Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Return

Coming back to Haiti brings on a flood of emotions for me. It always has. Ever since our first visit eight years ago - stepping off of an airplane after a ninety-minute flight from Florida into a place filled with such beauty, tragedy, joy, pain, love, and horror -  so tightly compacted and in your face - it is still hard to rectify, understand, and believe in its existence sometimes.

Today, though, the strongest emotion is joy. I was filled with it traveling through the airports and planes with Paige at my side. She is a light and constant source of encouragement in our lives as parents. She is fun, smart, caring, and all together wonderful. She will be mad at me for going on and on though, so I will move on to telling embarrassing stories about her.

Her excitement about returning to the country and people we love was contagious - during the short periods where she could keep her eyes open. After a fun and busy and full week caring for her siblings with her best friend at her side, a hard goodbye to said friend along with her other best friend (Mom), and the four o'clock wake up call - it was hard not to laugh at her emotional outbursts and anticipation and fatigue during the long travel day. In between short naps and fidgeting on the first flight, we talked and schemed about who we will see this week and what we hope to accomplish. She worried about whether or not her Creole skills would still be there (they are, by the way - amazing) and couldn't wait to sleep in her own bed and be in her own room again.

When we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, a Haitian passenger was paged on the overhead speakers and she beamed with delight and then nearly broke into tears. We kept pointing out fellow travelers and airport employees that we assumed to be Haitian to each other, and each time I encouraged her to go and work on her Creole skills - but she was certain that she'd break down crying at the first word and leave the person wondering what was wrong with that strange white girl. I found it highly entertaining. This went on for hours, through the layover, lunch, boarding, waiting on the plane for an eternity, and flying in to Port au Prince.

We had the usual challenges and obstacles getting through the airport, immigration, baggage claim, customs process, and redcap battle in the new American Airlines version of the Toussaint Louverture International Airport. I have noticed a shift in my attitude - a large difference in my responses to the aforementioned issues. I am more often than not amused and appreciative of the lively interchanges, language nuances, and cultural differences that are on display through it all.

Call it what you will (and I am sure there are anthropological studies and experts with all the explanations for this experience) - but I think I know what it is. I think I am experiencing peace that surpasses understanding, and the joy that comes through service and love for our fellow man, the blessing of sensing that I am where our Creator wants me to be, and hope that there is a great deal more to life than what we normally experience in our day to day lives.

I am very thankful for this opportunity to be here and learn from Haiti and her people again - even if only for another short visit. I pray we can continue to be obedient to a higher calling, and that our whole family will be here together again soon playing whatever small role we can play. I do not think that Haiti needs us, and sometimes it feels as if it does not want us - but up to this point in my life I realize that I needed Haiti - the lessons we have learned here and the opening of our eyes (to more things than I can list here) has been a blessing and privilege. It is good to be back among so many people we love and learn from.

Alexi, one of the sweetest men I have ever met, joyfully helped us load our cart full of luggage into John McHoul's truck and then gave me a huge hug to welcome us back. He asked about each person in our family with such sincere care and I was almost too choked up to respond. Fortunately Paige did not notice and have a chance to return the mockery. His family is well, his two children are back in school, and there is still hope thriving among the amazing people here that live faithfully in the face of such unbelievable difficulties.

The icing on the cake of our return was twofold - watching John devour a day old Whopper in my driveway, and Paige's emotional reunion with our beloved Gerronne. She has been chatting away in perfect Creole with her all evening.

It is good to be back.