It’s June! And I’m not yet melting from the heat in Haiti. Honestly I’m surprised I haven’t struggled with the heat so much..maybe I have adjusted? Or (more realistically) maybe it’s because I choose to sit in the coolest room in the building at work? Or because I’ve been able to figure out a system to have at least a battery powered fan at night? Or maybe it’s just because we aren’t in the middle of summer yet? Stay tuned to see how I survive the real summer heat.
These first few weeks back in Haiti have had ups and downs, but I’m also noticing how comfortable I’m beginning to become here and how normal life feels for me here now.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Callie, one of my best friends from college, came back to Haiti with me from the US. We had so much fun while she was here and both agreed the trip was too short (it was only 4.5 days!) Being her first international trip, I was unsure of what she would think of Haiti, but she ended up loving it! It was a such a joy showing someone I love something I love, and them learning to love it as well. We flew in on Saturday and went straight to the beach to stay overnight. We soaked up all the sun, food, and AC we could. I knew that Callie was going to be fine for the rest of the trip here when she chose to have a cold shower at the hotel instead of a hot one.
The next day, we got to Gonaives and my house was covered in dust from me being absent for 2 weeks. We walked to have dinner at the local Americans’ favorite restaurant that we have deemed “Narnia” because it feels like a lush, beautiful escape from the city.
Monday, Callie came to work with me and I introduced her to all my coworkers, showed her what I do, she helped me with some marketing stuff, and she did one of our “Make and Take” sessions. In these sessions, visitors get to sit with our artisans while they create their own one-of-a-kind piece of art. Callie worked with Phillipe to make a beautiful shirt! That evening, we had dinner with Kathy and I was so happy to have two people who are so close to me spend time together.
Tuesday morning, we woke up early to hike the mountain in town. Once we started, we made a last minute decision to stay in a lower spot that had a beautiful view instead of going to the top. We sat in silence for 10 minutes and as we sat there, I had an epiphany of sorts. Since studying abroad in the French Riviera and realized that it’s possible, I have always said that I wanted to live in a place that had both the beach and mountains. For some reason, I thought that was something that probably wouldn’t happen ever, and if it did happen, it would be later in life. While sitting in that spot on the mountain, I looked to my right and saw the sea stretch out into the distance, and to my left, I saw tons and tons of mountains. In that moment, I realized that I am actually living that dream right now, alongside my dream job. It was one of those reminders of God’s faithfulness and his promise to fulfill every desire of our hearts; it was a really sweet moment, and I plan to make that little spot on the mountain a place that I visit more often to remind me of that truth.
We spent the rest of the day shopping in the market and playing with kids at the pool. That evening, we set up the projector to watch a movie, one of my favorite things to do here! The next morning, we headed to Port au Prince early to spend the day running errands before dropping Callie off. After stopping at a coffee shop, (such a luxury I don’t take for granted when I get to do!) I went to the immigration office for the second time to try to obtain my visa. I was turned away again, and told I was missing yet another document that wasn’t on the list I was given and to come back with the person who wrote my letter of employment. I was so frustrated, but I was warned by many to expect these kind of delays in obtaining it. After, we went to our 2nd Story Goods store that is located in the Marriott Hotel. This was the first time I got to spend more than 5 minutes there (in the past, I have just been there for dropping off product). I got to meet one of the employees who I haven’t met yet and talk about ideas for increasing our sales there. As I’ve mentioned before, our in-country sales have decreased dramatically over the past year due to the political unrest here that has resulted in less tourism. I was thankful to finally get to spend some time in the store, and so many ideas came flooding in by being there in person. After that, Callie and I got to go on a wholesale shopping spree for 2nd Story Goods at Papillon, one of the biggest artisan companies in Haiti. We did a trade with them so they could have more of our product and we could have more of theirs to sell. We got to pick out all the product, and then eat cheeseburgers at their cafe for lunch! After, Callie helped me get groceries at the grocery store. Since I typically can only get things like meat, cheese, and lettuce at the grocery store in Port au Prince, it is always an exciting event for me. I am counting down the days until Much finishes the building and we have a full-sized grocery store in Gonaives! It will be one happy day!
So, Callie got to see pretty much every aspect of my life within a very short amount of time. We were both so sad that she had to leave, and I can’t wait until she can visit again! A few days later, Kathy left once again for the U.S., and though it was just for a week this time, the sadness and loneliness from my close friend Laura leaving for sabbatical and Kathy coming back and forth every other month this year sunk in. Though I enjoyed having a weekend by myself to eat all of my Port au Prince food and rest from my fast-paced month, the sudden difference in being with so many people to being suddenly alone was a difficult adjustment. A few days later, two of my closest friends who I work with told me that they are considering moving to Port au Prince because there is more opportunity for them there. It was shocking and heart-breaking for many reasons, and though it’s just a consideration and not happening for sure, the news hit me pretty hard. Obviously I love them and personally just want them here selfishly for that reason. That alone is hard enough, but the thought also breaks my heart because it is a yet another demonstration of the centralization of Port au Prince. It’s estimated that Port au Prince has over 6 million people, while the second biggest city, Cap Haitien has 600,000, meaning it is just a tenth of a size. This is a huge reason we are building a grocery store in Gonaives, in an effort to bring economic development and opportunity outside of the capital city. And I can’t blame these friends for considering it, when they think about the one life they have and wanting to start saving to be able to provide for their families; I think if I were in their shoes, chances are I would do the same thing.
In the mean time, I am soaking up all the time I can with them (and possibly making too many passive aggressive comments about them leaving me and continuous arguments of why they should stay) just in case they do move. Coming back from the US here shows me that one of the biggest differences in my life here and there is my social life. I spend far more time alone here, especially since my roommate hasn’t been in the apartment since January. I have learned to appreciate my alone time, but when I see friends from home together, I would give anything to be there. Especially as I am in the process of learning the language and culture, I feel somewhat lack of social connection with those around me who don’t speak English. This motivates me even more to work hard on improving my Creole, so I can lessen that gap. I’m looking at this next season ahead, knowing that it may be more lonely at times, but also making an effort to step more fully into the truth that I’m never really alone, because the Lord goes with me wherever I go. I hope that no matter what is in the future for my social life, I can hold onto that truth.