Monday, July 12, 2010

Day One

April 21, 2010

Oh Lord, the dreams I had last night. I might have had a lot on my mind. John kept talking about not going. I dreamt he left the Chicago airport and said he couldn’t do it. But I also dreamt we made it safely into Haiti. I hope the latter is the only true part. I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep, the dreams, the nerves or the excitement but it was so easy to wake up. Heaven is a Place was the song that woke us up. Amber and I chatted about the meaning of it – I remember hearing that story but didn’t know that was the song. We all took quick showers to rinse off (we weren’t sure when we would shower again). I washed the remnants of my makeup form the day before off. (I never go anywhere without makeup – a whole week is going to be a long time, especially in airports.) I even repacked my personal item to a smaller bag that morning. It was a little after 6 when we left Dave’s for the airport. His friend came to help take us and our luggage (seven people, fourteen suitcases, seven big backpacks and seven personal items) there wasn’t much room even with a conversion van. Security was easy at the airport. We breezed through completely unexpectedly. All of our luggage weighed fifty pounds or less – only ours was thirty some pounds which was hard to see – wasted weight that could have housed supplies. And only a few had things looked through or taken away when they scanned out carry ons and personal items. We got settled at our gate and waited to go to Miami. John kept telling us that the other flights to Cancun and such were calling his name and he would meet us in Chicago in a week. Ha! He was so reluctant to go. Not sure if it was just for attention or if he really had reservations about the trip. I am really nervous. Not about Haiti, about the flights. I have turned into the most nervous flier. Maybe this trip will help me. I remember what Adam had told me about the nerves. I hope it works.

The first flight was easy. Smooth, long, but it went a little faster then expected. I need to remember to bring a credit card if I fly American again. They played The Blind Side and the earphones were two dollars and they only take cards. Same for food. Sue and I talked about a few books on the flight as we sat next to each other. We also talked about The Blind Side. We made it to Miami without a hitch. We didn’t have a long layover and Amber was worried that we had to go grab our luggage and get them to customs or something. She lost a bet about that to Fr. Dave. She owes him ice cream at Zesto because she was wrong. We all grabbed a bite to eat. Nine dollar sandwiches. Fr. Dave bought mine. I need to send a thank you for that. He said he needed to break a fifty and I need not worry about it. But I still feel bad.

When we boarded the plane for Port au Prince we had to talk to customs/border control people. Asking a few questions like why are you going how much money do you have how long are you staying. Then I got a weird one. He looked at my name and asked if I was famous because of my name. I said no and he asked if I ever googled myself and I said yes and I assured him I never popped up on those searches. The second flight I sat by Janet. It was a huge plane. Seven across, two-three-two. There seemed to be over forty rows and even a business class section - that part was pretty empty. There were many mission teams from all over the US. A lot had matching shirts. That is something to look into for next time.

As we backed away from the gate all the nerves left me and what bubbled to the top was joy and a lot of it. I knew I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I wasn’t going on this trip to change my heart. I was going because I felt called by God and because I want to know how I can help. My heart changing is a side effect, an added bonus. I felt God reassuring me that I am doing the right thing. It all seemed surreal that it was really happening. I was two hours away from my calling. I am so excited and calm for this flight. Smiles kept creeping onto my face as I knew this was right.

It was a bit bumpy out of Miami but above 10,000 feet it was a little better. We got free snacks on this flight. Crackers with cheese spread, raisins and chocolate. And we got a few papers to fill out for customs. It was confusing and I copied from Sue all but my name, address and passport number. I think I got it right. Hopefully.

WE MADE IT!!! I cannot believe we made it and are here. My paperwork was right or at least ok because I made it through customs. I even kept a page I was supposed to turn in. I guess they didn’t look to carefully at anything. Oops. I asked Amber where I needed to put it or if I keep it until we leave and she was like – AH how did you get through without giving it??? I told her I just walked through saying I was with those people (them).

Flying in was amazing, I had Janet take pictures as she was in the window seat. I hope they turn out ok. It was beautiful everywhere I looked. The mountains were beautiful, boats were in the water spotting the ocean – just knowing I was there. The roads were visible and the main ones looked good, but that is from the air. You could see damage and rusted roofs of homes too and a lot of tarps and tents. I was unsure if there was construction or destruction looking from above. It is amazing how much devastation and destruction you see from the sky. I fought back tears as we landed. I didn’t think I could feel anymore right in where I was and what I was doing but I did. I also felt like I was home. In a strange way, I think I am. I think Haiti will always be my second home from now on.

Going through the airport was interesting. Off into a jet way, then down an escalator and onto a bus to travel a short, walkable distance. Then through immigration. Getting our bags was a mess. The room was so hot and crowded. I got a few carts since we had so much luggage and we waited and waited and waited. I was afraid our luggage was stolen or we would have to pay someone for it but it came on the last truckload. All 14 pieces were there! And going through the second part of immigration, claiming our belongings was where I forgot to turn in a paper, oops. But minus the waiting and gathering of luggage immigration took a smile and about 45 seconds. Way easier then I ever imagined it to be – way too simple. But I won’t complain.

As soon as I thought about how easy it was the mob began. Men surrounded us trying to take our carts. Not to steal but to walk them for us. They know they will get tipped and are just desperate for money. I don’t think I can count on two hands how many men I had to say no merci to. There were people yelling trying to get through and to get your attention to try and get tipped. We found two men who were there as representatives of Matthew 25 and I felt so relieved. But we still had to push the carts a ways and turn down a few more guys trying to get them. We got to the van and waited about ten minutes for our driver and Theresa. Once they arrived we loaded the van and were on our way. I had never been so relieved to get out of an airport.

Meeting Theresa was something else. For someone on her 90th trip, someone who works for bettering Haiti, I expected a down to earth style and personality. When I first realized who she was I thought there had to be some mistake. She had makeup and jewelry on. Her hair was done and she was dressed very nicely. She seemed very high maintenance. It gives me hope though. I appear to be high maintenance, at least my love of makeup does, but I can still have love and hope and do things for Haiti without it interfering. (*but she did say a few days later that with all the time you have in Haiti why not make yourself pretty. – Ha! Not quite the point.)

The ten to fifteen minute drive from the airport to Matthew 25 was so amazing and so very horrible at the same time. There were people everywhere, cars everywhere. It was pure chaos. No traffic laws, no lines on the roads to divide the lanes. The sights were amazing, our first real look at Haiti eye level, But it was so horrible and devastating. You could see how beautiful the buildings, now down, were. You could feel the sadness of the people walking. The markets were pitiful, people selling anything and everything. There were tent cities everywhere, even the medians of roads. There wasn’t a person there that wasn’t affected and it showed. There isn’t a way to process everything you see on that first drive. I have a feeling this whole week will be the same.

We arrived at M25. It is a gated house with a few guys guarding the front. We were let in and we unloaded the van. Laura, Dave’s - from Chicago - wife, greeted us and showed us where to put our personal belongings – in a bedroom – our luggage stayed out doors under an awning. The bedrooms are empty, except for backpacks, no one is allowed to sleep in the building, there was some damage and the building is not safe to sleep in but you can sit in there all day and eat inside. Laura then showed us our tents. And told us that the rocks on the ground were new. It had been raining a lot and the ground was too wet so they brought rocks in to keeps the tents from sinking. Brian dubbed it the hard rock hotel. Ha! Everyone had at least a sleeping bag to sleep on for padding, a pillow and a sheet. The girls had a huge tent and the boys split between two small ones. John slept along – I hear he snores. Once we all knew where we were sleeping we had some time to get acclimated. Laura showed us the ‘camp’ out back. It was set up where a triage center was established after the earthquake. It used to be a soccer field for kids to come and play. Now it was dirt and tents housing 1,300 people. Laura showed us the sick tent which was just built. We met two amputee victims, their surgeries were done on the table we were going to eat supper on. Good thing I can push that aside. We saw the new toilets that were just put in. The kids came running up to us as soon as they saw us. They were so happy. All smiling. How can they be so happy living like this? They were climbing all over us, I didn’t mind being a jungle gym at all. They all wanted a kiss and to hold hands. Again I couldn’t see how just holding my hand made them so happy – they have nothing. They wanted to know our names and for us to know theirs. I was in heaven. But my enjoyment turned to guilt. I have so much and yet I can be so unhappy and unsatisfied. We then walked to the roof where two rooms stood, there were two others that had to be torn down. Laura and Theresa talked about the plans for the future of M25, where to go now or to build. As of this moment they are renting this building and land. I am so amazed at Theresa, she is a wealth of information.

Dinner was amazing. Rice, chicken and veggies in sauce, beets, tomatoes, lettuce with dressing, plantains. There was a spicy cabbage slaw (not like our cole slaw) – it was SO good and SO spicy. I wish I had the recipe. We ate like kings. I wanted more, not knowing what we would have in Chateau. But a moment shared between a mother of a little girl, Theresa and I in the camp came to mind. The mother had a little girl, maybe two, and she stopped eating. Nothing they do can get her to eat. I wanted to cry at that moment. After dinner we all sat at the table and shared stores and tips and talked about all things Haiti. One guy scared us with a projected 12 hour drive. There was such an eclectic group with one thing in common, Haiti. M25 is such a great place and I hope everyone that helps it run smoothly realizes how wonderful it is. It is a perfect way to ease into the Haitian culture from the American. My goal upon arriving home, to learn Creole – for real.

John and I had a beer – they have beer and coke products – the old style bottles here at M25. The beer, Prestige, is so good. Maybe a mix between Carib and Kalik? I could drink it on the lake back home I think.

I have loved being in Haiti so much so far. It hasn’t been 24 hours yet but I can feel it in my bones that this will forever be a huge part of my life. I was really scared that once I arrived I would rethink my calling. But landing in Haiti, seeing it and feeling it, has made it clear that this is where I belong.

I called home to start the phone tree. It was good to hear my mom and dad’s voices and Carter’s too. It brought me to tears. I will miss them so much. But I have to remember that God brought me here for a reason.

I had Laura hold back a tray for me, they have so many beautiful pieces of artwork here. I hope there is some in Chateau too.

It is early, maybe 10, but I am calling it a night. I am so exhausted from such an emotional day.

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