Before the earthquake, this was a quiet little blog, mostly about what I was reading. Sometimes I wrote about my teaching or posted articles I had seen. I wrote about what it was like to live in my generic third world country, which I didn't identify. I played it safe.
Things have changed. I still try to maintain at least a vestige of anonymity for myself and don't post the names of others unless they have given their permission, but Haiti is no longer unidentified. It's a relief in some ways to write about it, though I am careful to remember that I am a foreigner, not a Haitian. I try not to criticize too much and I avoid politics. While I've lived in Haiti longer than my middle schoolers (having moved there before they were born), I recognize that my experience is not the same as that of a Haitian citizen.
Writing here (and elsewhere) has been hugely therapeutic for me. It feels as though you have some control, when you can shape your thoughts into words and sentences and paragraphs. It's a powerful feeling to be able to put it down where others can read it instead of holding it inside.
For the first time, I have had to apologize to someone whom I offended with my writing. That never used to happen, partly because hardly anyone read it, and partly because I was playing it safe.
How can you play it safe when you live in Haiti? Living in Haiti is about loud music and jokes yelled in Kreyol and color and light and pikliz and garlic. It's about noise and sun and hibiscus in obnoxiously bright pink and red. It's about suffering and endurance and life. It's not a safe place; and when I say that I don't mean it's dangerous, but that it's real. When you live in Haiti you aren't constantly shielded from the truth of how things are. People have criticized me in the past for even living in Haiti at all, and taking my kids there. (One woman said to me, in horror, "You bore your children there? How could you do that to yourself - and to them?") I don't think I have played it safe in my life the way I did in my blog.
I don't know what kind of blogger I'll be when I return home to Haiti. I know I'll blog less than I do here, mostly because I'll have a job to do there. I'll write about teaching again, I'm sure, and that means preserving my students' anonymity as I have always done in the past. But I don't think I can go back to the quiet, safe blogger I used to be any more than I can be the person I was before January 12th. I'm more open now, less filtered. I cry more and love more. I don't know which of the changes will be permanent, but I'm guessing I will never be the same as I was.
13 minutes ago