Haiti, went to build, returned have only tore down.
the trip was altering. i don't want to say exciting or emotionally exhilarating because i think those, much like camp highs, fade with time. this was a change of a mindset. of learning to stretch myself in ways i had not been in years. this is a change that will not fade in mere days, but an educational installment that will challenge the way i see the world for the rest of my life.
before we left i had an irksome intuition. i felt that this trip would not be what i thought it was going to be. i felt that i was going to have to decide whether to DO or to BE. not clear on what that was going to entail i set out for miami to catch my flight.
upon arrival we were informed that in fact port a prince was not the safest places in the world right now for foriegners so instead of concentrating on the local orphanage we were going to fly to jacmel. a city right over the mountain range in sight. once in jacmel we took an hour and a half walk up the side of the mountain to a small farming community called mano.
mano is unlike many US cities in that it has no running water, no electricity, no air conditioning, no modern convenience, and it has a deep sense of community. this is where it began for me. the realization that i was selfish and egocentric hit me within minutes of arriving because my idea of 'comfort' was no where in sight. actually no where within several miles.
sleeping was the difficult part as the temperatures at night were closer to 90 degrees, and the mosquito's claimed me for their own, regardless of the multiple layers of toxic bug spray. the food was different, as i was introduced to this amazing vegetable called breadfruit. it looked just like a cantaloupe but tasted when baked like a potato. when it was boiled you could dip the breadfruit out with a spoon and had the consistency of mashed potatoes.
our goal in jacmel was not to DO for the people, but BE with the people. in my mind i wanted to do, i wanted action. i wanted to build something. to create. feeling that i had to prove to these people that we cared, and if i couldn't build or create than my trip was purposeless. i was wrong.
in haiti one of the most valued principle in their culture is community. they were unconcerned with most tasks we deam as imperative. the lasting effect they desired from my trip was not building four walls in some school, but building a relationship. they were not asking me to help them construct their road, but a friendship.
the majority of people in mano had never seen a white person before. on many occasions people would come up and touch my hair to see what the texture was. once a little girl licked her finger and tried to rub off my tattoo. for them i was more than just a foreigner, i was american.
america doesn't have the greatest reputation around the world. folklore, foreign governments, and misinformation play a deep role in founding others beliefs about our nation. even if the rumors they have heard are false, that is all they know of the country and since that is all they know they believe it.
i built more than a road, i tore down walls. by just BEING, and not DOING i was able to develop relationships with everyone from a carpenter to a voodoo doctor. i had the opportunity to clear up misconceptions and stereotypes through spending hours working, playing, and eating along side these amazing human beings. it wasn't the action the people desired, it was the attention.
even though i felt alot of their values were opposite of mine their sense of community was overwhelming and convicting. why do i always feel like i have to be doing something for people. to cultivate relationships are more important and more essential. to have the ties of family are invaluable. these are the first lesson of this trip i walked away from.
i went to haiti to build, i ended up tearing down.
myself, my ethoncentrism, and walls.
...more to come. a lot more.