When I was planning on coming to Haiti I expected life here to be hard. I expected that I would be in need of a great long vacation to decompress after I returned home. I expected to build relationships - but ones that would probably only be temporary and mostly on the surface. I thought it would be really difficult to build strong relationships with the Haitians with the language barrier and the fact that I would be in and out in two months.
I am not often wrong... but I was SO wrong in thinking all of those things. Not that life isn't hard at times, or frustrating at times, or that some of my relationships here aren't past the surface stuff yet.
But I will say this. There aren't many days that I can look back and remember and say, "If I were going to relive any 5 days in my life... that would definitely be one of them." However, yesterday was probably one of those days. I just... loved it.
The day started off strangely, but it at least made for laughter, bonding, and a funny story to tell later. We had decided to go to the English speaking church - Quisquera Chapel - for the first time. We thought it was fitting for the 4th of July to worship in English. It is the church that Peterson worships at every Sunday so he agreed to get us there. When yesterday morning came, though, he did not actually have a ride for us. He suggested a tap-tap, but Mike suggested that we just walk because it might actually be faster/cheaper.
We walked up the street and around the corner, past the fallen Caribbean market, and up to Delmas - one of the main roads by the Guest House. At that point, Peterson found a tap-tap and suggested to Mike that we just take it. He agreed and once we started driving and realized that the church Peterson was talking about was past the Epid'or - we were glad to have the ride. As soon as we got off the tap-tap we started walking down Delmas 75. Peterson told us that the church was right off Delmas 75 so we thought that we must be fairly close. We got to the end of that road and then Peterson said, "Okay, now let's take another tap-tap."
All of us thought that sounded silly. First of all, there were barely any tap-taps around and Peterson said that we were probably only 10 minutes walking distance away from the church. Mike said, "Then let's just walk." We all agreed. We didn't want to be late for church, and we had a nice breeze, and a ten minute walk sounded like a nice little stroll. What we didn't realize, though, is that Peterson is on Haitian time and so a 10 minute walk was much more like a 18-20 minute walk. Also, it was through Port-au-Prince back roads - not the nice sidewalks of Johnson County.
The walk got to be so ridiculous that Mike started making jokes that Peterson was going to lead us to a super remote place and kill us so no one would know. It was all part of his evil plot - to get close to us and then kill us. We all laughed and sweat started pouring down our faces more and our water bottles got emptier and warmer.
Finally, though, 40 minutes after we left the Guest House, we arrived at the church. However, we seemed to be the only folks who walked to church - or at least, walked a distance. Therefore, we were DRENCHED in sweat while everyone else was relatively dry. Also super embarrassing because they make visitors stand up to be welcomed by the congregation. Peterson made us stand up. Although there were many other visitors there as well, it felt like everyone was staring at our soaking backs and behinds. Yuck.
The music was good, though, and it was nice to hear prayers and songs and scripture in English. The sermon wasn't very good, but it was still a generally nice experience. Oh, and we got communion - not a bad thing about that!
After that, we arranged for Eric to pick us up so we wouldn't have to do the massive walk back home. We arrived back to the Guest House and began getting ready for the party. I was in charge of music so I set up a playlist and plugged my computer into a speaker to be "DJ Jazzy Bethe" as my dad would call me. The pool was also finally ready yesterday so Bryan and a few others jumped in before people started arriving.
The party started to pick up between 4 and 4:30 when families started arriving. We decided to make it a big staff event and invite all the Guest House staff and their families. Also, although we had not originally intended to, we ended up inviting my boys to stay and share in the feast with us. We probably had 50-60 people in attendance. One of the highlights, though, was getting to meet Oge's family. Oge came with his wife, daughter, and mother-in-law. They were all absolutely lovely, but I really enjoyed his daughter, Laura.
She was very shy at first. She just wanted to stand with her mom and grandma even while all the other kids were dancing, or throwing balls around, or swinging on the swing. Eventually, though, she decided to go swing with Oge which eventually resulted in her agreeing to dance with me. She grabbed my hand and started swaying to the music. We became instant friends. She was a crazy awesome dancer with crazy awesome dance moves. No joke. It was just a ton of fun spending time with her and dancing with her during the party. It was also fun to see her go from being super shy and uneasy at the party to not wanting to leave. Love it.
The feast was also fantastic with more than enough to go around. The best part of the feast, though, was our bar-b-que chicken. When we had gone shopping the day before, Belorne said that she wanted good sauce. I, of course, suggested that we purchase the brown sugar kind. It tasted like good Kansas City style bar-b-que in the middle of Haiti. So good. Also, each country that was represented (USA, Canada, and Haiti) sang their own national anthem before dinner. It was so much fun to listen to each group sing with pride and to hear each national anthem. It felt good to sing the "Star Spangled Banner" on the 4th, too... even if we were in Haiti.
The rest of the night was filled with dancing, chatting, swimming, and realizing just how many Haitian friends I had made. Belorne even called me the "life of the party" mostly because of how many kids I had dancing with me throughout the evening. At one point, Mike remarked, "So you realize that you've just become the mother to approximately 15 kids... right?" I laughed, thinking, "Yes. I am the 21-year-old mother of 15 adorable, awesome kids. I'm a lucky lady."
The night ended with taking a dip in the pool. It was the 2nd time I had felt cold in Haiti and it felt glorious after sweating so much between the walk in the morning and dancing at the party. So glad that we have the pool up and running now. I will definitely have to take advantage of it during my last 2.5 weeks here.
Beyond that, all that is important to report is that Bryan and Mike left today to go on their family vacation in the States. Mike will return on the 15th, and I convinced Bryan today to return on the 23rd so he can see me before I go. It's already strange without them here, though, and I'm already ready for them to return. Hopefully these next 10 days will go quickly.
Anyway, I am off to bed. I'm exhausted. However, one last note.
It is raining here tonight. Earlier today little Peter told me that his family had a hole in their tent that made their tent flood whenever it rained - getting his sleeping space wet. He asked for a new tarp. However, I didn't have a tarp so I felt kind of helpless. After seeing the rain that's out here tonight, though, I'm determined to find something to help his family - even if all I do is duct tape the hole shut. Please say a little prayer for Peter (and Robenson's - as they are brothers) family. And while you're at it, say a little prayer for all the Haitians living in tent cities right now.
Sending love your way,