Thursday, September 29, 2011

I’ve only been in Haiti for almost a week now, but it has been such an adventure already. On our arrival we were picked up by the owner of an orphanage that is close to ours in his truck, Ryan myself and another Haitian fellow rode in the back while others rode in the front. First off, people drive extremely crazy down here, there are no rules of the road whatsoever… but its so awesome! Dodging and passing, stopping and flooring it, weaving in and out of cars, motorcycles and elaborately painted tap-taps, coming inches away from people and animals who don’t even flinch! Then out of no where, we would go over kitty pool sized pot holes and I would literally be launched into the air and almost out of the truck along with all of our luggage! But the most exhilarating part of it all was my first view of Haiti and the town of Port-Au-Prince itself. The earth quake caused catastrophic damage throughout the country, beautiful architectures all or half in rubble or hardly noticeable behind the poverty that masks them. It is eerily sad, but in its own way beautiful at the same time. Tents shacks, and mounds of garbage are in your view every which way you turn, family's lining the streets selling anything they can to make a few gourdes to try and create at least an illusion of making a living. And all the time you could hear music playing. At one point during the drive we had to turn around because up the street was a huge riot we had to avoid. Eventually as we made our way our of the city and closer to Leogane, we began to feel a few drops of rain, then suddenly… it was POORING! Let me remind you that I was in the open back end of the tuck as well as all of our luggage! We were completely soaked in the matter of seconds. But before the fact that it registered in my head that our things were getting drenched, it felt amazing. I couldn’t help but out stretch my arms, close my eyes and turn my head up to the heavens thanking Allah. Already having steady prayers being muttered throughout the car ride, having the warm rain shower was so unexpected and liberating in a way, I felt like he was just giving me a preview of what is to come. Eventually when we got to the house and our things were all over the ground to dry, Nichole realized that a sum of money was stolen out of her wallet when her bag was left in the truck without any of us in view. The driver is/was considered a good friend. It taught me a lesson that I need to be very careful down here, everyone is so friendly and it’s in my nature to want to see and believe the good in people. But looks are deceiving, everyone is desperate here, and when someone is in conditions like this it makes even the best beings do bad things.

My first full day here we went to pick up Gup and Sota (the dog) at the orphanage not very far from ours. It was a nice walk, there are paths that go by and through peoples yards so I got my first real peek of Leogane and how it’s people live. Chickens and goats run free everywhere, everyone is outside sitting, talking, laughing, relaxing, no rush to do any thing… my kind of people. We would stop to talk to them briefly and continue along the path. Once we got to the orphanage, we saw sota and she was so very skinny. I met some of the girls who will be the ones that I will be teaching classes to twice a week starting next week. I have really been getting out and  meeting the people, they are all kind and some already know me by name, calling at me when I walk by. I am trying my best to learn Creole and there are people more than willing to help, there are two teenage girls in particular that live close by who always ask for me to come over just to sit and teach me. People like to touch my hair and pinch my little nose, but I really don’t mind. Since I’ve been here I have been to a total of three orphanages. My favorite thing to do is to just sit in the group of children and give them my love and undivided attention. Playing with them, hugging and kissing them until it’s time for us to leave, it is so incredibly amazing for me. I wish I could sufficiently explain the things I have seen and how it makes me feel, but powerful things as such seem near to impossible to put in words. And maybe that’s because they are things that shouldn’t be explained, but experienced by all. I also feel like that is going to be the case for many experiences that I will encounter in these months to come so bare with me if posts are vague.

We get around to places to far for walking by motorcycles driven by guys for money, they are everywhere and its about fifty cents American for a ride. I love motorcycle rides and it is so fun to see the town on one! The first night we went to eat in a restaurant, it is all outside and open with beautiful tropical vegetation all around us. It was my first taste of authentic Haitian food and I‘ve been a sucker for it ever since! A typical dish usually consists of either chicken, beef, pork or goat, (I’ve tried them all but the pork which I don’t eat, and the goat has been my favorite so far!) with a side of fried plantains, pikliez, (coleslaw looking thing that you eat as a topping that is spicy) and pate( pickliez with a meat inside of a dough patty). Haitian cooking has soon became some of my favorite food, they deep fry everything so I really don’t think I will have to worry about losing weight down here... I have had the pleasure of being able to walk just down the street for a full meal that only costs about two American dollars. It is so beautiful here, it is a paradise but it’s hard see behind such desperation and poverty. The plants and flowers are lush and green, sky’s the bluest of blues and almost every night a thunder and lightning storm that will light up the whole sky but will eventually clear off revealing the night sky and millions of clear stars. There all sorts of animals and insects that look and sound so different than the ones back home. But that’s not always a good thing…  I have screamed and almost pooped my pants countless times because of all of the disgusting spiders, rats, snakes and cockroaches! I’ve made an effort to remind myself to keep my mouth closed when I sleep… I’ve heard that things crawls in your mouth when you don’t know it and I certainly don’t want any of those yucky things up in my business. It makes me twitch just thinking about it!

The first night I was here I met a neighbor named Jackson who can speak English fairly well. He asked if I would be willing to help him with his English, and of course, I said I would. Yesterday was the first day that I went over for a “lesson”, he pretty much just needs to have conversations for practice and someone who can help him with words sometimes and pronunciation. I’m good at listening and even better at talking, so it went very well. But the reason why I am talking about it now is the topic that consumed our time. Jackson is very passionate about his country and his people. Haiti has had a devastating history of poverty, corruption and violence and at this point, the future is not looking different. The people have gotten themselves into a routine that has been passed down through generations. Jackson has a dream to change this  routine and he is making it his purpose to do so. He is creating a program with the premises of educating his people in ways that they can single handedly start to make this change, and showing them that there is hope for them yet. He is beginning this movement by first educating representatives from the thirteen areas of Leogane and having them go back into their community and spreading the vision of a better Haiti and that this vision needs to start with them, the people. If they may not live to see a significant change, then their children might, or their children. But it has to start now.  He really stressed to me that the people don't take into consideration the consequences that their actions are having on the environment and themselves. He says that it has been one way for so long that the people don’t know any better and don’t see hope for a better future. As he was telling me this, I began to get very excited and had a lot of input and ideas. He has asked if I wanted to help with the project and set up a presentation that I would be able to present to the people. I brought up the obvious problem that I barely know any Creole, but he said that was not a problem for he has interpreters for me. He said that having an outsider as a spokesperson along with the locals could really make an influence on the people. Jackson is a respected member in the community and he has ties with officials such as the mayor. I think this project has genuine potential because he is passionate and driven and he has the means that is making his project a reality. I feel like making his acquaintance, which led me to become involved in this, may be a part of why i felt this calling to Haiti. In just the few days I have been here I have fallen in love with it’s people. They are one of a kind and I feel great love and compassion for them. And if he thinks that I will be able to help make a difference, even in the smallest of ways, then damn it, I’m going to do my best to do just that. I hope that it will all work out. 

I’ve made it a habit of sleeping outside on a cot. It’s a bit cooler at night and its nice to see the nights sky and hear all of the sounds of the animals.I feel better outside, I think it’s because it’s really hard for me at nights already… and looking up at the sky I have to think that my loved ones are looking at it as well, and even though they are so very far away, it is the same sky none the less. To everyone back home, if you get the chance to lay out under the stars at night, please do, and know that I am thinking of and missing you. That way, in a way… we are doing it together.
Until next time…

1 comment:

Sheila Peraza said...

Wow what an adventure already.. I am so proud of you!! Sounds like you are jumping right in, just like I knew you would:) Your fear of not making a difference or having an impact is so far from the reality! Know that you are loved so much and I am praying for you nonstop.... Be well sweetheart~ Mom