“You can do it, but you’re scared.”
These were words that my co-worker Jimson said to me as he was guiding me through a painting at a Haitian painting class that he was leading. He was referring to the fact that I was extremely hesitant with my paintbrush, afraid to make any mistakes, and thus, afraid to give it my best shot.
I don’t think he meant these words to be profound (or maybe he did because he’s a very smart guy), but they struck a chord deep within, and I haven’t forgotten them since. They have proven to be extremely applicable during my first 6 weeks in Haiti, and I am sure they will continue to be throughout my time here. I can go to the market to buy my groceries by myself, but I’m scared. I can get a moto taxi to take me where I’m going by myself, but I’m scared. And, perhaps most of all, I can at least try my very best to speak Creole, but I’m scared.
Perhaps it was these words that prepared me for the change of heart I had with Creole 2 weeks later. I was hanging out with a group of Haitian friends and even though some of them speak English, they were mostly all speaking Creole to each other all day. I found myself getting so frustrated when I didn’t know what was going on, and getting overwhelmed by how many words I didn’t know yet. However, through some words in a Henri Nouwen book that I just happened to have with me at the time, God led me to a change of attitude towards Creole right then and there. I felt the Lord leading me to focus on the words I do know and building from there, rather than getting stuck on the words I don’t know. Everything changed from that moment on. I started making a list of the words I do know already as well as of the questions I have. I started thinking about all of the words I know in French and asking others if the words are similar in Creole. I started trying my best to formulate sentences and reverting to Crenglish (Creole and English) or Crench (Creole and French) when necessary, because at least then I would be getting some Creole words out and would most likely still be understood.
I can’t express how amazing it has felt to get over the imaginary wall I had built up that was blocking me from continuing to learn and to really start making strides in the language. Just a few days after that change of heart, people at work started complimenting my Creole and congratulating me on how fast I was learning. Also I have found that the more I try, the more I learn, and the more willing others are to struggle through a Creole conversation with me and correct me along the way. Thank you to everyone who has specifically prayed for me as I learn the language, because God has definitely provided so much guidance in this area.
I have also been taking moto taxis by myself more often. I am learning how to negotiate the price and am getting more comfortable with it every day.
I finally got WiFi in my apartment, which has been a game-changer in so many ways, but of course it happened to be during a 10-day stretch in which we did not have city electricity. While we have a generator at my apartment, gas is expensive, so we try not to run it more than we need to. I have also been busier socializing with my neighbors and friends when I’m not working, which has been such a great thing that I didn’t expect to happen so quickly but am so grateful for! So I haven’t felt that much better about keeping up with family and friends at home through facetime and phone calls, but I think I’m starting to accept that (unfortunately) that is just part of living abroad. While this was of course a reality when I studied abroad in France, I had a false hope that it would somehow be different here. However, thanks to social media (specifically Instagram stories) I have felt like I’ve been able to update others on daily happenings here, while also being able to keep up with what’s going on with them. While there are so many things about social media that aren’t great, I am very, very thankful for the fact that it is helping me stay more connected to people at home during this season.
However, spending more quality time with people here has really helped me forge some strong relationships already with other Americans and Haitians alike. We have had movie nights, pool days, and even started a hiking/adventure club! The little kids who live in the downstairs portion of my house started inviting me to play cards with them, which was the most precious thing. The more I let go of fear and just put myself out there, the more I find that relationships here are growing.
Two things I’m still struggling with a little are getting in a routine with exercising and eating healthy. These are two things that are so important to my personal stress management and overall wellbeing. Although it is typically an issue here, especially as we’ve struggled worse than usual with electricity the past few weeks, all of the fresh food I buy in the market goes bad so quickly. I feel like I’m often not eating as much as I usually do because it takes a considerable effort to get healthy food here and I’m not used to that yet (not to mention my appetite has died down probably because of the heat), and then when I do eat, I’m eating super heavy stuff like rice, pasta, fried food, and bread. I know this is something I will figure out in time, and until then, I will just try to do the best I can.
As far as exercising goes, I am not getting as much movement in as I’d like. I loved my gym in Nashville and miss the HIIT classes I’d do there a lot. I’ve been spoiled the past few years and have grown used to having fitness classes to motivate me rather than leading my own workouts. I thought I would run a lot here, but there are a few problems with that. I don’t really know my way around well enough yet, it is very hot, my road isn’t paved and (me being the klutz that I am) it would be extremely easy for me to hurt myself, and the roads that are paved are generally very busy with traffic. My roommate Christine goes to a gym here and I am planning to try that soon to see how it works for me. The most exciting thing though is that a few weeks ago, we had a yoga instructor visit from the states and I got to do yoga with her 4 days in a row. I have always wanted to do more yoga, because as an achievement-oriented, fast-paced person, it is such a good break and practice for my both my mind and my body. I thoroughly enjoyed the way she taught us to truly listen to our bodies and to do small movements with great intention, so I have started trying to practice yoga more regularly on my own. Since I am not yet experienced and majorly need guidance through online videos as I do yoga, not having wi-fi for a while, having problems with data on my phone, and issues with electricity have prevented me from incorporating it into a routine, but all these problems have been addressed within the past week, so I hope to start incorporating the practice into my daily life more often. This season is definitely challenging when it comes to making sure I am taking care of myself, but I am thankful that I was made aware of the importance of this prior to moving to Haiti, am glad that it has awakened me to the privilege and accessibility I had in caring for my health in the U.S., and even kind of enjoy the new challenge that this is bringing up.
Still, I can’t shake the words of my friend Jimson: “You can do it, but you’re scared.” These words assure me of my worthiness and give me confidence in my God-given capabilities, while challenging me to recognize the hold fear has on me and to make the choice not to let it have the final word. I challenge you to ask yourself what you are scared of doing today, to dare to recognize that fear and counter it by affirming your own abilities, and to see where it can take you. You may surprise yourself by what you can accomplish as you let God’s perfect love for you right where you are speak louder than the fear that tries to hold you back. I know it has surprised me over and over again these past few weeks, and cannot imagine the ways it will continue to surprise me in the months to come. Here’s to living a life in which we allow perfect love to drive out our every fear!