This is a cautionary tale, showing how travel narrows the mind.
I left my happy home in Mexico in February 1952 to spend five or six weeks in Haiti. I knew nothing about Haiti except the splendid name of Toussaint l’Ouverture, but Haiti as such was not the point. The point was scenery, weather, sea to swim in as background for sitting still and solitary and starting a novel. Resident travel. When you can’t write at home, go someplace else. I had seen Haiti in passing, years earlier, and remembered high green mountains, cobalt sea and Port-au-Prince, a climbing white city festooned in flowering vines and bougainvillaea. Any Caribbean island would have suited; Haiti was a careless choice.
The years had done Port-au-Prince no good. A taxi driver recommended the grandest hotel by the sea. The walls were peeling, a juke box deafened, drunks abounded, and the rooms were sticky with old dust. Bar talk whined in discouragement. Tourism was on the skids, people were selling up and leaving, president followed president, all crooks, and in the general chaos no one knew what would happen next. The streets of the city now looked like dust tracks, the black citizens wretchedly poor and glum. I should have left then, after a day. The vibes, which existed before being named, were very bad. Instead, at ten o’clock on the second night, I moved from the loud hotel to a pension higher up the hillside where I was the only guest. Here, too, everything was seedy but at least quiet.
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