant massage oil.” I took her word for it.
Although my visit was short, it was long enough to tour the hotel’s amazing collection of Haitian craft pieces, paintings, prints, tapestries, fabrics, sculptures and photos that
were showcased on the walls, in the halls, in the lounge, on the hand-carved wooden columns, on balcony railings and even on elevator doors.
Artistic director Pascale Theard worked with a local design team to bring in more than 100 artists from the community and countryside for the design and décor of the hotel.
General Manager Ronald Maidens described the Best Western as a “hotel/museum.”
“It gives a sense of ownership to the Haitians who visit and work here and proudly displays a cornerstone of Haiti’s identity for our international guests,” he said.
I couldn’t get enough of it.
Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.