Written July 4, 2018
I’m becoming afraid that I won’t be happy returning to America. Frustrations and social anxiety aside, I’m having a great experience here. I love the simplicity, as offensive as that might sound to a local. America is complicated; Haiti is straightforward. On the campus where we are, I feel a stupendous peace.
But even with my appreciation of what I’m encountering, I’m stuck in my observations and petrified of engaging. I’m trapped in my head and locked out of participating. There’s an actual wall I can’t get through between understanding what’s going on and being apart of what’s going on. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Seymour, Indiana or Chambrun, Haiti; the barrier in my brain is my achilles heal.
If it’s not obvious by the existentialism of my writing, it’s 3:30am. The symphony of birds singing outside our door is fueling my words.
I’m in the craft classroom today. We’ve planned to make sand-filled, plastic heart necklaces. This is a very hands-on activity, and I feel useful, especially compared to the standing around I’ve done in the teaching classrooms the last two days. The students jump right to it, filling their hearts with different colors of sand. We barely have to explain to them how the funnels work. They’re pretty resourceful, these kiddos.
Between classes, while the camp-goers are shuffling around the school house, I leave our classroom to refill my water bottle. Looking around the building I’m in, I absolutely do not mind the uneven concrete, trash, and dirt everywhere. I love it here, I can’t say that loudly enough. I’m practically begging God to tell me to move down here because I’d do it in the blink of an eye. My heart gets so heavy at the thought of leaving. It blows my mind how I’ve only been here a few days and I can’t picture going home.
During my time in the crafts class with the younger children, if I rest my hand on any of the desks for more than a second, little dark fingers make their may to mine. All they want is to make contact, just to touch me for a moment. It’s such an effortless action on their part and a passive role on mine, so why does this feel like such a substantial except of my life?
One of the teenage girls is proud to have me sitting next to her during her classtime. She reachers for my braid and runs her hand up and down it. She ruffles the top of my head. She slides her hand down my calf, and pauses briefly before saying, “soft”. A few minutes later, I see her whispering to a translater and pointing to me. The translaters whipsers back to her. The teenage girl returns to me and puts her hands on my shoulders. “Oleeviah…you…ah…beautifuh” she kisses my cheek and smiles, very pleased with herself.
A little boy named Ricardo finds me in the fourth class of the day. He’s one who has been a clingy on the other days I’ve seen him. He’s quick to find one of us or an intern and attach to our bodies by holidng a hand or wrapping himself around a leg. He comes to me immediately upon entering the classroom. He grabs my arms and wraps them as tightly around himself as he can. He lays his head on my shoulder and has me cradling him, like a baby.
These short yet remarkable interactions with the children throughout the day brings me emotional wealth and brokenness simultaneously.
Everyone is gathered in the pavilion after lunch, as per the usual routine. Martha and I choose to grab some sleeping bags and set up camp in the church, the only other place aside from the pavilion that has a breeze coming through this time of day. Halfway there, we are met by a precious, hardly-upright, elderly Haitian woman. She calls us over to her, and gives us long hugs with kisses on our cheeks. She reaches for the sleeping bags in our arms and, through body language, insists that she carry them wherever we are going. We try to tell her we are only walking a short distance and we are fine to carry the bags ourselves, but she is relentless. Hesitantly, we give the woman our bags and continue walking in the direction of the church, only much slower now so that this woman can keep up with us.
Inside the church, the woman sets our sleeping bags on the ground. Martha gives her a sweet, long hug and a kiss on both cheeks. Then the woman sits on a church bench near us and just stares for a while. I’m not sure what the purpose of her actions were. She watches us spread our things out and get comfortable. Except, it’s a little hard to get comfortable when a stranger is ten feet from you, watching your every move so closely.
Martha and I lay on our backs, in silence, not quite ready to start reading yet. I wonder if the woman wanted an offer to join us, but I haven’t the slightest idea of how to suggest that to her. During my thinking, she lays down on the church bench she’s sitting on and closes her eyes.
I roll over to face Martha and ask if she thinks the woman would’ve appreciated being asked to lay with us on something more comfortable than the wooden church pews. She agrees that that would’ve been a nice offer, but we’ve probably missed our chance now that the lady is asleep and the language barrier still exists.
And then, with no stimulation or warning, something snaps in the both of us. Could be due to the rooster waking us up at 3am every morning. Could be due to the heat exhaustion. Could be due to the esasperation caused by trying to teach children who can’t understand our instructions. Could be the constant presence of people we hardly know. All I know is that the two of us are holding in laughter with every morsel of strength left in our sweaty bodies. There are several other poeple in the church trying to nap in addition to the woman who helped us. Some women are there praying out loud. But we….we are laying on the ground snorting with unexplainable giggles.
Somehow this insignificant snapshot of the trip becomes one that means a lot to me, probably because it’s one that I know won’t easily be replicated ever again in my life.
An hour or so into reading, I have to go to the bathroom. This involves leaving the church and running back to our living area. It’s so windy here. It catches me off guard as I walk outside. On my way back to the sleeping bag, I see a little boy from the village still hanging around outside the school. He sees me, and comes running, shouting, “Oleeviah! Oleeviah!” He latches himself around my waist, looks up at me, and smiles with his mouth wide open like he’s been star struck. My heart is leaping at this blessing I get to behold. How precious it is to earn the love of a child.
The introvert friend I made the other night finds Martha and I awhile before dinner and invites us to go on a walk. I’m so blown away by how gorgeous the scenery is around us. God is still able to show himself in the most unsuspecting of locations.
I’ve grown fond of the food that’s served to us here. I’ve accepted the meat-eating. It is what it is. Turns out, I love spicy things so that’s not an issue either. I genuinely enjoy anything involving plantians. How is it that I’m able to feel so grateful for the minimal food in this place?
At dinner, the camp director, Adam, announces that we’re all invited to a little fireworks display they’re doing tonight in honor of it being the 4th of July.
Before the celebration, Martha and I Facetime everyone back home. The rest of our family is gathered at our lakehouse for the holiday. It’s a very familiar scene on the phone screen. Papa Rans grilling out, dogs running around, sunsetting in the background, everyone else playing yard games. It’s what we do several weekends out of each summer. Right now, the idea of being there nauseates me. I’m thankful to be exactly where we are. I don’t miss the boats or the food or even the family. I feel a little bit guilty for having these thoughts, but I feel even more guilty for having such a privileged life waiting for me back home.
It’s 9:30pm by the time it’s dark enough for fireworks to be lit off. The missionary families and the kids from the children’s home are gathered on the ground near the building we meet on the roof of for devotions.
Fireworks are always a fascinating and inspiring event to watch, but what I’m enjoying even more is seeing the reaction of some of these kids getting to see fireworks for the first time in their lives. Even the tiny crackling ones send them into joyous screams and laughter. One of the little girls from the village asks a missionary what it is that we’re seeing. I hear the missionary give a response in Creole, and I later asked her what the definition translated to: Loud Lights in The Sky.
Liv – Authentically