Well, I’m clearly not the most consistent when it comes to this thing, but alas, we’ve arrived at blog number 4. I’ve been working through a rough spot in my spirituality and haven’t really felt like processing with other humans yet. Truth be told, I was reluctant to even process with myself. It, like the chaos that’s been happening around me in this beautiful country, did not make sense. For those of you who may not know, during the last two and a half weeks of my language school, Haiti was heated by more than the sun. There were road blocks, tire burnings, kids out of school (it’d be unsafe to go), and several protests nationwide. The majority of the people want the president to leave (go into exile). When I arrived in Haiti, it was 73 gourdes to the U.S. dollar, at the height of this “Manifestation” (demonstrations) it was 100 gourdes to the U.S. dollar in some places. We’re at a point where it is cheaper to buy imported U.S. rice than local, Haitian rice. This is not good as it means money is not being kept in Haiti, circulating among the people. It also nods to the fact that the U.S. has made it difficult for Haiti to reap benefits from taxes, as they’ve been forced to keep them low at the demands of our government. So, without realizing what was happening, the external storm around me heightened the internal storm within. I was frustrated.
Frustrated because these people have been so pushed to their limits by the greed of the upper class and first world countries. Frustrated because these road blocks and danger meant that some people couldn’t even get to the hospital to seek medical aid and as a result, several innocents have lost their lives. Frustrated because I realized what was happening all around me and was yet so limited in what I could do to support them. It was a hard moment, one that served as a humbling reminder of my vast limitations as a 23 year old from the United States in a country on fire with frustration the likes of which I’ve never had to know. I’m still grappling with this, and I think that’s another reason I haven’t returned to the blog in a hot minute. I don’t want to be overly negative, I sincerely want to avoid that as there’s enough in the world to go around. Yet I also feel I have a responsibility to myself, my family, and my friends that view this to be honest in this process. I promised my mom and dad I’d always level with them here, so this is my attempt. I’m frustrated folks, boy am I frustrated; however, you know your girl is not giving up. I’m strapping on the boots and marching through, hand in hand with my Haitian family. We will reach the summit, we’re just in a hard leg of the climb.
Well, even in the midst of chaos, confusion, and frustration, I still like to have a good time with the people I love. To thank my instructors and their families for all they’ve done for me in that past six weeks with them, I hosted a party. I may have overestimated my abilities to get it all together in time, but that was okay. You see, my family here, just like mine back home would have, supported and guided me my whole time there. It got to the day of the party and there was much to prepare. I wanted to cook traditional Haitian food to celebrate the culture that has so endearingly opened it’s heart to me. Well, just to prepare everything took about six and a half hours. I thought four of us would be a fine number, I thought wrong! Fortunately one of my instructors, who is a sister to me now, called in some wonderful reinforcements and we got it done. We worked on the food they’d all had a hand in teaching me to make over the past weeks and I showed them how to make daiquiris with fresh fruit and Haitian rum (SO GOOD!). Ice would have been beautiful, but because electricity is a dream most days, it was not to be found ANYWHERE. Carla and I looked at five different places in town and no one had it! Fortunately, because your girl overestimated herself and Haitian time is much less strict than U.S. time for parties, the 40 beers I had ready were cool enough by the time the party started. Just to illustrate, I said 4:30. We did not start until 7:30. So that happened, haha! Fortunately everyone was understanding and it truly was a beautiful night.
It began as most Haitian parties do, with speeches. I started with my thank you speech, which I’d written ahead of time in Creole and which Carla kindly looked over to make sure it was perfect. I was nervous and tripped over some words, but we all laughed about it and they listened with the same love and patience they’d shown me since day one. Unbeknownst to me, my instructors and some family members also planned some closing thoughts for me. I was touched deeply by their love, encouragement, and belief in what I’m doing. It was so affirming and one of those moments you want to linger in as long as possible because they contain so much beauty and human vulnerability. I was showered with gifts from my sisters here, I received beautiful earings, a necklace, and some shoes. Their continued generosity wrapped me in so much love. In typical enneagram 2 fashion, that night I sat from a point where I could watch everyone and make sure they were well. Everyone was relaxed, laughing, debating politics, eating, drinking, and simply existing together. I live for those moments, where the people I love can come together around a meal and just be themselves with people that love and support them. We’d all been talking about what was going on, but there was hope dripping on every word, and at the end of the party, we talked of our dreams for Haiti. We ended in a prayer of love and hope and light and then we hugged one another. It was truly a spectacular night full of love and affirmation all around, with humans I will hold in my heart forever!
In the time I’ve given myself to reflect, I often return to one of my favorite faith songs, “Oceans” by Hillsong United. In this past month of continued learning, humbling, and searching, I’ve seen the utter necessity of trusting. That is a difficult thing for an A-type personality who likes planning for every variable and has three back-up plans ready to use at any moment. To trust is in some ways is to surrender. The fact remains that many days (especially since returning to Gros Morne) I move along and question how I’m ever going to get this, and who am I to try to be doing what I’m doing. If you’ve spent a day with me, you likely know a few things: I love to talk, I love the gift of other humans in my life, and I can be terribly impatient with myself. I can understand a lot of Creole, though sometimes I have to ask someone to say it slower. I have an ever expanding vocabulary, but I’m timid in trying to use it. I don’t want to make mistakes.
I know, this is something I’m working on getting over, usually with a shared laugh among my kids. The students at the school I hope to work with are the biggest highlight of my weekdays. Their curiosity about this new white giant who likes to mix up her adjectives and nouns is adorable. They are big blessings, for they remind me in the hard moments of why I want to do what I do. Education is a beautiful and empowering relationship between a teacher and his/her students. I believe that every child deserves a good education. I believe that every child deserves someone to champion them, deserves someone who stands in their corner and believes in the infinite possibilities that exist within them. Some days it’s like trying to uplift a brick wall, but is that not a reflection of our Creator with us? It is no coincidence that we, like students, are sometimes asked to trust the process (even without seeing how exactly we’ll get to the end result) and recognize that we’re believed in, even if we can’t always see it in ourselves. This is not to say do so without questioning. Questions arise all the time and that’s so okay! It’s just a matter of not losing heart in that questioning. Therein lies the gift of other humans in our lives, we are uplifted always, especially when we fall under our own weight. We have others who-without question-shoulder us in our hard spots. There will be times were the struggle is real and we feel like we’re not even on the struggle bus, but the damn thing is running us over. Yet, as long as we have air in our lungs, we’re not done yet. We can and must choose to keep pursuing the good in the world and trust that the lives we’ve been given have purpose.
And so I trust. I trust and know that I am loved. I trust and know that even though right now I have the speaking ability of a five year old and the comprehension of a fifth grader (MAYBE!), I will get the language in my time. I trust and know that I will continue to develop relationships with the people here and be blessed by them. I trust and acknowledge that God has me here with a purpose in mind, and I trust that, without knowing the fine details. I don’t need details, I simply need to trust that if God’s asked nothing else of me in this beautiful life of mine, it is this: I was made for love. I was made to love others, to see their good, to see God in them, to wonder at the unique beauty that radiates within them. If then I accept this purpose, I know the rest will fall in line. I need only press on in the journey.
This love extends also to this big blue planet we’re blessed to call home. Y’all, deforestation is a real deal crisis, but not one without hope. As beautiful as Haiti is, imagine how much more breathtaking she was before her mountains were stripped to pay the French for beating them in the Revolution. (Yeah, the Haitians legitimately had to/still do pay the French for damages-including loss of slaves. Despicable.). Haitians also use wood to make charcoal, which is the main cooking source. I’m grateful for reforestation efforts across the world, especially here on this beautiful island! Please do your part to keep our planet safe and turn back the clock on damage like this. It takes very little to get started, and everyone has the power to help!
I pray you’re all well on your journeys, whatever that looks like for you. I pray you trust in the process of life. I pray especially you know how deeply you are loved! May God continue to bless and protect you. I hope this next week brings you peace and many reasons to show the world your smiles. Be blessed my loves. – Agape