Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Living in Haiti

Living in Haiti is strange stuff. It really is.

Now there's the regular strange stuff - no hot showers (only cold ones,) near-daily stomach issues, sweating your brains out, and throwing your used toilet paper in the trashcan instead of flushing it down the toilet. However, that's not all that's strange about living here.

First of all, living in Haiti is more expensive than it may seem. Some things are extremely pricey here and other things are extremely cheap here. For example - laundry. The laundry at the Guest House costs $1.50 for pants, $1.00 for shirts and shorts, and $0.50 for underwear. That adds up quite quickly. Not that it's not a fair price - the woman who washes my clothes (Mire) works really hard - but it's MUCH pricier than it would be in the States for much less clothes. Also, things like office supplies are more expensive. Mike says he and Doug went to go buy some pens, but then turned around and decided not to when they saw that a pack of 12 pens rang up to be $20. Yikes! However, strangely enough, things like water and (most) food are much cheaper here. It's very, very weird.

Beyond that, certain sights and sounds and smells around Haiti become almost normal - you just don't even blink an eye at it anymore. For example, I am now totally used to seeing random goats wandering the streets. Yes, goats. They're all over the place in Haiti! Also, the roosters that roam Freres Campus don't seem to wake me up at night anymore. Hallelujah. I am also used to seeing exposed body parts. I won't go into any more detail there. Things I also accept as normal: people carrying things on their heads, car horns constantly honking, and garbage being everywhere.

Of course, one of the things that I've become used to is seeing rubble and demolished buildings. It's kind of sad how some of them don't even faze me anymore. It is such a part of the Port-au-Prince and Petionville landscape that I rarely notice it anymore. However, there are times when I'll see a building for the first time and I'll be deeply saddened by the sight of it. And there are a few buildings that still get me every time I see it - the hospital we pass on the way to the UMCOR office in particular. Very sad stuff.

I've also become almost TOO used to people/kids asking me for money. You almost get to the point where you become apathetic to it - or get upset at them asking for food thinking "I just gave them a whole chicken leg yesterday" or "I gave them 25 goudes this morning - that should have been enough to hold them all day." You almost get to the point where you see them as greedy - expecting to get something every time they ask for it. However, it's at these moments that you have to remind yourself that often times what you're able to offer is all they have. So that one chicken leg you gave them yesterday may have been all they've eaten in the past two days. Or that 25 goudes may have gone to get a nice breakfast or lunch - but could you eat only 25 goudes worth of food and not be hungry at night? Probably not.

And then of course, there are those times that you have nothing to offer and you feel almost as desperate as they do. You want so much to be able to offer something - anything - to help them. Tonight was one of those moments when my boys came to me asking for food. Now, there are two boys who are ALWAYS asking for food. It's possible that they don't get much other food, but I think it's also possible with them that we just have BETTER food so they come around asking for it a lot. "Beth, give me some chicken." But tonight, boys who normally don't ask for food were asking for some sustenance tonight. I think that there probably hasn't been a food drop in a while and so all of them had fairly slim pickings.

I went into the kitchen and asked Marie Claude if there was any food that I could give to the kids. She told me that there wasn't anything left that I could offer them. I felt desperate. I didn't have any small goudes to offer them and I didn't have any food. On top of that, Mike didn't really have any small goudes on him either or any extra food. I eventually ended up searching my room and found a snack package that I still had from my flight to Atlanta. It wasn't much, but I suppose those 4 pieces of Chex Mix is better than nothing... maybe. It was pretty puny. I still feel terrible about it. I hated knowing that they all really needed food, but also knowing there wasn't much else I could do. I mean, I had bigger bills I could have used to get them food - but that might have made things even more difficult. It's hard to explain, but unless you can give each boy the same amount, then you shouldn't give any money at all. And if you hand one boy some money expecting them to share it with the rest - that may or may not happen. Also, at this time in the night, I couldn't go out and get them food myself so I was just stuck. I hate that.

I suppose it really stinks being in Haiti when you're not a millionaire.

Regardless of all the weirdness, though, I really am having an amazing time. I know God is continuing to change and mold me every day. I'm so glad to be here. It's exactly where I need to be. However, I think the reverse culture shock when I return to the States is going to be pretty bad. How do you go back to living an affluent American life after living in the poorest country in the western hemisphere? I imagine it's going to be very difficult.

Anyway, I need to get to bed. I'm super tired. Also, I have a meeting with Beyond Borders tomorrow morning so that's exciting! I'm stoked to hear about their program to end the restavek system.

I hope you're well. I'm sending Haiti hugs to all my friends and family!


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