I have been back from Haiti for 5 days and still have not acclimated to my American life. For some ridiculous reason, I think every time I return that this will be the trip where it is easier…..but then I have to ask myself the hard questions. If it gets easy, then doesn’t that mean that I have grown numb or uncaring about poverty, lack of clean water, and the scarcity of free education in Haiti? Doesn’t it mean that I have sold out to the lie as long as I am comfortable I can forget the children with nothing to eat and whose parents are dying of easily cured diseases? I truly believe it can never be a smooth transition….and if it comes to the point that it is not a struggle, the people of Haiti need someone different. Someone who cares enough to come back to the US disillusioned by the excess and the waste of the American culture and the lack of opportunities that exists in Haiti.
For the first time, I had the opportunity to journal the whole time I was in Haiti. The journal is called “The Essential Writer’s Notebook” and it has a guide for writing. The portion at the beginning encouraged me to write my “first thoughts.” Not the cleaned up, well-put ones but the ones that come straight from the heart….and here are some pieces of those entries.
I am headed to Haiti. I miss the smells- open fires with beans and rice cooking. The sights- raw beauty and uncensored reality. The sounds- horns honking in the city and the noise fading farther and farther away the higher we climb the mountain.
Every time I board the plane to leave the US I know I am headed for my destiny.
My paradise of purpose.
In the hotel last night we told a lady we were going to Haiti and she asked if we were going snorkeling. The man at the front desk asked if we were going on a cruise. I wanted to sit them both down and tell them from my soul how our trip would be so much more rich and beautiful and tender and true than a ship with lots of food and excursions. I felt that they were being robbed of valuable information by me not telling them. If only they knew the people! The countryside! As I started to explode with what I wanted to tell them, I kept walking. Maybe they don’t want to know but I felt selfish keeping it to myself.
Day Two 7:30 am
I sit and watch people walking by constantly carrying everything they have to make a living. A bag of eggs. A bundle of green onions. And I see two things- desperation and peace. How can they exist simultaneously? One exists because of the other? Or the desperation becomes so overwhelming that peace must enter in or there is no hope? I am not sure but their eyes are unsettling. As I sit and think that I MUST be the world’s greatest philanthropist, I am struck immediately with…..this is their life- every minute of every day. And I enter in at a week or two at a time. I don’t know their suffering. Or their struggles to feed their children everyday. Or the disappointment of the students who graduate from our school in the sixth grade and cannot afford secondary school in the city. Those students who are now working on the farm look at me with such longing to sit in a desk and learn that I become overwhelmed. Burdened. Desperate for answers. My mind begins to reel and then it just becomes a weight I cannot shake.
Today we are headed to the market. I love going there! It is where I get to see friends and meet new ones. It is where I was told that the Haitians call me “good mama” and was the defining moment when I realized that I am exactly where I am supposed to be…but then there is the other side of reality- sometimes I wonder if I can keep doing this work as hard as it. And as I begin to unravel all the reasons why this work is draining and exhausting, I see a smiling face underneath a load of carrots or a uniformed student learning to read and I know this is my calling.
Today we leave to go down the mountain. It is bittersweet. I see in their eyes two things- I appreciate you coming and are you going to leave me here? It is hard and beautiful. Sad and encouraging. Tiring and invigorating. Maddening and settling. My mind feels like chaos and peace. Chaos for what is left to do and peace for what we have already done.
What do the Haitians think when we leave? That we have abandoned them? Do they wonder if we will come back? If we are just part time friends? Or do they know we have given our hearts to them?
Sitting in the airport waiting to go home. Tears are welled up in my eyes. I feel broken. Lost between two worlds. I am leaving so much work unfinished. It is like walking away in the middle of a conversation and wondering how you could have ever aborted the discussion in the midst of something important. In these moments I am not comforted by what we have already accomplished because in this moment they do not cure disease or enroll students in secondary school. Those problems still exist and I go home to the comfort of my home, my over-indulged pets, full pantry, and easy life. Life in the US will never be as difficult as it is in Haiti.
Truths I lave learned to rely on:
Stay true to the calling.
Never stop telling people about the desperate, beautiful people of Haiti.
A comfortable life is not one well-lived. A sacrificial life will leave a mark.
I must be motivated by purpose.
Many entries were left out of this blog because they were too raw and too honest. I would be glad to share them if anyone is interested.