Re-Entry and Reflections

27 May

Photos provided by HODR

So here I sit, at a coffee shop in small-town America.  It is 90 degrees outside, but I’m not sweating because the AC is on full-blast.  I am drinking an iced coffee and using a super fast internet connection.  If I wanted to, I could even spend some extra money and buy a pumpkin square.  When I walk out the door I will not have to worry about my safety or aftershocks or hurricane flooding or malaria or even where I will eat my next meal.  Welcome to America, the land of plenty. Welcome home?

Haiti is only a 1.5 hour flight from Miami, and yet it is an entire universe away.  In Leogane, the town where I was volunteering for the past month, 80-90% of the buildings were destroyed in the earthquake.  There is no municipal electricity, no access to clean water (besides the temporary water stations set up by NGOs), and no waste management or sewage treatment systems.  In fact, there isn’t even a sewage treatment plant in the entire country.  Every public space, including streets and parks, is full of makeshift shelters and tents.  Almost every building is nothing more then a giant pile of rubble. There are no stores, there are hardly any banks, and there seems to be almost no employment opportunities.

Meanwhile, back home, I can choose what kind of milk (skim, soy, or whole) I want in my latte, I can wander down an entire aisle dedicated solely to toothpaste, and I can make more money waiting tables for a few hours then the average Haitian can make in an entire month.  I feel incredibly blessed, but I also feel pretty disturbed that such gaping inequality exists and somewhat frustrated that more people aren’t as shocked as I am by the disturbing realities of the world we live in.

IDP camps fill the median of a busy street

I realize that it is infinitely easier to point out problems than to propose sustainable solutions, and I plan on writing a post soon with some of my suggestions for what should be done in Haiti.  Yet for now, I am simply trying to re-adjust to life in America and sift through all my experiences in Haiti.  In the airport, as I was leaving Haiti, a man I met asked me how Haiti would change my life.  I know that it will change my life, and has already set me down a course from which I cannot return, but the exact form it will take has yet to be determined.  I know that I want to dedicate my life to helping others, but I’m still working on figuring out the best way to do that.  For now, I know that I can’t forget the smiles of the people I met in Haiti, and that I am forever touched by the strength of their spirits and their incredible generosity.

still smiling

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