Caged Birds that Can’t Sing

by kenyantraveller

Two days ago I had dinner at a restaurant in PaP popular with US embassy officials. Live jazz band (led by an expat) and an outdoor garden that was shielded from the brutality of the heat by many beautiful trees. I ordered a $15 bacon cheeseburger while I streams of embassy officials trooped past our tables to kiss the ring of my host and hostess. I had this odd feeling of peering behind the veil to this expat life that I’d only seen from outside the bubble in Nairobi. Imported wine, bread rolls and butter, and the faint aroma of frustration hung in the air.

What I saw can only be summarised as a gilded cage. You could reach out and touch the unhappiness. Most of these people had left their homes in the promise that they were going to some exotic location, only to be slapped with some of the most thorough “security measures” you can imagine. They aren’t allowed to use public transport. They aren’t allowed to visit Haitian neighbourhoods. They aren’t allowed to attend any of the Haitian festivals nor to participate in any protests. Essentially: “We want you to be in Haiti, but we don’t want you to interact with anything that is remotely Haitian, including Haitian people”.

I died a little just for being around it.

Why would you drag someone away from their family and friends only to put them in this suffocating bubble? Who does it helped? I feel like it only made the expats more resentful of of the country, which is in fact a beautiful, vibrant country full of risks for sure, but also full of love and warmth. Why would you come all the way to Haiti to do exactly what you would do back home? No wonder we have so many flawed and meaningless “development plans” and strategies – most of these people have no idea what they’re talking about.

This is why I reject the label “expat” because it smacks of a superiority complex and a calculated detachment from the reality of the country we live in.

Plus, that burger was terrible.