Here are a few insights into the positive Personal Philosophy that allowed one woman to realise her decades-long dream of owning land in Haiti, building her home and growing things on a sustainable farm. It’s off the grid, and tapping into a better way of living.
#1. Simply say "yes " to the opportunities that the universe brings your way.
Here’s a secret. I don't make detailed timelines with incremental benchmarks measuring progress towards a long term goal. I prefer to live my life closer to the present. As someone who’s lived on three continents with a steady upward career path through the ranks of international NGOs, it may seem unlikely. But this approach stood me well in my 30-year long career as an international development practitioner. It's evidenced by the fact that I was recruited for promotions, rather than competing for the advancements I enjoyed.
And in the same spirit of saying ‘yes’ to challenges and opportunities that present themselves , I said yes when a friend asked if I would like to buy a few centimes (parcels) of land on Haiti's south coast overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
Originally, I had hoped to purchase land on the densely populated north coast, but nothing worked out. So I was thrilled at this unexpected offering. Just owning a piece of Haiti's earth was sufficient to keep alive my dream of growing things in Haiti!
#2. Listen to the shifts happening inside yourself, and trust the change
There’s a saying here, “Ibo Lele” - Dreams Come True, and it's also the title of a song by one of my favourite artists “RAM”. For a few years I had returned to work for an international non-profit in Africa, but I ensured that my land back in Haiti was being farmed by local residents. It was important to me, even in my absence that the land was being tended.
At the end of my contract, I took a very deep plunge. I stepped away from employment for a full year in order to return to my land and build my house . To be honest, my intention was to resume full-time employment when I was done construction. But oh-so subtly, a shift happened as days, weeks, months were spent rooted on the piece of earth registered in my name.
In order to achieve my goal of completing construction in just 1 year, and keep the schedule on track, I set up a temporary home in what is now the Safari Room. As my team of 30 local craftsmen laboured to interpret my plans into a home, I grew less inclined to pursue outside employment. I no longer wanted to put my energy towards towards developing ineffective strategic plans for development programmes. I no longer wanted to work for or report to international donors on why project results were not achieved.
That new reality has become my new normal, and I’m so glad that guests can join me and stay awhile.
#3. Do No Harm
Maybe it’s my Mennonite roots, but I believe deeply in the Do No Harm Principle, especially when it comes to stewardship of my land and interaction with the natural environment and my neighbours. For example, rather pesticides, insecticides, or chemical fertiliser I use organic strategies to combat insect infestations. Applying seaweed dragged up from the beach is a powerful mulching agent.
Sure, I get into the odd tussle with a stray goat or two –when they set their sights on my veggies a few rocks may be thrown, but overall it’s a peaceful and relaxed beach vibe here in Petavi. Slow and purposeful living is a counterpart to the ‘Do No Harm’ philosophy, and I try to put it into action on the daily. A lot of the time it just comes down to respect, pure and simple.