I think I left a little piece of my heart there when I returned home Saturday from my vision trip with I'm Me. We'd been warned that it would take a while to process everything we experienced... and it has. It's taken me a couple of days to write this first blog post because it's hard to know where to start. SO MUCH HAPPENED. And my mind is still trying to wrap my head around all of it. Haiti changed me.
The trip down to Haiti was a comfortable one - it was my first trip to the Caribbean and I enjoyed flying over the crystal blue waters. I looked forward to the day we were going to be spending at the beach with our group.
I quickly made my way through customs and grabbed my bags before meeting up with our group leader Kyle. One of my suitcases was filled with donations from folks - sheet sets, vitamins, crayons, games, you name it - just a ton of stuff for the kids supported by I'm Me. We pulled up to the gas station to grab a cold pop while we waited for the next group of girls to show up and what do I see??? GUNS!!!! Big, black, shotguns. I'd see a lot more guns throughout the week - there's armed security everywhere.
Back at the airport, I waited with our driver Fred while Kyle met up with the other girls. We talked about a lot of things... Fred's mom who is battling cancer, the fact that Haitians eat cats (wasn't ready for that), and Haitian dogs. Yes... all the dogs in Haiti look the same. There are no Yorkies or Poms... just Haitian dogs. You might see a Chihuahua or a Rottweiler occasionally. But those Haitian dogs were everywhere. We talked a little bit about Duke... I told Fred we had to put him down after we found out he had cancer. Fred asked how we knew Duke had cancer - I nonchalantly told him we took him to the vet (because that's what we do). Yeah... pets don't go to the vet in Haiti. That convo tripped us out. Our conversation turned to healthcare and the crazy costs in the states. Needless to say, both of us learned a lot during that conversation.
Our first night in Haiti was chill. We went to the Clay Cafe for smoothies and just spent time getting to know each other. I bunked with my new friends Jill and Cat. And by "bunked," I mean bunk beds. I noticed that there were fitted sheets on the mattresses... but no other blankets or sheets. I'd find out later that night that it's so hot (and we didn't have air conditioning) so there was no need for blankets at night.
We spent that night enjoying the view of Port-au-Prince from our rooftop. We stayed in an area that was hit pretty hard by the big earthquake in 2010. That was kind of surreal. But our rooftop provided a spectacular kickin' it spot for the entire week. It was our refuge.
We were fed spectacularly - my favorite was this cheesy potatoes dish they made a couple of times. Y'all, I gained 6 lbs while I was in Haiti. They fed us well.
On our first night in Haiti, we were asked a question: Why Haiti? My response was, "Why not?" I knew the trip would be life-changing and give me new perspective. Boy, was I right. Huge reality check on our first night at the crib...
- Going potty: Haitians don't flush toilet paper. That's right... even #2 tissue goes in the waste basket next to the toilet. And because the house had a limited water supply, we were told to conserve. 'If it's yellow, let it mellow" became a well-known phrase. And yes, you pee in the toilet with someone else's pee in it. Yeah... not used to that.
- Showers: Again, we were asked to conserve. And the Lord knows I tried my best. But we were always sweating because of the heat and humidity. I found that I'd take two or three quick showers a day to wash the stank off and to cool down. Yes... there was no hot water - our showers were refreshingly cold.
- Water: Don't drink the tap water. Actually, don't even brush your teeth with the tap water. We had to have gone through 900 big water jugs while we were there.
- Security: There were guys with guns guarding the compound. Not unsettling at all.
- The heat: It was hot all the time. I'd sweat the moment I got out of the shower. We'd sweat if we were just sitting around talking. So you could find us sitting in front of fans if we were home. Or on the roof - the roof at night was magical and cool.
- Electricity: This probably took the most getting used to. The government randomly shuts of the electricity. You never know when its going to come back on. So... no fans, no cold drinking water, no lights, etc. That was pretty eye-opening.
I learned so many things that first night that made me wonder if I was actually going to make it. The thought crossed my mind that I wanted to come home. I'm glad a hung in there because what happened the next day made it all worth it. Tune in for that blog post tomorrow.