So I’ve been a little reluctant to write this blog, simply because I don’t want to accept the fact that my trip is done. But here we go….
The People in HODR
I can’t even begin to describe how amazing the people in HODR were. What is great is that there are people from all walks of life, from all sorts of ages, interests, political ideologies, cultures, etc., and they’re all their with the same purpose and intent. As different as we all are, I think there is a certain personality trait that everyone has in common. Most people you know are not too excited about going to a third world country to have bucket showers and eat the same food everyday, and sleep on a wooden bunk. But everyone in HODR is happy to do it, because they see the bigger picture, and they get a personal satisfaction of what they do. During one of my talks with a fellow HODR, we were talking about how silly it felt when people in the US told us how proud they were of us for going on a trip of this sort. I honestly felt/feel guilty when people say this, because I feel like I got more out of this trip than anyone else I may have gone to help. And I think most people who participate in works like this feel the same way. Not to say that everyone was perfect; everyone has their own personality and maybe they don’t connect with everyone, but for the most part, everyone there was doing an amazing job at helping out in whatever way they could.
The People of Haiti
I’ve mentioned this in prior blogs, and it’s the fact that the Haitian people seem quite content to sit back and watch us do work. There is some resentment among the Haitian people for our presence, but I think that’s mostly based on the wrong assumption that we’re getting paid to do the work that we’re doing. I’m sure to them it sounds crazy that a person would agree to work for free; I don’t blame them. But there are definitely people who are thankful for the help that is being provided, and that’s what really matters.
If I had to describe the Haitian people in one word, I might use “loud.” There were definitely times that I could not tell by the sound or tone whether someone was in a good mood or not, because they always seem to talk pretty loudly to each other; I would have to guess the gist of the conversation by looking at facial and hand expressions. There were definitely a few times were I felt I was getting cussed out, and I guess it’s better that I didn’t know what was going on. But they are also such beautiful people. There is something about their skin tone, and the bone structure of their faces, that make them absolutely beautiful. I could probably spend a whole week just taking pictures of them.
The Situation in Haiti
The situation in Haiti is a difficult one. I wish I could say that my work down there really helped out and made a difference, but the reality is that the clearing of one rubble site is nothing compared to what needs to be done. And it’s not just about cleaning up the mess that the earthquake left behind, but instilling certain capabilities that seem basic to us, like running water or a trash collection system. Haiti doesn’t have trash cans, and from what I could tell, no system of disposing your trash. Everyone burns their trash, or dumps it in the local canal or water way. Not necessarily great for sanitation.
The other big challenge right now is communication between the UN, NGO’s, and the government of Haiti, including local government. In Leogane, for example, the mayor’s office stopped attending cluster meetings because they don’t believe their thoughts or opinions are given any attention, and because they feel they are not being told enough about what the NGO’s are doing in Leogane. Cluster meetings are basically a way for all the NGO’s to get together depending on what specific area they are working in, and to communicate with each about what is being done. I think involving the local government is a double edged sword: I think they definitely need to be aware of what is going on in their cities, but it’s also difficult to know how much to involve a local government that is plagued by corruption and which isn’t very efficient on it’s own to begin with. Interesting fact, which I’m not sure if I’ve included in a prior post, but there are people that work in the mayor’s office who have not received a paycheck since December. I guess a few of them have second jobs, and that’s how they make a living, but they keep working at the mayor’s office in the hopes that someday soon money will start coming through the pipeline again, and they’ll get paid for the time worked.
My Final Thoughts
These last couple days back home have been difficult. It’s hard to analyze what you just went through, and see how much you will let that impact what you do with the rest of your life. I don’t want my experience in Haiti to just be something cool that I got to experience, I want it to be something that changes my life for the better, and helps me achieve my goals. Hanging out with people that work at the UN and UNDP was definitely an eye opening experience. They told me they love their jobs, but it’s not an easy job. I know the life I want would not be an easy one, but I can’t tell you guys how ridiculously happy I was every day that I was there, just living life day to day, helping people out a little at a time. It’s hard to come back home and let yourself get carried away by the realities of your daily routine. It was nice talking to Abby today and knowing that I’m not the only one that feels this way: we don’t want to get carried away by our routine, but want to find a way to make what we saw our new reality. We’re actually trying to find a way to make it back there for a longer period of time in a few months. I really hope it works out.
My return hasn’t only been challenging emotionally and professionally, but physically as well. My body has definitely had a more difficult time adjusting to the weather and food back here than it did in Haiti. Not sure why… It’s finally starting to feel a little bit more normal, which is great because I can’t really afford to take any more sick time from work!
All in all, I feel so blessed and lucky to have had this amazing opportunity, and I hope it is just the beginning of something amazing. I can’t thank Abby enough for giving me this opportunity, and for allowing me to share this experience with her–it would not have been the same any other way.