It was five years ago next week that I took my very first trip to Haiti. I was filled with wonder, excitement, fear, idealism, faith and more questions than answers. Now, well I still feel that way only it is no longer blind wonder, excitement, fear, idealism or faith. Still I have more questions than answers.
Kristi, Gretchen and Gwenn at home dedication
Street view from the guest house.2009
Street view from guest house.2009That first trip in April of 2009 was with a team of family and close friends . We were going to prepare a home for Gwenn,Nick, Nico and Nia. This was to be the home where they would raise their growing family. We cleaned and painted, built, laughed, and prayed. The walls were fresh and clean and many of the household items were in place. The children's books awaited them in their freshly painted rooms and we felt good. We were glad that just as we had been a part of their 'old' life in the US we were now part of their 'new' life in Haiti. We also did not yet know the expression TIH. This is Haiti. That expression has been a term on which one could loose or gain their mind for the last five years. Everything in Haiti is fluid. There are so many factors beyond ones ability to anticipate let alone control. Slowly you begin to understand that normal is not a word to be grasped. Everything changes and sometimes will even test your faith. If you cant accept this expression you will loose your mind. If you can accept this you will be able to laugh at things ..well things that are not really a bit funny.You have to. Or loose your mind. Your choice.
The freshly painted, newly dedicated home was never to be lived in by Gwenn and Nick. The landlord backed out of the contract and they were left searching for a new home. They found one in downtown Jacmel and that was where I stayed on my second visit and got to meet the first three of the new children.This was a cute little bungalow with a very leaky roof. Which was fine if it didn't rain. (check out this video)
In this home the family started to be reinvented and in October of the same year I got to visit and meet Fritzie, Wildarne and Prisca. Watching how Nico, Nia and Josiah went with the flow was heartwarming.
Family was being established. It was a pretty calm time and I was excited to really be experiencing Haiti on the community level. Going to the market with Gwenn and into local barber shops. Working with a street kid named Stanley who stole my heart. Watching Fritzie and Nick climb canape trees and playing with Bigsbee the most adorable puppy EVER!
But because TIH a few weeks later Bigsbee was poisoned. He and his puppy brother who was visiting died. And because Stanley the street kid was stealing he was no longer allowed in the yard. And because 'this is Haiti' life did not stay the same.
What happened between my second and third visit would forever rock our world and change our life.
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And the visits continued. Nearly every six months. For five years. There was the trip I missed when I had cancer. On that trip my team went down. Gwenn and Nick were robbed that week in the middle of the night in there bedroom. TIH
I think I am glad I missed that trip.
And so over five years my hair has grayed.And the children have grown.Over the last five years the Haitian children have learned a lot of English. I have learned a little Creole. I think they have learned that I am not going away.
We are family. Like Haiti itself the family is fluid and changing and you never know what to expect.
I'm ready for this next adventure!
Yves and I July 2010
Yves and me Sept 2013
And I look back at photos of myself from the last five years and think "Crap I have aged." There is no doubt in my mind that TIH has given me a bunch of white hair. But because TIH... I really don't care. I am glad to watch grandchildren gow. And to do that I must age. I'm good with that. So when I head back on Thursday I don't know what it will look like. I have my plans. Build a chicken coop. Visit with my Deaf friends. Go swimming in the blue water. And hang out with my Haitian/Haitian-American/America grandchildren.
I never know what adventure might await me because in Haiti you live in real time/Narnia time. And you never come home the same.