Readjusting to life in Haiti after being in the States over Christmas was bizarre. It was such a blessing to be able to spend almost three weeks with my family and friends back home, but things that had become normal in Haiti once again felt foreign on my return. Strangely, even circumstances I knew to expect felt surprising.
Walking into the airport at Port-au-Prince, I was greeted by Caribbean music being played by a live band set up in the halls. The culture differences hit me then–things such as no water running to the toilets, no toilet paper to be found and people constantly trying to grab your bags so you will pay them to carry them.
It felt as if I was holding my breath until I finally exited and saw Pastor Emile Samedy standing in the crowd smiling at me. It was so automatic to hold tightly to my bags and say, “No, mesi,” that it took me a couple of moments to notice that my friend, James (who had driven Pastor Emile to the airport), was the one taking them from my hands.
As we drove to our compound with the windows down, I looked around with fresh eyes. The incessant dust and various odors of rotting food, things burning, butchered animals and human and animal waste made me cough as we wound our way through the many lanes of traffic fighting for passage on a two lane street.
Watching people sit atop and hang onto the sides of taptaps, which are brightly colored vehicles people pay to ride, and seeing people ride on the backs of motorcycles balancing boxes the size of ovens made me smile. Goats tied to the sides of vehicles and people bathing and using the restroom on the side of the road were common sights in Haiti that had become uncommon to me in the short weeks since I left.
The first few days back at the compound were another adjustment. Privacy is hard to find in Haiti, especially when the walls of one house are often used as one wall of the next. There are so many people in this neighborhood that it seems someone is always watching. The only place I have found to be truly private is my room, which is usually extremely hot in the daytime. The electricity has been even more spotty than usual, coming on anytime between midnight and 3:30 a.m. and going off between 5 and 7 a.m. Sometimes it doesn’t come on at all. Our evenings have been spent sitting on the roof and chatting with each other or the children next door, as it is difficult to do much else in the dark. Thankfully, the month of January has been cool enough that we have slept in our rooms with the windows open instead of on the roof as we did in the warmer months.
Being from a fairly quiet, rural area, it has also been challenging to sleep with the constant noises of Haiti. Day and night bombarding my senses are the horns from traffic, the singing from nearby churches, roosters crowing, dogs barking and people talking. A running joke between local missionaries is that their favorite games are “Gunshots or Fireworks?” and “Goat or Baby?” Those are all familiar sounds in Haiti and it is surprisingly difficult to tell the difference.
The day after I returned, both a rah-rah (a voodoo processional) and a large group of people heading to join the nearby manifestations (riots) walked right by our compound. The political situation in Haiti is unsettled. The constant manifestations caused the Prime Minister of Haiti to step down a few weeks ago in an effort to bring peace. The rioters have been protesting because the senatorial elections that were to happen over three years ago still haven’t happened. They have been calling for the resignation of the president as well as many other demands. Sometimes it seems as if they don’t really know what exactly they want.
As unsettled as it is in this country and as different as life is here, I am thankful that I am in a place that feels like home, is secure and where I feel no danger. School starts back next week, and we will once again have many children to teach, minister to, feed and love. Although it was an adjustment coming back, I wouldn’t trade my time in Haiti for any amount of money. God has his hand on this ministry, and I look forward to seeing what he is going to do in the coming months.