We’re Moving to the Island of Hispaniola!

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Also known as Haiti! As of right now, we’re scheduled to move out there in September 2017, but all of that is subject to negotiation with the Mission. It’s a 2-year post, so we can expect to call this our home until around summer of 2019.

We are very excited about our assignment to Haiti and here’s why:

  1. It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, which means there is a lot of meaningful, challenging, and rewarding work to be done. Remember, this is what we signed up for. We want to go to the more difficult, poorer places so we can make as big of an impact as we can and help those who need it the most.
  2. Disasters. One of the reasons Haiti has had a hard time making a lot of progress towards an bustling economy is its unique susceptibility for natural disasters. H spent the first 2 years of her career with USAID working in disaster assistance and is ready to put those skills to work while in Haiti, should the unfortunate event of a natural disaster happen on our watch. This also means that she could be in a fast-paced environment where timeliness could really make a difference, where she thrives.
  3.   Construction. Haiti is still rebuilding after the earthquake of 2011 and, now after Hurricane Matthew swept through in October 2016, there is still a lot of rebuilding needed. This means that there are a lot of construction contracts and activities going on. H doesn’t have a lot of hands-on experience with these, so it’ll be good for her to gain that skill in a place where it’s so relevant.
  4. It’s a hard-to-fill Mission. What does this mean? It means that it’s not many people’s first pick of places to go. This will probably cause H to be very busy while she’s there, broadening her experience and improving her chances for a future promotion. This also means that there could be vacancies for positions in the Mission or the Embassy that could offer me field experience, should I be in need of employment, and the positions are more likely to not be so administratively-focused, like in more popular countries where it would be more difficult for me to find a job. It’s also important for me to get Mission-specific experience in the first post so I’m a more desirable candidate in future posts and to avoid having a gap in my resume for too long.
  5. Culture and History. Haiti has a rich culture and history and we’ve been told a lot of this is imported from Benin, as approximately 80% of Haitians can trace some part of their ancestry back to Benin. They also have an annual Carnaval that will be cool to experience. The food is supposed to be delicious as well!
  6. Volunteer opportunities. La Colombe and Partners in Health (Paul Farmer’s organization, which is written about in Mountains Beyond Mountains) both have operations in Haiti. Should I find myself in between jobs or just unemployed, it would be a great way to volunteer, just to help out.
  7. Great sense of community. Everyone who we’ve spoken with who has either lived there themselves or know close friends who have lived there, has said that the expat community (USAID, State Department, NGOs, etc.) is a very tight-knit group, as much of the entertainment in-country comes from dinner parties, play dates, and other social activities. People have said that they have made many lifelong friends while posted to Haiti, so we hope we will do the same.
  8. The local people. Everyone talks about how wonderful Haitians are. We’re hoping to make a lot of local friends too.
  9. Street Cred. Haiti is considered one of the harder posts that you can be sent to within USAID. A lot of successful people within USAID have done tours in Haiti and several went to Haiti as their first post. H is hoping that having this experience as her first post will improve her problem solving skills and help her be more successful in future posts. Speaking of future posts, doing a tour in Haiti will (theoretically) increase our chances to get one of our top picks for our second post.
  10. French! As most people probably know, Haiti is a Francophone country and another 2 years in a French-speaking place will be great to get back up to a fluent level of French, which may help me with my career down the road, especially if I want to try to join the Foreign Service myself one day. Also, the fact that I already know French (though I’m rusty), will help me be a competitive candidate for jobs, should I not be able to work remotely for my current job. And I get to learn Creole!

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Other really great pros that we’ll enjoy while in Haiti that our friends and family can appreciate are:

  1. Great housing! We’ve heard there is brand new housing inside a guarded compound across the street from the Embassy and Mission where H will work. The compound is rumored to have a pool, tennis courts, etc. and will offer a short, 5-minute commute.
  2. The Caribbean! Who doesn’t want to live in the Caribbean? As avid scuba divers, we’re excited to explore what the area has to offer as a weekend-ish hobby. It’s also about an hour drive to the beach, a 6-hour drive to the Dominican Republic for longer weekends, and an hour and a half flight to Miami. Being in the Caribbean also means that we’ll be in the same time zone as D.C., which I’m hoping will help me figure out a way to work remotely with my job (fingers crossed).
  3. Inexpensive help. From what we’ve heard, we can hire a full-time maid/cook/dog walker for as little as $300-350 per month, which will be so helpful and make our lives much easier. Nannies are also about the same per month, which means we could hire both for what we pay now for just daycare (and what we pay now for daycare is already low for this area!).
  4. It’s a good pay bump, which will help us put more money away so it’s easier for future posts that aren’t as generous, and start us off on a solid financial path for the rest of our careers.
  5. Travel. We hope to explore different islands in the Caribbean (maybe even Cuba, if we’re allowed?) while we’re there, which we probably wouldn’t be able to do as much from D.C. or another post.
  6. Pre-School. We have already picked out a great French-speaking Montessori pre-school that other FSOs have highly recommended and are excited to get S in a more formal setting where learning is really a focus. Right now, his daycare is much more focused on play, which is fine for his age, but by the time we move, he should be ready for more in-depth learning.

We are excited about this new journey and are looking forward to sharing all of what Haiti has to offer.

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