Finding Harmony in Haiti

How did it all begin? Joe, A friend and customer of mine invited me to assist in the construction of single row houses in Petionville, Haiti.  Hesitant to leave my busy work life, I finally agreed.  Each unit is to serve as a temporary home for Haiti’s many orphans.  The completed project will provide residence for children ranging from tiny babies to 11-year-old kids.  After forgetting about the invitation, I received an email with a flight itinerary only days prior.  There was no backing out.  I realized I knew very little of Haiti.  All I knew was that it was an impoverished country.  Apparently some 300,000 Haitians died during the earthquake and most of the rubble has not been dealt with.  I also read that Haiti is now the poorest nation in the world. When I arrived I saw a place with few tourists, and undrinkable water.  Most of the streets outside the city center are unpaved.  The houses are made of stone and concrete and many are partially constructed waiting for a roof or more building supplies.  While the cities are in the midst of rebuilding, the culture is vibrant and strong.  The people here are resilient, and happy with what little they have.  On the coast of Port-au-Prince are the poorest parts of the community, shanty towns with the most abhorrent living conditions.  Towards Petionville in the hills there is a mix of gated homes, churches and businesses.  Many North Americans contribute to orphanages or humanitarian causes, though there is still a degree of danger in many areas of the country. After each day of construction, I sat in the tiny guest house (a box maybe 15ft by 15ft) and chronicled my journey.  I decided to blog my last journal entry in Haiti.  It was here laying in the bunk that I realized the trip was not just for charity.  It was a journey of personal and spiritual growth. November 19th, 2012.  Day 6. It’s our last day in Haiti. Part of me has grown to love this place. There is a wonderful sense of community and family here.  The other part feels a need to return home -to responsiblity. I flirt with the idea of moving to Petionville but i know it is unrealistic.  I am psychologically rooted in Canada.  A quick breakfast in the gazebo of Corn Pops and French milk and we are off to the main house. (the orphanage)  GLA’s Patrick and his wife Holly take us and drop off their child at school along the way.  It’s a routine trip for the 30-something couple from Colorado.  My fellow Canadians Joe, Erik and I take one last look at what we have become part of.  The ride is short but there is an easy calm between us.  We’ve spent a week in Haiti in sensory overload. We’ve grown used to the smell of rot, burning plastic and overcrowded streets.  I catch myself smiling at Holly though she doesn’t notice. Haiti has brought us all together. 6 days here has felt like a year. I hardly knew Joe until the trip and i met Erik only 1 week ago.  I may never see Patrick, Holly, Pastor Brandon and Nikki or their families again. For some reason this doesn’t bother me. I have a week’s worth of memories. We pull up to the 12 foot gate where razor wire surrounds the property.  A few honks lets a guard know we’ve arrived.   I wander up to the 3rd floor where the nannies are entertaining the toddlers.  A wide eyed 2.5 year old orphan extends his arms at me. I pick him up.  He’s a healthy 10lb Haitian child and he holds on. It becomes obvious why we are here. But it’s time to move. A local driver they call Ernst drives us to the Haiti airport through the streets of Port-au-Prince. I’m spent from 5 days of building trusses but I snap the last few photos of street markets and city life.  The drive is silent save for a Kreol radio station playing the latest local hits. Nobody speaks, and nobody has to. The somber atmosphere is fitting for a final drive through the city’s downtown.  People are selling sugar cane, clothing and fruits along the busy streets.  My mind tries to find organization in what seems like chaos. Thinking back I am left more perplexed than ever.  I wonder if the others have gone on a journey such as I have.  Far away from home life seems to have more possibilities and less limitations.  Here it becomes easy to question the path one has chosen.  Is such confusion common among other travellers?  At the service yesterday, Pastor Brandon told us that the pieces of our life, even if they are pain and suffering, are all part of the delicious recipe of life.  And that we must be grateful for each ingredient. Though some are bitter and some are sour the end result is perfection. This reminds me of something I read from Deepak Chopra. He says that “this moment is as it should be, because the whole universe is as it should be.” We board the plane and I awake in New York. During the flight I try to think of all my first world problems back home. They have begun to lose their severity. I suppose every one is a necessary brush stroke on my life’s canvas. Soon we arrive in San Francisco, Seattle and then home.  It’s a comforting thought to know everything has a greater purpose, and for once I am truely grateful. Thanks to Burnett Fellowship Church, and God’s Littlest Angels (GLA)

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