day 2: second thoughts.


[NOTE: I decided to change everyone’s name for privacy reasons, so go ahead and check the last post to see the changes that I made. Thanks.]

As soon as we step out of the airport, everything around me explodes.

The noise is the first thing that hits me. There are people everywhere, and they are yelling and horns are honking and music is blaring out of already blasted out speakers.

Then, the heat. It washes over me, suffocating me and leaving me dazed. I’d been used to below zero weather and snow for the past few months, so this is a very big shock to my body.

In the fenced area, there are about fifty Haitian men.

My father, another man, and I are pushing small carts with three or four fifty-pound suitcases on each of them.

Immediately, about fifteen of the Haitians gravitate toward our group.

And they try to take the carts away from us.

One of them hurries over to me. “Do you need help.” It’s a statement, not a question. He roughly grabs the cart and tries to take it away from me.

“No, thank you,” I say. I try to steer clear of him, but then, another man grabs the other side of the cart.

“Let me take that.” It’s Ted. I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Thanks. I guess you are scarier than I am.”

He drives the cart away and I follow next to him.

We leave the fenced area, people still trailing behind and around us. My dad is trying to ward off two men who are seemingly arguing about who touched the cart first: who should help him push the cart.

We reach the parking lot, which is really just a dirt space filled with cars, and the leader of our group, Pastor Peter, and his wife, Ellen, let out an exclamation. Two Haitian men are walking toward us, and they both head out toward them.

“Reuben!”

The taller of the two Haitians breaks into a run toward us, and the other one follows in a more reserved fashion. Reuben slaps Pastor Peter on the back, smiling. It’s been a year since Peter and Ellen have seen Reuben, and it’s apparent. I can tell that they are very happy to see one another.

Pastor Peter introduces us to Reuben. I’ve heard a lot about him over the past few years, and it is good to finally meet him. He speaks English well, but it is heavily accented, and I have a little bit of trouble understanding him at first.

They are just as happy to see the other man–as he is with them–but this man, who’s named Christopher, is much quieter and reserved.

They help us and our enormous amount of luggage into the back of a brightly painted truck with a cover over the back. The back is very large, and it has seats built in around the perimeter.

When all of the luggage is loaded, there is barely enough room for all of us, so Christopher sits in the front seat with the driver.

As soon as everyone is seated, the driver starts the “Tap-Tap” …

… And we begin bumping down the dirt road.

I can’t describe what I see on the street.

First of all, there are bright colors everywhere: vibrant reds and yellows, deep greens, bright greens, saturated oranges, and the tannish color of the dust that’s everywhere.

Then, the people. There are people on the street, to the sides of the street, looking out of doorways and windows … I’ve never seen so many people just walking around outside before.

And finally, probably the greatest thing on this list is the traffic.

The street is choked with other tap-taps, smaller tap-taps, but with twenty more people stuffed in them.

The tap-taps and various motorcycles weave around other vehicles, and each tap-tap lunges forward whenever a space appears in the sea of people/tap-taps.

In Haiti, there are no traffic rules.

There are no lanes.

There are not very many traffic lights.

It is a free-for-all: you go forward whenever someone’s not already there.

So, The trip to the Orphanage is a very tedious one.

On the way, Ted, my father, Juliet Poe, and I get to know Reuben a little bit more. That’s good–we’ll be spending the next four or five days with him as our translator.

We finally arrive at The Home.

The Home is an orphanage for girls that my church runs. Reuben, the Haitian man, is the Director.

And my job?

I am here to teach the girls how to knit.

The orphanage had been moved to a different house since the last trip, and from the pictures that I’d seen of the old home, this one is a lot better. It is in a relatively nice area of Port-au-Prince, and it has high walls around it.

When we arrive there, the first thing that I hear is singing.

All of the thirty plus girls that live in the Home are singing.

I don’t understand a word they’re saying, but it is beautiful.

Reuben pushes back the big, metal fence with spikes on the top, and the tap-tap drives in.

All of the girls start shrieking with joy.

We step out of the tap-tap, and they all stop, all of the sudden shy. They smile at us, and then look away when we smile back.

Joe, Pastor Peter’s cousin from Texas is already there. I can tell that he is happy to see the familiar faces of his relatives.

IMG_5169
Pastor Peter, Joe, and Reuben at the entrance to the Home

 

We walk into the Home, Reuben eager to show us around.

So that is the first thing that we do when we get there. We look around at the school area for the girls. We look at the kitchen. We look at the bedrooms. We look upstairs.

After we finish looking, we all kind of wander off.

Dad strikes up a conversation with Christopher and that lasts a long time.

DSCN2105Ted sits and the girls climb onto his lap.

Joe, Ellen and Pastor Peter follow Reuben as he tells them things that need fixing around the Home.

Juliet tries to get the girls warmed up to her, so she jumps up and down, encouraging them to do the same.

They don’t.

They have a fascination with American hair, so she lets down her long hair, and they take hold of it and begin twisting it around, braiding it, and even trying it on their own heads.

IMG_5176 IMG_5180 IMG_5174

The rest of the day is kind of unclear to me.

I remember my first Haitian meal: rice, beans, some awesome onion sauce, and beef … goat … stuff …

I remember playing ring-around-the-rosey with the girls and Juliet.

IMG_5221

When we went for their doctor’s appointment, they played with my hair, too.

I remember laying down for a nap. This was a bad, bad idea coming here, Josiah. What were you thinking?

I fall asleep, and when I wake, those thoughts are still swiming around my head.

I walk into the next room, and it is dark outside.

A woman, who I’ll later know as Jane, Reuben’s wife asks me what my name is. It’s a little hard for her to pronounce, so she askes for a nickname. I am at a loss for words. I can’t remember any of my nicknames.

Juliet speaks up. “Monkey,” she says.

To the day we left, Jane calls me “Monkey.”

Advertisements

32 thoughts on “day 2: second thoughts.

  1. Josiah, you will remember this trip for the rest of your life and all of those little girls will remember you and Juliet Poe. I grew up in Florida with many friends who are from Haiti. They are warm and wonderful people. You are very lucky, most people never really know what the rest of the world is really like. Poverty is the way of life in so many places. You are going to teach them a skill that can help them better their way of life. And the church is giving them a wonderful home, medical care, and school. I know that in Haiti if your family can not afford to buy the school uniform, they can’t attend. It is sad, and unimaginable that most Americans take for granted these things. Thank you for going and sharing your story.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for commenting and your kind words! While we were in Haiti, I think that I learnt what true hospitality was–they treated us like very important people, even though we did’t deserve it. I’ve been trying to make it my goal to treat other people like they treated us. Thank you again. 🙂
      J

      Like

  2. I understand about the heat. Awhile back, we were there on a cruise and the heat was quite oppressive especially from a Michigander’s view!

    Like

    1. Oh, yeah. The heat was definitely the only bad thing that happened to me on this trip. Well, besides the mosquitoes … but that’s another story … 🙂
      Congratulations on your sock pattern’s success this week!
      J

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I suppose it’s better than, “Tarzan.” Of course, that would have been entertaining to…well, me.

    I can remember visiting an orphanage in Jamaica when I was in college. Unfortunately, it was for children with disabilities. It was a very heartbreaking experience as each child there had been abandoned because of whatever disability they had. I don’t know if it’s the same in Haiti but in Jamaica, having a disability is viewed as a shame to the family. I know it’s getting better but there’s still a lot of stigma with disabilities there. We take it for granted because so many of the disabilities they deal with are ones that are corrected at birth here (cleft palette, club foot, and other ones like that).

    And the hair thing! When I was in Jamaica, I had long, light brown hair and all the little girls were fascinated with my hair (both at the orphanage and at Hope Valley Experimental School – the only school in Jamaica that allows children with disabilities).

    Like

    1. Monkey is definitly better than Tarzan! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story with me; I really appreciate it. I’m not sure how disabilities are viewed in Haiti–none of the girls had any serious health problems or anything, and I’m thankful for that. Thank you again, so, so much.
      J

      Like

  4. I have been on a trip to Haiti before and will be going back there this next summer. I know exactly how it feels when you first get there. You think that this was a terrible idea and you must have been insane to agree to do this. i had a lot of fun though and I hope you did too. I went with a large group of people and I was the only girl with short hair. The question that I got asked most often was “Are you a girl or a boy?” I don’t speak a lick of French or Creole but I managed to convince them that I was a girl. I hope that you enjoy what you did there and get a lot of chances to tell people about it.

    Like

    1. Naomi: Thank you for commenting. I’ve been bad at getting back to you all, but now I am doing it! After that first day, I had no regrets whatsoever about going to Haiti. I’m saving up right now to go back soon. It’ll probably be next year, though, but I am so looking forward to it again. I had a good laugh after your nice little story. None of the women that went with us (my sister, Kay-Leigh at missjulietpoe.wordpress.com, and my Pastor’s wife) have short hair, so I can only imagine what it would’ve been like for you! Thank you again!

      J

      Like

  5. I really enjoyed this. I actually leave for Mexico next month and I have the pleasure of working with children too. Maybe I could do a series like this? Anyways, best of luck on your trip. Oh, and I hope you don’t mind me pointing out a typo. You are signing your comments with J when really it should be M (You know. For Monkey.)

    Like

What do you think? Your comments are appreciated.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s