This article was posted by Sue, who went to Haiti with us for her second time this year. She gave one of the best descriptions of what a day in Haiti is like – it’s like being there. Happy reading…
So…this morning i am overwhelmed with emotion. Those who have been to Haiti (or any other 3rd world country) will understand what i am feeling. But this post is for those of you who may never feel called or have the opportunity to experience this level of poverty and devastating living conditions. Last year when i returned i wrote a sweet little poem about the beauty of Haiti and the enormous pride of the Haitian people…i wrote about the lovely mangos and the wind in the palms at night. I wrote about the sacrifices of the missionaries and their families. I wrote about the delicious meals we ate and the sweetness of the children we teach. I wrote about how my heart was broken for this tiny island forever.
But today…i must tell you…i painted a picture that is only half of the story.
There is GREAT tragedy that i neglected. Emotional whiplash that is hard to explain…but it is laid on my heart to try… So…here is a day in Haiti: We wake up at 7…quickly take cold showers…shake the cockroaches out of our beds and clothes..and dress for a day at the beach. We struggle to put our clothes on because the humidity is so high our clothes stick to us like glue. 17 plus people are in the kitchen making various breakfasts and the chatter and laughter is loud and chaotic. We will leave the kitchen in a horrific mess that the Haitian ladies will clean up after we leave. Some will thank them..most of us will not.
We are transporting 33 people to the beach so we pile into several vehicles…where we experience the only air conditioning available. As we drive through Port au Prince…all of our senses are overwhelmed..the smells and sights and noise are extreme. There are wonderful smells of cooking chickens and bread and rice..mixed with burning garbage and sewage and exhaust. I say it all smells like roasting chilis in October…everyone thinks im crazy…they say it smells like burning trash. There are people EVERYWHERE…but you do not see any white American tourists walking the streets of Haiti. Its too dangerous? Every building has a gate…and an armed guard…EVERY building is behind a wall…except those that are hollowed out from the earthquake and within those crumbling walls … laundry hangs and children play on concrete steps that go nowhere anymore.
Everyone is selling something. Virtually EVERY square foot of the roadsides are filled with Haitian people making a living. Dan calls it a drive through Walmart..I call it a drive through flea market. And the things they sell are American…things we….often times missionaries…have brought to this island. Pampers and Coca Cola and Snickers and Cell phones and lingerie and vacuum cleaners (VACUUM CLEANERS!!?) And next to and behind and amongst all of these things is the garbage…pampers and cocacola cans and discarded cell phones and lingerie and broken vacuum cleaners…. Piles and piles and piles of garbage…everywhere. But no garbage truck ever comes to collect…so the garbage is piled into the streets and burned…toxic fumes mix with the smells of exhaust and fresh bread. All this up against the most beautiful artwork i have ever seen.
Everything and everyone dressed in loud brilliant colors. Everyone carrying heavy items on their heads…chickens, bananas, car batteries…Everyone walking somewhere..down he middle of he street…cars…motorcycles…ap taps….all swerving and inching and negotiating their way through streets that are seemingly impassable. No road rage…just an unspoken rule of navigation communicated through hand gestures and taps on car horns. Next to a large dumping of garbage…a playground…on a busy corner…with tons of traffic…i am worried because the playground has no fence.
And then we are at the beach.
Gorgeous resort! Turquoise waters. People serving me fresh pineapple or coconut water while i snorkle and sunbathe on the beautiful beach. Two of our missionaries are not feeling well. They get sicker and sicker as the after noon goes by. They are running high fevers…could be anyone of a host of diseases…we put them in the shade…i order another coca cola….and ask for extra ice please. And finally it is time to go home. We help the sick to the vans..load our bargain souvenirs in the trunk and head home.
Along the way we see a crowd of people gathered near the side of the road. I remember last time driving this route and seeing the body on the side of the road of a young girl… this time it is a young man and I am aware that I am not nearly as upset this time at the site of a body on the side of the road as I was last time… but I can’t get the picture of the bright red blood up against the grayness of the street and the colorful people dressed in their Sunday best gathered around as they wait for the makeshift ambulance to arrive to carry the body away.
And… again back through the streets of Haiti and home again where we prepare to have a wonderful meal prepared with love and care by our amazing family of missionaries who spend every day ..living this day …and I wonder to myself….. how? And after worship and amazing music…and inspirational words from Byron, we go to bed to the sounds of pastors on loudspeakers preaching to the people of the street… long into the night. The next morning I will get up and teach babies…. some who live in makeshift huts along a dirty River piled high with garbage …and when I pick up one such child in the morning and hold her close to me I find myself overwhelmed at how wonderful her sweet tiny shirt smells like soap…and milk.