Until the next time, Haiti, thanks for the memories…

I always dread the goodbyes. They’re never easy, and today was just like last year when it was time to leave…hugs with kids–sometimes 2 or 3 children squeezed together all at once–followed by the dreaded ugly cry! Their sweet faces and bubbly personalities are a forever part of my memory book. At the same time, I was thankful for my dark glasses. ?

But Karen had one last goodbye surprise. Being the good Newfie that she is, she has a stash of mummering clothes on hand. As I came into the kitchen with the last of my bags, she jumped out from behind the door sporting her wolf like rubber mask, which of course also had red hair! I was actually thankful she scared me half to death–made me forget about leaving for a minute…

To lighten the load on the brain and the heart, there’s always “the drive.”The drive back to the airport was much less eventful than when I arrived, but eye opening nonetheless. Streets were again crowded with people and cars. People were walking to the rice fields, hoes in hand, and others were setting up their roadside canteens, restaurants, boutiques, and gambling kiosks. Passing through one town, horns were honking like rush hour in the big cities. We were bumper to bumper, literally, as our driver ‘nudged’ the back end of the truck in front of us. People were staring, horns were still honking, and I was afraid that if we didn’t move in a hurry, I would witness an episode of road rage, Haitian style. Luckily, our driver quickly swerved out into the street around the truck causing the tie up, and we were on our way again.

The drive was fairly smooth, or at least as smooth as it can be for Haitian highways. Close to the airport we passed a convoy of 7 United Nations trucks, fully ‘stocked’ with police officers in Brazilian uniforms, and then we finally passed the busy police checkpoint on the last main stretch of road before the airport. It’s handy driving with a Haitian police officer–Daniel got out and flashed his badge to get us in the fast lane.

Saying goodbye leaves a lasting impact, because as much as I want to go back, there are no guarantees every year. And it’s not just to see the children, either. Beate and Karen have become great friends to me, and I think there are times during the week that Karen feels like Beate and I are two more kids to supervise! Those are the lighter moments of the week where we broke into offices– literally–ate mango slushies like kids in a candy store, and drove to Luckner’s store in the back of the truck.

The other moments, the ones that are hard to see, are the ones you can’t dwell on. Every day we saw a woman sleeping on a blanket on the rocks by the bridge at the orphanage. She wore the same camel coloured skirt every day, but she had it pulled up to her chest so it served as a dress that just barely covered her tiny body. We saw her bathing in the brown water of the canal, her dress lying on the bank beside her. This is one of the realities and frustrations of Haitian culture. Karen is unable to simply give her food or clothing, for fear that it would be stolen from her anyway, or people would hurt her if they knew it came from a ‘blanc,’ (a white person), because to them, blancs are rich, and Haitians would then expect this woman to be able to get more things from Karen. Knowing Karen, though, she’ll find a way…

Haiti is truly a beautiful country, with beautiful people, and bright spirits. Beate and I talked about how easy it was to get lost in the simplicity of life there. Other than my own family, there was nothing I missed. Sleeping outside on the second floor was very peaceful, and I never tired waking up to the backyard view that was the mango trees and the mountains. It didn’t take long to just “roll” with the daily life that moved at a much slower speed.  But I know this is not a trip for everyone. The important thing is to find your own “Haiti,” or “HATS,” although you’ll be hard pressed to find people like Karen and Beate! There are always people who need help, and you often don’t have to go far to find them. You also don’t need to spend money to lend a helping hand; kind words, thoughtful deeds, or the gift of your time, can be priceless for some people. Sometimes in the toughest of times, you just need to remember to carry kindness in your heart. ❤️?

So, until the next time, Haiti, thanks for the memories…hugs from Haiti. ?

~Heather