The days were long, but the week was quick. I saw so much. I met a lot of great people that were quick to befriend me, but many would try to sell me something. That bothered me. I felt used just because I was “blan”, or white. But, in the context of Haiti, I get it. We are the ones with the money. They have a need and I can meet that need. It’s the same with Build with the Boyces. We asked strangers and friends to help us. And, their need, and my ability to meet it, is far less a sacrifice on my part…yet there needs to be a line drawn somewhere….like when my money ran out.
I have never said “foto?” so much in my life. It turned into my “thing” and became the tool I used to connect. I first thought at VBS they were well behaved….and they were, but they were also starving. Some, not eating for days until we fed them. They were tired, but many didn’t show it. They were hot, but they still had on their “Sunday” best. Their “best” are things I wouldn’t even think to dress my children in. Clothes that were dirty. Shoes that had holes in them or didn’t fit. Pants that were too small to button. Pajama shirts with jeans that looked like capris. Throw away event t-shirts from the states. You know, the ones you bag up and donate to Salvation Army? Those. Little ballerina outfits as dresses. Torn. Worn. Anything but custom.
And that was their best.
They sang. They played. They colored and even laughed. They smiled. But whenever I would go to take their picture, they would intentionally not smile. They have strong faces. Tough faces. Sad faces. And that makes sense given their reality. The challenge for me was trying to capture both realities.
We wouldn’t think to stop laughing or smiling for a picture. In fact, that is the very thing I spend my life trying to capture when shooting my children. Why do Americans always smile in pictures? I think it’s a cultural mask we all wear to seem like we are happy. Because, even though we have much to be grateful for, I doubt we would say we are always ready to smile. This is something I am trying to process as well.
Babies just pee. Some wear cloth underwear and pee on it, others wear nothing. Smart. Same reason Ellie is naked in the yard back home. In fact, my little baby girl I fell in love with in Haiti peed on me the one time I was able to hold her. She was scared of white people. I get it. Ellie is scared of Isaiah.
There was a girl in the park the last day with special needs. She followed me from the compound to the park. At first, I thought she was going to steal my camera because of the awkward way she came up behind me, but all she wanted was to hold my hand. We held hands to the park and she wiggled right up next to me. She loved my camera, especially the videos. She watched the VBS messages and tried to repeat “God loves you” in Creole. She kept wanting to watch the messages. Then, I video taped her. She loved watching herself smile. I taught her how to push the buttons to replay it and we did that for about 15 minutes. Then, she went to play with the other kids. She couldn’t understand the hand claps and she couldn’t understand the ball game, but she tried. She came back to sit with me. Her dress was so worn it was falling apart when she tried to fix it. She owned no bra. When she did notice her straps falling, she tried to fix it and the dress ripped so I took out my hair clip and bobby pin and fixed it up. Even in Haiti I’m pulling up shirts!
My mind was so foggy this trip. It was like I was low on gas or confused. I couldn’t process at a normal speed. My brain was like the spinning thingy on the computer…thinking….thinking…..thinking….
I was ready to go home. When I landed in the US, I felt proud. I felt grateful. For all the problems we have as a country, I am so thankful for all the things I have. Friends. Family. Drinking water. Ice. Toilet paper in the toilet. A warm shower. No malaria or chicka-munga. No bug spray. Convenience.
Haiti taught me even more about the shared human experience. There are many life experiences we don’t have in common, but we share many things. Like class and rank, like the desire to learn and grow. Like the power of touch and smile. Like creativity and hard work. Like the desire for love and connection.
Jesus is present in Haiti. Maybe even more than America. They have mastered the art of depending on their Heavenly Father for even just their basic needs of food, water, and shelter. Maybe there should be more missions to the rich instead of the poor. We are so self-sufficient aren’t we? We have much to learn.
I have learned more about myself and my interactions with missions. I don’t feel called to Haiti. I wanted so much to fall in love with the people and the country and to be honest, I didn’t. I don’t know if I would want to go back. Everything is difficult and inconvenient. From wiping your butt, to what you can and can’t drink, getting sick, using bug spray, traveling, being sweaty, sticky, icky, dirty, and hot. Quick showers, dark meals, suspect meats….it all is really hard. Even community. As much as I like community, I like space. I like my house. My physical and my mental space.
Many students felt closer to God in Haiti, and I think I felt further away.
I felt rushed. Not enough time to slow down, to process. To be with God because everything, even devotions, were directed.
I struggled with my place in Haiti in a leadership role. At first, felt disconnected because Erik and I were the only leaders that hadn’t been to Haiti. The first night, I broke down. I was tired, hot, and feeling broken as I cried myself to sleep. A good night’s sleep passed that emotion.
I struggled knowing when to step up and when to step back. I felt disconnected at times. I enjoyed being with our leadership team. I am so proud of our students. It was so great to see how they stepped into leadership roles.
I love being home. I love my comforts. I have a deeper level of gratitude for the simple things. Sure, there are still moments where I struggle, mostly as a mother. I desire more than ever, to get better and better at watering my own grass. How can I make my life the best it can be? The grass isn’t greener on the other side. It is beautiful right here.
I am tired. like hit a wall tired. I can’t seem to get motivated to do a whole lot.