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5845: Re: U.S. Warned on Traveling To Haiti, etc.: Corbett responds , to , Pedersen

Eva, I suspect that what you're looking for would be bad advice.  Why
should you need the approval of mass evaluation when you can make
up your own mind?

One of my good friends at my university has descried me as a person
with "an underdeveloped sense of danger."  That's true if the term
of comparison is a very high level of safety.

I've been going to Haiti since 1983.  I've been there in hot times and
been in some quite difficult personal situations.  All of my choosing.
However, I'd MUCH rather have a good idea of what I'm going into than some
closing of the eyes to danger.

The U.S. state department has rommended AGAINST going to Haiti in well
over 50% of my 40+ visits to Haiti in those years.  I wouldn't expect
them or other observers to be dishonest to their own consciences and
senses of danger.

Rather, I want the data and then I assess my behavior.  Unlike some of the
foreigners in Haiti we've read about recently, I've learned how to keep
a low profile, how to lessen the impact of calling attention to my
"blanness" in both the sense of foreign and white.  I try not to confront
and demean local ways.  But the last thing I would ask for from others
is some rosy picture which doesn't fit the data.

I watch for people whose assessment I find resonates closer to my own,
and check in with them.  These are people who frequently don't have
the standard societal sense of prefect safety, and thus are seldom heard
in the public arena of press and such.  No matter, I've learned to
cultivate those sources and hear them.

>From my own canvassing of sources who view the world as I do, as a risky
place where doing interesting and worthwhile things often increases risk,
and that's all perfectly okay, we are in a time in Haiti of unusual threat
to foeigners, especially those who appear to be naive marks, or those
who carry a certain chip of cockiness on their sleeves.

I would urge you to plunge into your Peace Corps work, but do so
with humility and willingness to bend over backward toward local ways.
To work hard for what you think is progressive change, but again,
let your himility run before you, willing to learn from local ways as
well as being willing to bring the new and different.

I would urge you to blend in rather than stand out any more than you
simply must by the mere fact you are a blan, a foreigner.

Within such "precautions" (I would tend to think of them as common
sense truisms rather than precautions), you enhance your safety in
an actually dangerous world.  There are dangers, increased ones over
most time of the past 15 years which NOTHING you can do will really

Only an individual can assess his or her willingness to live within
those parameters of danger.

Bob Corbett