At the time of writing this, I’ve been back in the states for a full week. Normally over the course of that time, I’ve got a good idea on what I’m going to write about in my Haiti recap. But the words haven’t really come to me this time.
Honestly, I still have a hard time answering “how was your trip,” with the best thing I’ve come up with being “heart-filling but also heart-breaking.” That may be a step up from “good,” sure, but to fully describe what I’ve seen, what I’ve experienced in mere words is impossible.
I think part of the reason why I’m having a harder than usual time with this trips is thanks to how much I experienced. I and one other person had the opportunity to go down a few days ahead of the rest of the team and spend some time immersing ourselves further in Haitian culture. My friend, Sarah, who I met on the June trip, was to stay with one of our translators, Wesner, and his family. And I was going to stay at one of the orphanages we’ve invested heavily in, the one ran by Pastor Oscar. I got dropped off there on Friday afternoon and was supposed to stay there until Monday when the rest of the team arrived.
I made it one day.
If I had to pick one word to describe this trip, overwhelming is probably the one I’d pick. I experienced so many new things, so different from what I’m used to. My emotions threatened to overtake me and I fought a total shut down throughout the rest of the week.
To give you an idea of what it was that caused this overwhelming mess of emotions: I had a decent idea on what to expect going in. I knew that there was no running water or constant source of power at the orphanage or in most places around the country. But actually living in it…you can know everything there is about life in Haiti or any country like it, but actually experiencing it for even a brief period of time challenged so much about what I thought I knew.
A shower consisted of quickly soaping yourself up and dumping a bucket of water over your head. I like taking long showers, as that’s a place where I do a lot of processing, hence the name “Shower Thoughts.” It may seem like a petty thing, but that kind of hit me hard. The lack of running water also meant flushing a toilet is much more arduous than what I’m used to. Another bucket was kept nearby and after you take care of business, you pour water down the commode. And you know that “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; brown, flush it down” thing some people say here in the states? That’s what they have to do in Haiti.
For those that are connected to the power grid in Haiti, there’s always a chance you’re the power will go out for an unknown amount of time. To be honest, I’m not sure if Oscar’s place is even hooked up or not. Regardless, he has a pair of generators to provide power for his place. Even then, they aren’t kept on all day, so the window for lights, fans, TV, or charging your phone is so limited.
In addition to the incredibly different way of life, I also had a bit of an emotional breakdown. I don’t want to go into too much detail about this and turn the blog into my diary or anything, but I have lots of issues with loneliness and isolation. And, yes, I know that it’s incredibly ironic that someone as quiet as me has those types of issues.
I do want to clarify, Oscar and his kids were all very welcoming to me. Oscar opened his place up to me, gave me a special room of my own, and we had a few good conversations. I spent a good amount of time playing with some of his boys. But Oscar was the only one who spoke much English. The kids and I could still communicate to some degree, but not being able to hold a conversation with them on my own was hard. I was cut off from basically everything I knew.
In desperation, I found a way to add a few days on international data to my phone just to have some contact with my world. In a text, I mentioned to Sarah how I was having a really hard time with all of it. Wesner offered to come pick me up and after a war in my mind on what to do, I went to spend the rest of the weekend with his family.
Truth be told, I still don’t know how I feel about that decision. I really enjoyed my time with Wesner’s family and got to see a side of Haiti I never have before. But on the other hand, I can’t help but think what awesome things could’ve happened had I stayed. Part of me thinks I could have made it, that I was weak to leave like I did. I wrestled with the haunting accusations from this ghost so much over the rest of the trip. Even now that I’m back, I still hear it echo in my mind every now and again.
When Wesner and Sarah picked me up, we still had time to go out and do things before bed time. Wesner and his family live in Pour-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. Normally, we book it out of the airport and don’t really see much of the city. After spending a couple of days there, I think that’s a crying shame as there is a lot of beauty and so much to see and learn there. I typically don’t care for big city environments, but I fell a little bit in love with what I saw.
My time with Wesner’s family was chock full of interesting things. While I was there, we stopped at a cross between Walmart and a mall, went to the church Wesner goes to, saw the school Wesner’s kids attend, and met lots of Wesner’s and Ingride’s (his wife) family. Over the course of the few days, I experienced so many new things and met lots of new people.
One of my favorite stops was at the Haiti history museum. I honestly didn’t know much about their history, so the opportunity to learn more about the country that’s stolen a part of my heart was such an amazing experience. The entire history of the country is pretty crazy. Seeing how much the people of Haiti have had to endure over the years really gave me a new respect for them.
Another interesting part of the weekend was the couple’s ministry Wesner and Ingride started. It’s basically small group of couples – dating, engaged, or wed – that come together to do life together. They rotate between the couples on who runs an individual gathering. On this particular night, the presenting couple talked about the importance of quality time with your significant other, shared a recipe, gave a presentation on computers, played a couple of games, and had an all-around good time. That’s what their group exists for – to give couples an outlet to connect and build relationships with others and develop life skills together. I did start shutting down at the end – I was tired, the weight of my decision to leave was at its heaviest, and I don’t do the best in new, loud social environments – but that night was definitely something I’ll remember for a long time.
I feel like that last sentence applies to the whole weekend. It was a very hard weekend for me, a time where I was the farthest I’ve ever been from my comfort zone. But it was an experience I can never forget. That weekend challenged my view on so many things. I see now more than ever how blessed I am but how much I take for granted. Was making it through that weekend a struggle? Absolutely. But if given the chance, I’d do it again in a heart-beat.
Of course, so much happened on the trip after the weekend came to a close. But that will have to wait ‘til next time.