An Amazing JourneyIn July of 2010 I took my first trip out of the country to a place where the people are so different, a culture so poor, and customs that are so shocking. I went to Les Cayes, Haiti with a group of friends for medical Humanitarian purposes. I remember the day that the magnitude 7 earthquake devastated that country like it was yesterday…6 months later, I begin my two week adventure into the unknown land.
My first reaction was one of amazement. The land was so beautiful! We landed in Port au Prince and began the process of going through customs and gathering our bundles of luggage. At the PAP airport, there are men who look very official, but don’t work for the airline, and they try to help you carry your luggage for a fee. With 29 people, 500 lbs of medicine, and our personal belongings, you can only image the amount we had! But nonetheless, it was quite a fight to keep our luggage with us. As we started heading towards our vehicle, I was struck by all the crowds of people that were staring at us and hording around us. As that reality set in for me, fear gripped at my heart and I began to panic and cry, wondering, “Why in the world am I here? If I can’t handle the airport, how will I be able to handle all the other difficulties that will come my way?” After composing myself and letting my emotions and my heart settle down, we started towards Les Cayes. I saw so many things that broke my heart to the core: children running in the streets with no shoes on, families living in tents, once beautiful architecture now demolished, etc. I saw hopelessness all around me, whichever way I turned, the downcast faces of the people told all. Because of all the buildings that had collapsed during the earthquake, what was supposed to be a 5 hour trip, turned into 7. Needless to say, we arrived safely and in one piece to our desired destination, the RMI guesthouse.
The next day brought us high expectations and hopes, but no real plans. The day started at 6:15 am with all of us preparing for what we were to do. We drove to Sisters of Charity, a Mother Theresa Home for the sick and dying. One of the sisters, Guadeloupe, took charge and showed us around. They do so much for the local community! The best way to describe it would be that it’s like your local hospital, which speaks for itself. We then brought some of medicine and began sorting through it while others were working on pumping up therapy balls. One of my favorite moments that day was when we were going around and meeting the children. We were walking to meet up with the others that hadn’t gotten the tour yet, and these little boys came up to me…I said “Alo!” and they took my hand and began to lead me to where the other little boys are and I just got surrounded by them! All talked with one breathe in Creole, asking me questions. So I tell them my name and they began to say it, and kept saying it. What a blessing it was to be loved by the children!
We spent several days at the Mother Theresa Home, and I learned so much about the people through the many interactions I had with the natives. I was encouraged by the joy and hope I saw in their lives.
After the long week, we decided to rest and go to Rainbow Beach. The beauty of the place was incredible. Words are not adequate enough to describe it. We had a truly amazing and authentic tropical experience: swimming in the deep blue Caribbean waters, and talking with the natives, the whole undergo made complete by drinking the juice of hand-picked coconuts.
On Monday I began to feel sick with symptoms of nausea, dizziness, and blurred vision…thought it was dehydration at first, but the symptoms progressed and didn’t subside until the next weekend. So most of that week was spent in bed.
On Friday we decided to go back to Rainbow Beach, and stayed there for the weekend. This time, it was a totally different experience, because we were stationed at a different part of the beach. On Sunday we went for a hike to one of the peaks. The trek was not easy, and it was very hot, but all the work was worth it. The panoramic view stole my breath away! So much majesty all around. I was in complete awe. I was very thankful for the long weekend and all the rest that I got. It was much needed.
Monday began a new week , and I was as healthy as I had ever been. It also came with a new experience…riding a Mototaxi- basically, it was a moped that someone owned and they function as taxis and the primary source of transportation in the city.-We went back to the Mother Theresa Home, but this time not dispensing medicine, but to love on the orphans. We spent the morning singing and dancing with the children and then we went to their classrooms and helped them with their crafts.
We helped out at a place called Centre Lumiere, which is a vocational school for Haitian women. The women spend four years learning trades such as: crocheting, embroidery, sewing, etc, and begin schools in their area to teach basic life skills that could earn them some income.
Our first job there was to organize the supply closet and separate all the fabric into their respective colors. It seemed quite monotonous, but having the perspective that we were helping the people in some way or another made me see the task as joyous. Next, my new friend Jenni and I put together supplies, crafts, etc. for a foster home system in Haiti, Loving Shepherd Ministries. Each home is run by a Haitian couple that are passionate about serving their fellow man and lodges 12 kids who are in desperate need of care.
I wondered when homesickness would come…here is an expert from my journal on 7/27/10- “What do I feel in my heart? What emotions are just beckoning at the door of my heart? I guess it’s homesickness. I don’t know. I feel like crying but the tears won’t come. Sometimes, it’s so hard to have to grow up and begin seeking independence.” -That day was also my dear sisters birthday, so that didn’t make things any better.
But, the rest of the day turned out great. After supper, we went to a girls orphanage run by a couple where the husband had been an orphan himself, and lived in the States for a few years, but wanted to give back to his home country some way. And that way was by instilling patriotism in the hearts of 21 orphan girls. It is a neat facility. They are utilizing solar energy, and composting as a beginning in becoming self-sufficient. We sang and danced with the girls and they poured out love upon us in such a special way that it touched me in my innermost being.
Well, the week came to an end, meaning that my time there was over. The week past by so fast, I couldn't believe that it was already time to go back home. As I said my goodbyes and made my way back to the States, I realized that I had left my heart in Haiti. I had fallen in love…in love with the people, with the country, and with the customs. I was so grateful that my trip turned out to be such an amazing journey!