I don’t know if it was motion sickness or seeing sights I had never seen before, but it wasn’t 30 minutes into Haiti, I was on the side of the road dry heaving, trying not to breathe in sewage smells.
What am I doing here?
Nothing prepared me for the sights of side-by-side shacks, the array of tents, loads of trash, naked babies, and people urinating in the street. I probably had slight motion sickness from our car hitting a million potholes / dodging other cars & people but I’m sure it mostly had to do with the initial culture shock I was experiencing because my Young Living Peppermint Oil wasn’t helping.
I had put a lot of focus and energy into preparing for Haiti while simultaneously losing nights of sleep trying to imagine what I was about to stumble into but nothing prepared me for Port-au-Prince and what felt like a war zone.
Now that I’m back home “processing” like everyone said I’d do, the lack of traffic laws is one of the things I miss the most. #ohtheirony
How did I get here?
Matt and I crossed paths a year ago, allowing this trip to evolve. The timing, planning, and experience were strategically & perfectly woven together.
Matt asked before we even arrived Haiti if I was ready to go back home. I quickly fell in love with the beauty of Haiti, but he continued to ask me the same question every day we were there. My answer was always, no I’m not ready to go home, even as we were leaving to come home on our last day. His question eventually transitioned to, “would you move here?”
I was a robot to most of his questions. TBH, his questions had no depth to me.
Towards the end of our trip, he’d ask how I was feeling. What does that even mean? (not a typical response coming from an enneagram type four)
“Do you have any regrets?” What? No. Things (life) just felt so simple in Haiti. There were no complex feelings needing to be explained…at least not in that moment.
After the initial shock, you realize peeing on the side of the street is a privilege. There are two types of beer to choose from (as a beer snob, even I appreciate that). You can roll your window down while driving to purchase a bottle of water (if you’re “lucky” enough to own a car). Personally, I prefer walking and grabbing a moto when necessary, which was never necessary for me; I just did it for the thrill. Meals consist of chicken, rice, and/or beans. Maybe some vegetables. Definitely fried plantains, pikliz and avocados the size of your head. And no one’s worried about keeping up with the Joneses.
I was spoiled in Haiti. New friends took me to Haitian bars for my thirtieth birthday. I stayed in a mountain top house with surrounding high walls and security guards at each door. I slept in a room with two fans. I had easy access to running water and clean water to drink. I had coffee every morning from a balcony over-looking the ocean.
I was content.
Wake up, walk down the mountain for coffee and a cinnamon roll; walk back up taking photos; observe Matt at work; hang out with the school kids of Respire; etc.
On repeat for six days.
“Just take it all in”, they said. “Sit back and observe”, they said.
I’ve never been good at relaxing or sitting still or keeping quiet. But I only had hugs & polaroid pictures to give and unfortunately didn’t know how to speak Creole. I loved sitting in the patient’s room even though I was submerged in guilt and the uncomfortable feeling of sitting still. Matt was identifying medical conditions in school kids; Helping; Saving Lives. I was snapping photos, feeling like I was there only to be in the way of others.
Funny how shame does that. Makes us want to keep our choices locked up. Check it off the list, though, right?
Who was that list for, anyway?
So much of what I had prayed for felt like it had come to fruition and I got a little preoccupied with navigating it once I was there. Instead of checking in with God, asking him how real it was, and what my role in it right now should be, I assumed I knew the way.
Truth is, I got a little ahead of myself and let what I wanted to happen get in the way of what I was actually supposed to be doing.
We got back home on Monday October 29th around 9am. By 9:30am I was texting Matt in tears. I started to realize how much depth Matt’s questions had.
And all the medical visits I had observed came rushing back to me.
Matt: Do you have difficulty peeing?
Matt: When do you have trouble going?
Patient: At home
Matt: Where do you use the restroom at home?
Patient: On the floor
Matt: Do you have difficulty sleeping?
Patient: We buried my uncle in front of our home two months ago. I have nightmares.
I went into work the same day we arrived back home — worst decision ever. I wasn’t prepared for reverse culture shock. Wait, that’s really a thing?
I went into work looking like a homeless person, my hair was greasy, I hadn’t showered, and I probably smelled. Matt said, “You really haven’t had a chance to process the trip at all. Kind of unfair to expect to be able to focus on work this morning.” My coworker handed me a box of tissues and laid lunch on my desk in hopes I could force something down. (just one more thing I wasted)
Tears fell. All. Day. Long.
Part of me felt guilty for wanting to leave work. I have an amazing job + extra money that takes me to places, like… Haiti. I have employment. But a piece of me wanted to quite my job, run away, and abandon all of my worthless possessions.
I overcomplicate so many things. I’m selfish. Wasteful. High maintenance. Unappreciative. Spoiled. Privileged.
I fought through my first day back in the office and honestly it was more difficult than my entry into Haiti the week prior.
On one of my last days in Haiti, I spent an entire morning at Respire’s café, talking with a local. We compared the US and Haiti. I asked if he had any desire to move to the states. His answer was a simple “no”. He said, “you need God more here”. My heart just about burst.
Haitian children showed me a love that I'm still trying to process. They give tight hugs and big kisses; they’ll hold your hand and value your attention. I’ve never experienced a love so real, authentic and straight-forward.
I didn’t go to change lives; I went so that they could change mine — and that’s a difficult pill to swallow. Tears continue to fall… I’m overwhelmed with all of the feelings, including feelings of regret.
A friend just sent me a message, “Look at what that crying really is about…back to a reality that doesn’t resonate with your soul anymore. Light and love to you!”
I haven’t given anyone the download of my trip yet, not even my mom. #stillprocessing
Yet, she just texted me knowing exactly what to say. She said, “just breathe”.
Though the earth may try, to blind me from goodness, He shines through.
Sometimes all you need to do is show up as you are and breathe that in.
+ If it’s in your heart to donate to works in Haiti, I know several organizations/people whom I whole-heartedly believe can use any amount of money for tremendous good. I’d love to share them with you.
+ If you’re currently needing a good book to read / you are literate — read, Miracle on Voodoo Mountain. It will change you.