Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Travel log, Day 4: Home Again, Home Again

On my last night in Haiti I tried to send another email home but the generator kept shutting down. John tried to keep it going, and although I wasn't really encouraging him he was very reluctant to give up. After multiple power failures right as the computer was getting booted up again, I finally gave up and decided to get my things packed and then shower to cool off before I went to bed early. While I was in the shower, the generator (and the lights) turned off for good. As I was standing in the shower, in the dark, I was suddenly grateful for the skill that I have gained from years of not fully waking up and opening my eyes until I have been in the shower for a good five or more minutes each morning. Showering in the dark in Haiti because there is no electricity really isn't all that different from showering in Utah with the lights on but my eyes closed because I am still half asleep. Within just a couple of minutes there was a knock on the door. I tried to yell to them that I was in the shower, but whoever it was clearly didn't speak English and they weren't giving up so I wrapped a towel around myself and went to the door. There I was greeted by the girl that everybody called Sister because she is a nun who is Mrs. Coindy's assistant at the orphanage. She was shocked to find me in the state I was in, and although I couldn't understand what she was saying she was obviously apologetic as she handed me a lit candle. I thanked her, set the candle on the back of the toilet and then finished my shower.

I'm not sure if my body was already developing a tolerance for the heat, but for some reason I slept a little better that last night, until the dear rooster started crowing at 3:15. I stayed in bed until about 5:00 listening and then decided to get up and take another cold shower to wash off the perspiration. After getting ready for the day, I packed the rest of my things into a single suitcase and my backpack (in hopes of minimizing the struggle that I was bound to encounter at the airport) and then went to find Noah, although I was unsure if he would be awake yet or not. I was happy to find him standing in his crib looking toward the doorway as I walked in. He saw me, stretched out his arms and gave me a huge grin as I picked him up. I took him with me to the breakfast table and we enjoyed our last hour together before I had to turn him back over to the nanny. When I gave him back to her he cried and kept reaching for me. I kissed him over and over again and then had to walk away so that he didn't see my crying too. I've been asked by a lot of people if he knows who we are and what is about to happen to him. Although our pictures hang over his crib and he had been trained to call me mama, I seriously don't think he has any comprehension of what is about to happen to him. When I had to watch the nanny carry him away with his arms outstretched toward me, it struck me that the only thing he can possibly understand is that some lady came and interrupted his world, showed him a lot of attention for a couple of days, gave him a few toys, and then left as abruptly as she had come. I am hopeful that there will be a glimmer of recognition when he sees me again, but I'm probably being being overly optimistic.

Roberto was late picking me up, so by the time we got in the Jeep and started rumbling down the rugged road, I was sufficiently nervous about whether or not I was going to make my flight. After winding through the city, surviving a nasty traffic jam even by Port au Prince standards (maybe it was their version of rush hour), and making a couple of stops for reasons that still remain a mystery to me, we finally arrived in front of the airport. There was a tangle of people, all trying to get inside the only entrance to the airport that was visible to me, and I was 30 seconds from being completely on my own once again. I quickly noticed the guys with the ID tags hanging around their necks, reminding me of the guy who "helped" me and the Brazilian doctor with our bags when we arrived in Haiti, and I quickly got out of the car to make sure my hands were the first ones on my bags. Roberto lifted the bags out of the car and after saying "No!" at least a half dozen times, my bags were firmly in my grasp. I was grateful for the fact that because of their size most of the Haitian men that I encountered made me feel like a very sturdy woman. I think they realized as quickly as I did that they weren't going to physically intimidate me, and after the initial rush as I was unloading my bags nobody bothered me again.

I joined the tangle at the entrance and then waited my turn to go through airport security. There was a single x-ray machine and it had to be restarted multiple times as I was waiting for my turn. I decided right then and there that Haiti would be a great access point for anybody who had interest in coming to the United States for dishonorable purposes. Once through "security" I got in what appeared to be the line I needed and hoped for the best. The fact that I was nervous about the time was well-founded since my flight was already boarding by the time I got through immigration. Once on the plane I settled in next to a Haitian gentleman who read his Bible for the duration of the flight. I have never in my life been so grateful to be an American as I did when I arrived at the Miami International Airport. Although the rest of the day was long and I was very tired by the time I landed in Salt Lake City at almost midnight, I was quite calm and happy to be back in a place where I felt like I belonged. It occurred to me more than once while I was in Haiti for less than three days, that I felt out of place the entire time and it was tough; Noah is going to spend his entire life - his childhood at least - feeling out of place and being noticed because he is going to look different than the vast majority of people around him. Phil and I have always been cognizant of the fact that it's going to be a challenge for us to raise this child in Utah county where whites outnumber blacks by probably about 97%, and have him come out of it with a strong sense of self, but it took a trip to Haiti for me to really internalize that. I will pray everyday for help and wisdom to do the right thing for this little boy so that he can grow into a confident, proud, and caring man.