Goodbye Haiti... I Leave Forever Changed
Today is my last full day in Haiti. It's so bitter sweet because while I'm so ready to go and get back to the life I left behind, I also know there is so much to be done here. More than even that, I've build a life for myself here now with friends, favorite hangouts, knowning my way around, and getting used to the culture, the language, the people, and the food. There are so many things I have learned since I've been here. There have been new things I've picked up and other things I'll leave behind.
For the day, I made my final rounds through town on my motorcycle and found a home for many of the things that I pass on to others who will use them. Among those items were the instruments that brought my groups to life... the instruments that my little Katura with the amputated leg first decided to dance to. They will go to the Quisqueya Christian School where other children can play with them for years to come.
The most important way I could spend my day though was with the people here I love and am sad to say goodbye to. I wanted to get away from the noise and chaos at the compound, so I went with a friend to what looked like a pretty decent little hotel. However, as the expression goes... you get what you pay for. The building was half cracked on one side, the electricity came and went, and there was no water. I got in the shower to get cleaned up, went to turn on the faucet and nothing. The lady downstairs brought me up a 5 gallon bucket and a scoop and said that was my shower. It worked alright, and reminded me of how excited I am to return home to warm, running, clean water. I had to brush my teeth with toothpaste and a bottle of Sprite. Yum! When it came to eat dinner, the "restaurant" downstairs didn't have any food. Some young boy went down the street and bought us fried bananas and some kind of fried root. We ate on the floor while watching a fuzzy French soap opera. It's experiences like these that make me so grateful to have the life I will be returning to.
Here's a list of just some of the things that come to mind... things that we take for granted that I am so grateful to have: Continous power, clean water, reliable transportation, my SUV, relatively cheap gas (compared to $5 a gallon here), cold milk, hot showers, short lines, quickness and efficiency, phones that work, safety, clean air (at least in Minnesota), emergency rooms where you can get care no matter what, sanitary hospitals, free education, access to student loans, clean streets, 24 hour stores, fast food, street lights, air conditioning, entertainment like movie theatres and theme parks, parking spots, trustworthy police, functional democracy, ambulances, no earthquakes, sturdy buildings, minimum wages, my home, animals that serve as pets not just food, green trees, clean rivers and lakes, washing machines, cable tv, green grass, garbage cans, recycling, community, barbeques, my church, reliable and quick internet access, microwaves, good plumbing, paved streets, nice sidewalks, landscaping, bookstores, coffee shops, hiking trails, bike paths, welfare, food stamps, community support programs, libraries, taxes, parades, sturdy construction, beauty salons, massage parlors, yoga studios, gyms, playgrounds, flavored coffee, flavored coffee creamer, American currency, camping as a vacation and not as a living arrangement, bubble baths, toilets that flush, interstates, atms, carpet, wood floors, neighborhoods, common language, traffic rules, post offices, pizza deliver, Chinese takeout, public transportation, shopping malls, gumball machines, Dr. Pepper, lottery tickets, bowling alleys, free refills, of course my family and my friends, and the list could go on and on.
The bottom line is that we are so blessed, beyond belief, yet we so easily want to whine and complain and get upset when any one of these things in our perfect little life doesn't work the way we expect it to. Maybe you run out of gas, but at least you have a car. Maybe your toilet gets plugged, but there are 24 hour plumbers that you can call. Perhaps, you get sick, at least there are doctors that can treat you. Maybe you hate your job, but at least you have one. The truth is that we are blessed probably beyond what we really deserve. If we had less then places like Haiti would probably have more. If we consumed less, shared more, spent less, contributed more, reduced waste, and increased productivity, then perhaps the world would be a bit more equitable of a place for everyone. Perhaps the whole planet would be covered in green grass, everyone's stomaches would be full, clean water would be in abundance, and every child would go to sleep feeling loved. I don't know what the solution is, but I do know that it's certainly not about a better life or a worse life, just a different one. It's not that those of us who have need to feel guilty for the sake of those who have not, but rather that we treasure the things we are gifted with and remember to thank our Lord for providing us with abundance. It sounds silly, but you know how its a tradition for many to say grace before eating and thank God for your food? What if we said grace before we took a hot shower, before we got in our cars and went to our jobs, before we went to watch a movie? What if every moment of our lives we treasured as if it truly were our last, as if it were a gift, as it were an enormous blessing? Perhaps then we would be more conscious of what we have, how we use it, and how we share it.
Today I leave Haiti. I close a major chapter in my life and await to find out what God has in store for me next. What a long, strange, amazing, challenging, and unforgettable experience this has been. I cried today as I said goodbye to some of those I have come to love the most. I don't want to say farewell, but I know it is time for me to return to the life I left behind. There are responsibilities and new opportunities that await me. But, I leave here a new person with new perspective on life.
I leave here changed. It's been an enormously long 2 and a half months. I've seen dead bodies line the street, seen babies born, watched babies die, held mothers who have lost their children, treated gunshot wounds and children hit by cars, watched children cry, helped children smile, been in several earthquakes, been scared to go to sleep, and grateful to see another day. I've seen the worst in people and the best in people. I've let myself buckle with both grief and joy. I've been on planes, motorcycles, boats, and crazy bus rides with baskets of chickens at my feet. I've celebrated Easter with a group of parentless children. I've watched amputations and seen many regain the confidence to walk. I've seen tragedy and I've seen miracles. I've prayed for others and been the one others prayed for. I've been sick, I've felt recharged, exhausted and motivated. I've eaten everything from goat to lobster fresh from the sea. I've crawled beneath the rubble of fallen homes and walked atop the flattened roofs of multistory buildings. I've felt unsafe at times and other times felt at home. I've met some people I'd be happy to never cross paths with again and others I hope to walk beside for a lifetime. I've experienced frustration, inspiration, dedication, and constipation. I've been angry with God at times and yet amazed at his love, compassion, and grace. I've been a follower of his call and a leader for others to join. My bed has consisted of everything from a tent inside a crumbling house, a hammock,the floor of a 5th grade classroom, to a CT-scan machine. I've had IVs, given IVs, sedated patients and wished I could have been sedated. I've been through the slums and stood in the back of the palace waving as president Bush and his convoy arrived. There have been moments I've had to step outside my comfort level and opportunities to offer comfort to those without. I've walked through cemetaries, sanitoriums, abandoned hospitals, and rum factories. I've been a counselor, a nurse, a doctor, an anesthesiologist, a mother, a friend, an organizer, a teacher, and a student of life. I've rescued children, transported orphans, and watched people take their last breath. I've learned a little Creole and French and taught a little English. I've taken nearly 10,000 pictures and been in quite of few of others as well. I've been frustrated, rewarded, experienced community and other days felt alone. I have been changed forever! I look forward to returning to my life I left behind and merging these lessons learned with my life that awaits me. I also look forward to one day returning to Haiti to find a stronger, sturdier, more hopeful country filled with people who have continued to allow themselves to have God's grace showered upon them.