Thank you to everyone who has reached out in concern, offered thoughts and prayers, and sent words of encouragement in these past few weeks. I am grateful to say that things have been mostly peaceful country-wide for the past week and a half. Both prayers and significant changes are still needed for those who are struggling, as prices are still high due to inflation and there have continued to be gas shortages. Though there is speculation as to why things have calmed down and whether or not it will stay this way (and if its even best for it to stay calm because that can lead to complacency from the government, and change is definitely needed in this corrupt system), I am thankful for each day that passes that I see more traffic, more kids going to school, and more people resuming back to life as normal.
Though it has been sad and difficult to watch, as crazy as this may sound, I have been seriously thankful and honored to be here in this time. I am honored to be allowed and invited into this raw, emotional, human place. Honored to get to sit with friends and coworkers and listen as they process the difficult things happening here. Honored to share in feeling even a tiny fraction of the sadness and frustration that they have felt as they have watched their beloved country struggle immensely. Honored to get to work in a place that, due to our connection with the global market, has been able to provide continued employment for many in a time when most people were not able to earn an income. Honored to be a part of pushing through together with these strong-spirited individuals, of not giving up, of fighting with something we all know is a huge part of the answer: economic development. It is incredibly empowering to not be completely debilitated by challenges and roadblocks, but instead to let them fuel the fire for change, and I have gotten to witness the strength of that truth in this time.
I feel that I am now officially in my true adjustment period to Haiti. After an unexpectedly prolonged time in the U.S., I have finally come to terms with the fact that this is not a vacation or a super short-term commitment, but my home for the next year and a half at the least. Having that extra time in the U.S. enabled me to see the ways that all my friends and peers are now on their own paths, and we are now all being fully pushed into the realities of adulthood. I have come to terms with the fact that this leads to shifting friendships and not getting to talk to people from home as much as I’d like to, though that is not a bad thing, just a necessary life thing. Finally, I have committed to really making roots: buying things I need for my home, really dedicating myself to learning Creole, forming strong relationships, and becoming more independent in doing life here.
Though I don’t think I’ve reflected on it enough yet, somehow going back to the U.S. and returning here has led me to realize that realistically doing life here is a huge adjustment. Some of the adjustments for me since moving here have included:
-learning not only to speak the language but to understand others as they use contractions and slang
-having to do many things on my own without feeling completely confident in the language (as someone who wants to do things seamlessly and perfectly, this is hard!!)
-getting used to the heat and typical lack of AC
-no hot water and sometimes no running water
-no microwave (this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is quite the adjustment for me!)
-learning to use a gas stove, generator, and other things I’ve never used before
– living in an empty home and having to find and buy everything I need (there is no Target or Amazon!)
-being the minority
-using new modes of transportation
-getting to know my way around town without street signs or easy to find addresses
-not having regular or trustworthy power
-having to cook every day due to lack of consistent refrigeration
-a new diet
-having to grocery shop several times a week because food doesn’t stay good as long
-having to clean several times a week due to all the dust that comes in through the windows
-lots of loud noises (honking, selling things, yelling, animals, singing)
-events starting late
-expecting the unexpected
-and understanding the nuances of the culture that affect every aspect of life!
While living here, it is easy to discount these things as “just the way Haiti is” especially because all of my time is spent with foreigners who have lived here much longer than me and locals, and that is what it is to them at this point. But for a newcomer, these things can be hard and intimidating. I think my pride leads me to not admitting to this at times. But when I take a step back, I realize that all of these things add up to be a pretty big deal, especially when they are all intertwined in the beginning. I am grateful for the ways that these adjustments challenge me and teach me every single day, and if I haven’t made it clear already, I truly love being here.
I cannot make a list of the adjustments without also making a list of the unique parts of my life here that I am so very thankful for:
-doing my dream job!
-working in the most amazing company culture around!
-sunshine year round!
-proximity to the beach and mountains
-fresh pineapple juice
-cheap avocados, mango, and pineapple
-getting to do yoga on my porch with the most beautiful view every morning
-getting to go to the pool regularly
-getting to hike regularly
-an apartment that I love
-learning a beautiful and relatively easy language!
-walking to and from work
-taking moto taxis around town
-so many goats and dogs!
-an incredible support system
-getting a break from materialism and realizing I don’t need as much as I think I do
-getting to practice resourcefulness
-so many opportunities to learn something new every single day
-constantly being challenged and pushed outside of my comfort zone
-a few of my favorite things about the culture: greeting with cheek kisses, sharing what you have with others, speaking in proverbs, and unshakable faith in God.
When listed out like this, it seems that these things make life so incredibly different, when in reality, life is still life wherever you go. It includes people working, learning, eating, sleeping, making, breaking, loving, hoping, crying, laughing, arguing, forgiving, and connecting no matter what the practicalities look like. I’m thankful for this season of getting to do life in these unique American/ Haitian/Olivia ways for however long I have the true HONOR of being here.