It’s taken me a minute to return to the blog. There has been much that has happened in the almost two weeks since the last post and many thoughts have been roaming around my head. As with life in any place, and in any state of transition, the road is full of moments of trial and of triumph. I continue to grow in my language development and relationships with my instructors and their families. I am excited to attempt-key word being “attempt”-to cook some of the amazing, traditional Haitian food I’ve had here for them on my last night here in just 3 WEEKS! (Where has the time gone?!
Tomorrow I leave the guest house at the language school to begin a home stay with one of my instructors for the first half of the week and then I get to stay with another for the second half. I am so excited for this opportunity! It will assuredly be challenging and there will be moments when I ask God what I’ve gotten myself into, because I’m like a kindergartner when it comes to sentence structure here! Just so, I will grow so much in the next week and the challenges in these stays will be really good for my development. A prevailing theory of language (and other things as well) is that you rely more on what you’ve learned when you really have to use it. This is logical, but a little intimidating. I have been improving my skills with the language since arriving here a month ago, but I’ve also had a lot of English in the mix as well. Alas, I’m hoping my brain really kicks into gear and this week is fruitful!
Of the more exciting things I’ve experienced here, the prevailing mode of transportation has to be one of them. Motos (motorcycles) are the fasted and most cost effective option for travel in town. It’s an exhilarating experience getting on the back of a moto, and zipping around the winding roads and through traffic full of tap taps (truck taxis that convert the beds into a covered area with benches; they’re beautifully decorated and almost always have a religious name or expression on them). It’s always interesting to see how the drivers communicate with one another, at first they seem angry, but they’re usually just ribbing each other. Oh, and a honk here isn’t some slightly passive aggressive act like it often is in the states! It’s the way of saying, “I’m here! Please mind me!” For anyone wondering, yes I am safe and I pay attention on the motos, but I do look at the beauty that surrounds me going through the mountain roads. They’re too gorgeous of views not to let myself be mesmerized. All of the drivers I’ve had are truly amazing and know these places quite well. They have to, there’s not really any street addresses like we have in the states. For those that have asked, this is why I haven’t given out an address, I legitimately don’t have one. Don’t worry, we’re working on figuring that part out. I digress. At any rate, I continue to feel freedoms here that I can’t help but associate with this country and where she’s come from, and beautiful Haiti is far more than the single story many of us have grown up hearing.
How many of us who have heard about Haiti have only heard about three things (if that)? 1) Haiti is the poorest country in the western world. 2) over 300,000 people lost their lives in a horrific earthquake and more than 1.5 million were displaced in the aftermath. 3) They are a poor people that have been abused by one leader/dictator after another. We all know those three things are accurate, no one here or who has paid attention will argue those facts. What I want to open the door for discussion to, is that these three facts are often the only ones people around the world could tell you about. My friends, that is a weighty tragedy. What if materialism, the horror of 9/11, and corrupt officials was all the United States was known for?
The damage in a single story is just that, one story. We get fed one story over and over and over again until that’s all we know about a subject. I’m not trying to be negative or fatalistic. On the contrary, I want to introduce those of you who are not yet aware, of the plethora of wonders Haiti holds. A vibrant people, who although struggling from dire conditions, are extremely hard working and have a joy and love for life unlike that I have seen in many places. A people with unparalleled strength and resilience born from slavery and the fighting for freedom from it. From this, they earned the title as a country won in one of the only successful slave revolts in history, and the only one that dared go against Napoleon’s military and WIN! A people who, despite being repeatedly abused by world powers left and right, continue to work toward a better day tomorrow than they had today. I have been welcomed here, even though I descend from one of the world powers that caused so much death and harm. I have been taught so much here, many things I could not learn in my comfy first world life. I have seen the world through the eyes of the mighty Haitians, and where one may initially expect to find an understandable bitterness, frustration, and chagrin, one instead finds hope, beauty, and generous wisdom. The knowledge that flows from my Haitian family is hypnotic, just look at the many proverbs they have, the lessons they hold are treasures! Well, some are simply good for a laugh, but is that not itself a medicine at times?!
“Dan pa kè.” Literally translated it reads something to the effect, “a smile is not a heart.” This is to say that even though we see people on their outside, i.e. a smiling face, we know little to nothing of what dwells within. A person could be burdened on the inside and appear fine on the outside. The fact remains is that we don’t often get to see one another’s hearts, and sometimes all we get to know is the smile a person shows us. A big lesson we’ve all probably heard but is good to be reminded of, is that in a world where you can be many things, be kind, be patient, be understanding. It’s free and we never know what these gifts of ours mean in the life of another. Throw these things around like confetti!
Although a light-hearted expression, I mean it sincerely. You see, this is the part in which I discuss my “umph” in the “tri.” My heart got broken for the first time here, and I’m still in some ways struggling through it all. About a week ago, one of the bright young men in the community around my language school lost his father. His name is Whitney. This teenager lost his father to senseless violence. His dad was just doing his job as a police officer and got shot in the line of duty during one of the conflicts that continue to happen here as a result of corruption. This young man is part of a group of young people (age 5-35) here that works every week on debates, plays, and many other advancement activities. It is evident these young people are the future leaders Haiti needs. I bring this group up because despite my anger in this situation, these young people rendered me speechless for a completely different reason. Not even three days after a family lost a father, they organized to go to Whitney’s home together and offer their support and condolences. They prayed over the family and talked of how great Whitney is, and how that happens as a result of amazing parents. They uplifted the family in what is an unfathomably dark time.
I had the privilege to see this groups election my first week in language school. Young Whitney ran in the competition, among his dear friends. The group is extremely impressive and I feel privileged to get to see them work. This amazing community-in-action movement I saw made a hard pill easier to swallow. The pill I had to swallow? A combination of seeing a young man lose his father in a horrific way and knowing that in some ways, my country has generated the problems here that lead to such violence. Some of the laws former President Clinton passed to win favor with republicans exiled gang members and like criminals to places like the Caribbean Islands. That fueled by the United States and France’s continued unasked for involvement here has led to corruption and illegal activities running rampant here. One of the many unanswered questions that come from catastrophes like this is who is supplying the weapons? Amidst this frustration and the hard-hitting sorrow I feel for this young man and his family, I don’t want the focus to be on the negative, but nor can I downplay it. So, in my small way, I am trying to honor Whitney’s father with the following poem. Please keep him in your prayers and thoughts as well as the world, that we may all be a little kinder, a little more understanding, and a little more loving each day. And to children, tell your parents you love them. To parents, tell your kids what you need them to hear. To us all, live a life that does not take for granted the blessed moments we have with those we love.
A young man has lost his father,
A wife in desolation weeps,
A community’s been shaken,
As another innocent’s life was taken.
A hard working man,
Just trying to upkeep justice,
Was murdered behind his shield,
Because this violence will not yield.
And the world just keeps on turning,
While their world halts on its axis,
Good Sir, I did not get to meet you,
But know I will never forget you!
Dear soul, how could I when I see them?
These remarkable youths who dearly love your son,
Who surround your family with their hearts,
Your community a whole, and they the growing parts.
Rest easy gentle soul and father,
And rest assured of these:
Your family is safe and uplifted here,
And your people will rise against any dark fear,
That would utter oppression,
Or savor a lonely isolation.
For, like you, a loving father gone,
Every Haitian is strong.
And smile with pride as your son becomes,
All that he can in this world of promise.
The sun will not long set on him,
Nor the light of his heart stay dim,
For coming from such strength as yours’
Strength courses through him evermore.
And he will rise again and again,
And better the world,
one step at a time.
GOD BLESS AND PROTECT THEM ALWAYS. ABBA, BRING HIM HOME. BRING HEALING AND PEACE TO YOUR HURTING PEOPLE. MAY WE ALL COME TO THE LOVE THE WAY YOU INTENDED. AGAPE. AMEN.
The day I was really struggling with what happened to Whitney’s father, I think in some strange way, God was giving me a release from my powerful emotions. If it hit you hard too, I hope you can at least find some release in my next story. I just hope yours is more from laughter than screams. After you read what happened that night, you’ll hopefully understand what I mean. Also, you won’t like this if you have arachnophobia.
You guessed it, ANOTHER spider story. Here we go: I had worn boots that day because we had been out to visit some friends that were higher up in the mountains. I love love love my hiking boots, but at the end of the day, I want to be free of any shoes! No big deal right? FALSE, THAT IS ABSOLUTELY FALSE ON THIS ISLAND… WHAT WAS I HECKIN* THINKING???????????
I go from the director’s house to my room in the guest house (same complex, right next to each other). I have my boots in one hand, a flashlight and bag full of art stuff in the other. I can see ahead but for once, I’m not looking down. My room is located at the end of the hall before the showers and indoor outhouses. There’s a slight turn to go into my room (eight feet, maybe). So as I turn to reach my door, I step on something and hear a “crunch.” Remember I am HECKIN BAREFOOT HERE!! I don’t think anything of it at first, because we get leaves in the hall all the time. I set my stuff on the table nearby my door (not in my room, thank God!). I turn with my flashlight and see a young black tarantula instead of a dry leaf. I did this little shriek and danced on my feet as my SOUL LEFT MY BODY!
Then, after I regained my soul and composure, I saw that my big foot broke him but didn’t kill him. I remember thinking great, now I’m responsible for it’s suffering. There was no way he would have made it and I really didn’t want him to suffer. Honestly, I’ve gotten to the point where I would have just scooted him outside if I had seen him. Here the separation of our world indoors and theirs outdoors is less defined than back home. Unfortunately, I didn’t see him. I gave him a swift end with my boot and told God that was not a cool move for curing my personal space issues with the little 8 legged creepers. God and I continue to work out how best to get me to get along with them. I’ll keep you posted…
Well homies, there you have it. Blog number 3 full of good times, hard times, and the spider chronicles (though I really hope that’s as bad as it gets because I CANNOT keep encountering the little hellions like this. I will cry. Okay? Okay.) Alrighty my dudes, I hope this next week is blessed and fruitful. I love you all and hope you find kindness and love in new ways every day. May the peace and love of our Beautiful Creator bless you always. Agape homies!