• Emily Adelsberger

Learning how to say hello

Here at UMass, we are excited to announce that we have received an abundance of applications for this summer’s expeditions. YSI will be in Haiti from May 20-July 15. We will complete public health, education, community development, and engineering projects over the course of our seven eight-day sessions. We are still accepting applications in all of these areas for the next few weeks on a first come, first served basis.

While applying to go to Haiti may seem overwhelming at first, the process is beyond worth it. When I told my parents I wanted to travel to Haiti, they were understandably concerned about my safety. The YSI compound is immersed in the community to connect us to with its people, but we are protected by a wall, locked doors, and a security guard. We pride ourselves on our ability to meet the security standards set forth by each of our chapter’s universities.

As with any place, the more you know about the culture and the people, the safer you will be, and learning about the culture of Haiti is one of many unwritten benefits of joining YSI. A prime example of this is the Haitian custom of saying hello. In the morning, it is “bonjou.” As soon as the clock strikes noon, it becomes “bonswa”. You must always say hello to every person you pass by, whether they are an acquaintance or not. They will always smile and say it back.

While many of the people in Morel do not own a phone or a watch, they will always know when noon has come and it is time for “bonswa.” There was a day when Caroline and I were sitting in the front yard reading, and a local girl named Mirlande walked by. We said “bonjou”, and she laughed quietly at us and replied “no, bonswa.” It was 12:04.

It may seem like a long way to travel to receive an abundance of friendly hellos, but it is the small aspects of your journey with YSI that make you never want to leave the heat and dirt. Of course, YSI encompasses much more than just learning how to say hello. While each expedition will vary slightly in its goals, one thing you can always depend on is being met with smiles and more “bonjou” and “bonswa” greetings than you can count. It is small, but we must always remember to…

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