Haiti: First Impressions
Wow. As I mentioned this on our Watson Warriors blog, it is almost amusing reading my "pre-trip" posts. I honesty just had no idea. God did provide an opportunity...a huge one.....but I think it changed me more than I ever could have imagined. So much encompassed this trip that it is simply too difficult to summarize all that I experienced in one sitting. So, I will probably be blogging a lot this week trying to share the different aspects of our trip. Stay Tuned!!!
I remember the thoughts going through my head when we began flying into Haiti. Even from the plane you could see the poverished state of this country: dirty water flowing into the oceans, small cement huts, tents, trash. It in itself began to stir the emotion of fear before ever getting off the plane.The airport did not settle that feeling. When we got off the plane we were taken by bus to what can only be described as a warehouse (aka Customs). It was definitely unlike anything I had ever experienced...even when we went to Jamaica it felt more official. Our fearless leader, Chad, trusted a nice man and assertively led the way to our bus. We all got comfortable very quickly (packed in!!!). Chad even gave the man a small fortune for his generosity! =)
No picture can adequately describe the conditions of this country. I "knew" we were going to see some hard things, but was reminded very quickly that no matter how prepared you are....you are never really prepared. The overall dirtiness of the country is definitely what struck me first. Trash.....everywhere. Piles and piles and piles!!! Dusty dirty streets. The smell. Animals (goats, pigs, chickens, dogs) walking around. And even amongst all of these things, they sold their produce on the roads. I can understand why the warnings to "not eat anything that you cannot peel" were very enforced. Water was also commonly on the street. You would see the women selling their produce on the road holding brooms, continually pushing the trash that would wash down with the water away from their area. Upon the drive into Haiti, the tent cities and homes were hard to witness. I stared and stared and still could not grasp how people lived in them. Of course, I felt this way about the actual concrete homes as well. Where did sleep? Where did they put their clothes? Where did they prepare their food? Just the "basics" of food, clothing, and shelter were not basics to these people....but delicacies. I soon learned where they used the restroom.....simply on the ground, or if they were lucky....in what we would call a port-a-potty. One group told us of a home they worked in having this type of toilet, except they kept a plastic bowl in it for their (as we say in our home) poo poos. =) This way they could go throw it out and it wouldn't go down into their septic and make the house stink. Can you even imagine this? Only the really well off had actual working toilets/sewage system. If I'm being fair, even the nicest restrooms we used were some that we would hold our noses and not touch anything. This was a huge reality check. Something I have NEVER thought to be thankful for before.....a toilet! Humbled!!!!
I was surprised that our "home" for the week really wasn't that far outside of the city. I still felt like we were right in the middle of everything I mentioned above. Our compound was very nice. It is a church/school building. We stayed on the third floor with cement floors, open air rooms, one toilet for all the girls, and dripping, cold showers. As the days passed, I could not have been more thankful for our facilities. They really were nice and comfortable.....and it definitely became our safe haven, our home. There was one morning I woke up listening to the rain. As I thought to myself how peaceful it was, I was quickly reminded of all the tent homes I had seen, and how the rain was probably anything but peaceful to them. In that moment I thanked God for the cement floor, cement block walls, and roof over my head, realizing that even at our worst here in Haiti, it was still far better than most. Humbled!!!!
To be honest, my first impressions of Haiti were pretty spot on. It is dirty...filthy in fact. The housing, roads, and places of business are not only inadequate but life-threatening. But that is only a small piece of what the country of Haiti contains. It is an "outside" view. Spending a week amongst it I saw kind spirits, hopeful hearts, unfathomable faith. I saw joy and innocence pouring out of children in even the most desperate circumstances. I saw people who thrive when the world says they shouldn't be. I witnessed generosity and thankfulness in a way I have never given or received. I am so blessed that for one week I got to be on the "inside"....and that I got to take this journey with my amazing new friends in the picture above. Humbled!!!!