Ke Kontan

Ke Kontan

Sunday, 29 April 2012

You have one heart, Stay true to it.

I haven't been able to sleep much since I arrived in Haiti. It is going to take some time to adjust to the heat, bugs, trucks passing by and honking, dogs fighting goats crying like babies, mangos and coconuts falling on the roof and outside my window, and the people yelling back and forth during the night. Despite being completely exhausted and covered from head to toe in bug bites, I am having the time of my life and I am loving and absorbing every minute that I get to spend laughing and cuddling with my children.

Today we decided to take another trip into Saint Marc attempting to find a gas lamp, pillows, towels, and insect repellant, but once again we had no luck. As we walked through the streets we were stopped every five feet by children or mothers begging for money or food. As soon as we handed one child some change, about ten more suddenly appeared. Everywhere we went we heard "blan, blan" referring to us being white. We felt as if the entire town knew that we were present. We decided to take a break from walking and the crowds of beggers and grabbed a drink at Hotel Gout. After regaining energy we headed back into the streets and hired two motos to bring us home. We got about halfway there when the moto drivers decided to stop in the middle of nowhere and told us to get off. Thankfully, a man that we had met at Hotel Gout happened to be passing by and picked us up and drove us the rest of the way. He was our saviour today.

This afternoon, after returning home safely, we sat down and drew up some building plans. We are going to be extending onto the orphanage and building a new kitchen as well as a place for our employees to stay. We are going to be working on this project this week after we order the supplies. After coming up with building plans we then made a list of rules for Caleb's House that the staff must abide by as they have been abusing many privilleges. We ended up accomplishing more then we had planned today as we even met with the judge and paid our rent.

The children attended church tonight for the second time today. When they returned home Christina and Elmine decided they would sneak up on Montanna and I and tickle us. This of course ended up turning into a big game with all of the children. Soon enough we were all jumping on beds, dancing, tickeling each other, and giving endless amounts of piggy backs. As the kids began to finally wind down we layed in bed with them. All of them wanted to hold our hands and they began asking me to translate words from creole to english. The older girls would burst out laughing everytime I pronounced the english words. Laughter definitely filled the room for a solid half an hour. I find that it is little moments like this that I will never forget and that fill my heart with joy and happiness. Through the many upcoming lonely days, frustrations, and down right shitty circumstances that I may encounter, they will always be my reason to keep smiling and to keep pushing on. They have the ability to turn the worst days into the best.

Tomorrow morning we are departing for Saint Marc bus station at 6am as we are taking Wendel and Norhens to Hopital Espoir in Port Au Prince to be examined as I am worried about their health. I look forward to spending the day with the boys and also seeing Doctor Gousse who I worked and lived with for a month last summer.

Most days I still find myself overwhelmed by the magnitude of need and the amount of people who need help in this country. Many days I witness the destitute, disease ridden children lining in the streets looking for food, money, or anything that anyone is willing to give them. The horror of being a child living in the streets is being experienced throughout the world. Children orphaned with no family members to care for them, children fleeing from abuse, children searching for someway to survive. They live an unimaginable life. They beg, steal, work for abusers, and prostitute themselves- whatever it takes to survive another day. Many work a full day only to afford one meal. They sleep in the streets, underbridges, in alleys, and even in garbage dumpsters. I especially witnessed this today in Saint Marc as I passed hundreds of children on the streets. It breaks my heart. I want to scoop up every one of them, take them home with me, feed and clothe them, and love them unconditionally. But I understand that I can't. Although I cannot change the world or save every orphan, I have the opportunity to change the lives of at least nine children.

Today I thought a lot about my life and why it is that I can find so much happiness and peace in a country that is known to be the poorest and most dangerous place in the world, yet, I can't seem to find this in my own country where things come easy and where I have everything that one would need. I have now realized that although this country may be "poor", it actually possesses the most valuable riches; love, courage, strength, and a will to survive. Haiti has given me inspiration and has taught me so much about life. I am not sure if I will ever be able to adjust back to life in Canada now. My home is here, my home is with these beautiful, magnificent children.

If I could tell people one thing it would be:
You only have one heart- the only way to ensure that it remains full at all times is to stay true to it. Follow it wherever it may lead you. Never second guess the heart, as it knows best. Do not wait nineteen years to realize this like I did. Realize it now. You have one life and you are the only one that can live it. Do the unthinkable, take chances, and promise me that at least once in your life you will risk everything you have to follow a dream, a passion, or even just a small tug in your heart. And I will promise you that regardless of the outcome, it will be worth it. Never look back and never regret. Move forward with each day and learn to enjoy the little things that life has to offer. Stop stressing over your future or how your life is going to turn out. Embrace the unknown and simply appreciate the fact that you are alive. But do not take that for granted, as your life could end at any moment in time. Make sure that when your life does flash before your eyes it is worth watching.

Well.. A huge spider just landed on my leg soooo that's my que to get up, scream, and squish the bloody thing. Great.. Definitely won't be sleeping now. Bon nuit zanmi's !

Friday, 27 April 2012

Home is where the heart is ...

Well it has been four days since we arrived in Haiti and time has already began to fly by.  Tears of joy streamed down my face when our plane touched down on the Haitian turf.  "I am home" I kept repeating to myself.

Saying goodbye to my family, my bestfriends, a man who I am totally in love with, and my older and two younger brothers nearly ripped my heart out.  Part of me wondered how I could leave all this behind, but the other part of me was so ready to do it.  So I gave up my life and everything that North American society says is important - my job, my university studies, and the luxuries and comforts of home- to instead emerge myself into the Haitian culture and lifestyle which consists of bucket showers, no electricity or plumbing, frustration, sacrifice, and risking everything to do something that I have always believed in and dreamt of.

People ask me all of the time if I am "afraid" of the dangers that Haiti has to offer. To be honest, I think that I am much more afraid of living comfortably and free from harm. I am surrounded by things that can harm one's body; daily interactions with those who are suffering from illness and disease, food and water that may contain parasites and bacteria, the possibility of a natural disaster rummaging through the country, and people that may partake in physical and aggressive violence. Uncertainty surrounds me. I am living admist the possibility of encountering physical harm because I am protecting my soul and running from the things that would damage me greater than any physical harm possibly could; complacency, comfort, selfishness, and ignorance.  I am much more afraid of living a "normal" and "comfortable" life then I am of any illness or tragedy.

I can't really explain in words the love that I feel for these children or why I feel it.  I think many people would look at them and see their filthy torn clothes that are two sizes too small for them, their infected cuts, or the mucus that ends up like a crust around their nostrils.  They would look at our small orphanage and wonder how fourteen of us live here, they would look at it's smooth, hard, dirty, cement floors, where cockroaches, rats, and spiders have made themselves at home. But for me, I don't seem to notice or to care about any of this. The truth is, I see myself in all of their little faces. They hold my heart in their small, dirty, but loving hands.

The Haitian rains have blessed us for the past four days, as well as the mosquito's and the mud.  Despite the rain, we have accomplished a lot this week.  We now have 6 bunkbeds at the orphanage as well as 12 mattresses, we bought a months worth of food, we have a new security gate attached to the front of the orphanage, as well as a fence surrounding the perimeter made from palm tree leaves that were hand woven together by a local Haitian, and tomorrow we are paying our rent !

With living in a third world country, tragedy is expected.  Today we came across our second dead body since returning  to Haiti.  Although I have become more desensitized towards things such as this from my travels, it still hurts the heart to see a body in a ditch as if the person had crawled into it waiting for death to overcome them.  In Haiti, many believe that when a person dies from illness or disease it is due to a curse/karma.  It also actually costs families to claim the bodies of their loved ones so quite too often they just leave them to decay and rot in ditches like we witnessed today.

Despite the heartache we experienced earlier, our kids repaired our hearts tonight by playing soccer, tickle tag, and by begging us to grab them by their arms and legs and swing them into the air. But our day was even more complete when we sat down and immediately had three kids on each of our laps  that eventually fell asleep and snuggled up to us.  We ended up putting them to bed and giving them all kisses goodnight.
Its moments like these that remind me why I am here and why I cannot give up.

I sure never meant to become a mother. I mean, I guess I did; not right now, though.  Not before I was married or had a secure income and a house to call my own.  Not when I was nineteen and certainly not to nine children.  But I guess its all part of a bigger plan, one that is beyond my control. I followed the tugs in my heart and it lead me here. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and becoming a mother has given me more then I could ever ask for. In Haiti, my heart has found its home.

You know you are meant to be here when you look forward to the rooster waking you at 5am and when you try forcing yourself to sleep but cannot because you are too eager to see the children's smiles in the morning and to receive nine little kisses. Its the most perfect way to start one's day.  Back home I felt this void within, no matter what I did I could not rid of it.  Today, walking through the village, seeing the children and hearing them call out "Blan" and then running towards us and reaching for my hand, I realized that the void has diminished... I have everything I need right here.  My heart is so full.  I belong here.  

Well I guess I should head to bed now... Missing everyone back home & sending well wishes your way ! Wish you could all be here to share this journey with us.  Much love.


Thursday, 19 April 2012

Tragedy can inspire..

In the middle of last minute packing, I had to stop.  As I was scattering around my room I noticed my hands were shaking, my heart was racing, and tears began to fill my eyes.  I have to write. Writing has now become a source of healing for me.  As the departure date is approaching (only 4 days away now) everything is becoming more real.  I have been on cloud nine for the last few months and I have been unable to really sit down and process everything that is going on.  I am completely overwhelmed tonight.  These next four days are going to be a rollercoaster ride, with lots of ups and downs, and the ride will only come to a halt when I step off of the plane on April 24th, and into the country I will now be calling "home".

 Not every story has a happy ending, and although I have been a part of some stories that have had remarkable endings, I have also been part of a plot that has ended in tragedy...

It was only a short year ago when I first stepped foot onto the Haitian soil.  I had no idea how much that trip would impact and change me as a person.  Before I traveled to Haiti I did not know one Haitian person, I did not even know where Haiti was on a map, but after seeing and hearing about it on the news I had this immense tug in my heart to get up, to go, and to help in anyway that I could.  During my time in Haiti I have experienced love, joy, loss, and grief.  In this line of work, you are not going to be able to save everyone, that is the sad universal truth.  You try to tell yourself this, you try to wrap your head around it, but that does not lessen the hurt and the pain you feel when you lose someone you have gotten to know, someone you have grown to love,  due to cholera, disease, violence, or unfair situations.  It hurts.  Since being home from Haiti I have had a few memories that have haunted me.  I have experienced the stages of grief, and some tell me that what I am experiencing is post-traumatic stress. Guilt consumed me, I felt like I had failed myself for returning home and also failed my Haitian brothers and sisters. I didn't want to talk to anyone about Haiti, I screened phone calls, ignored friends and family, I didn't leave my house for days, I pushed my university studies to the side and spent countless hours sitting in front of my laptop reading blogs, looking at pictures, trying to find anything that could connect me to the country and the people I had left behind. I felt as if no one here in Canada could possibly understand what I was feeling.   I felt as if my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that I could never feel joy again, especially in North America and that at best there might have been a little contentment with that.  Everyone wanted me to talk, to share my stories, and they tried their best to understand and comprehend what I was going through.  They wanted me to rejoin life and to pick up the pieces and move forward.  But I couldn't.  I became numb and my brain became dead.  I became emotionless.  I tried to step out of the rut I had fallen into, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in my own sorrow, in my own memories, with my arms wrapped around myself, grieving, until I didn't have to anymore.  It has taken six months for me to be able to open up and to share my experiences with people. I still experience this grief occasionally and I still hesitate when people ask about my experience.  I guess I just feel as if words will not do them justice, it would be impossible to make anyone truly understand, unless they had seen it with their own eyes and had felt it in their own hearts. But with the pain and the loss I have also had the privilege and the pride of knowing that through every heartache or down right shitty situation, I have met some of the strongest, bravest, most beautiful, most creative and most resilient people in the world.  I have met my best friends, my family, my children, and people that I will forever hold close in my heart.  When you are in Haiti, things are put into perspective for you.  The little things you once had worried about in the past, are erased.  Haiti teaches you about the fragility of life and it reminds you to be thankful everyday.  Sometimes tragedy inspires us and makes us come alive.  You realize that not all stories have happy endings, but with each story, you take a part of it with you, you learn something, and you grow and become stronger because of it, regardless of the ending.

So this is the mental mess that I am experiencing int he midst of this outstanding and amazing life experience.  I know this is what I am meant to be doing, that Haiti feels more like home to me than any place I have ever known before.  For some odd reason I have become more content with less food options, volunteering instead of having a "real job", dirt on my feet, bucket showers instead of hot running water, and playing with kids on the streets then having the luxuries and comfort of life in Canada.  I don't know how long I am supposed to be in Haiti, or what I will be doing next.  I am trying hard to focus on the now instead of the unknown.  I do not want to be distracted from my babies, from my children, from my staff, from my friends, from the volunteers I will be looking after, from the responsibilities I have now taken on and from the chances I have to make a positive impact in this hurting, but yet, so beautiful country.  I am going to miss all of my friends and family and it is going to be so hard to leave, but I am SO EXCITED to return to Haiti, and to feel useful again, and to live out this dream and this passion.  Waiting is a key part of our lives.  An aspect of living we often look down upon in a negative light.  Yet it couldn't be more true that the best things come about as a result of waiting.  A favoured dish is brought to your table by waiting for the cooking to be done.  A newborn baby is brought into the world after waiting nine months.  All of the waiting we do is always worth it.  The results are always so amazing.  And as I glance at the calendar, I see that I've waited to be back where I feel that I am needed.  All these months spent away from the people and children that I love, and I had left behind, separated by physical distance.  And here it is, about to pay off.  I can count on one hand the days until I return and get to see them again, until I can hug them and hold my babies and to begin this adventure.  This may have seemed like a long and painful wait to endure, but I know it will be so worth it when I get off that plane and know that they are waiting for me.  Mwen renmen Ayiti !

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The road to change..

In February, I decided to do something different. Without a shred of emotion I shrugged off my apartment, my job, my car and my University education. I shrugged off everything. And about a week ago I bought a cheap one way ticket.  On April 24th I will be flying over the Caribbean with a pounding heart and a burning desire to live a different life, one of randomness. I have condensed my whole existence to the size of a small suitcase tonight. My new life begins in Haiti. However, I am now beginning to feel the emotions that I had previously shrugged off.

During my travels I've experienced things I couldn't possibly have prepared myself for, things I didn't even know existed. And along the way of course, I've met some incredible people - simple everyday randoms like me following their own dreams, and the occasional diamonds that have changed the course of my path forever.

What started out as a care-free dream to seek out boundless adventure in July 2009, has now morphed into a living reality with endless possibilities.

I suppose it comes back to the way I make “important” decisions. I picture myself lying on my deathbed going over my life in my head while staring at the ceiling. When I need to decide something now, I try to see it from that point of view – knowing that my life had been lived and I can dispassionately make the right call. In the same way I ask myself what memories will stand out for me? It’s not the mountains or the beaches or the delicious food or the prestige (Haitian beer) or the moto rides or going to the bathroom in a bucket. It’s not the things themselves, it’s the people I spent those times with; the men, the women, the children. It’s them I’ll remember and the places and events were merely a backdrop to that most important and easily overlooked thing in the 21st century – human contact.

This decision has not been an easy one. I have sacrificed many things (and many people for that matter) that I love here in North America. And although I have had some doubts about my decision, and although it will be hard to leave, I know that in my heart I have made the right decision. I believe that at the end of our lives, our biggest regrets are going to be our "what ifs" ; not the chances we took or that decisions that we make that don't turn out the way we want them to. I have come to realize that sometimes you have to risk losing something/someone you love, in order to get what you deserve. And what all of us deserve is pure and simple happiness.

Haiti makes me happy. My most heart warming and rewarding memories have taken place in Haiti. And all I wish to do is to give back to the Haitian people what they have so generously given to me; life, purpose, and inspiration.

I've been on about seeing the world for years. More importantly though, I've been 'itching' to do it for years. To go off and create a new life and truly experience a new culture. When I sit and think about it - if I hadn't have traveled to Ghana in 2009, I really don't think I'd have had the same drive and determination to finally cut the strings and - just do it. I'd have just had that 'dream' in the back of my mind, as I expect a lot of people have. The problem is you can't build a reputation on what you are going to do - and as most of us know or soon will, the years really do fly by! This is my time. This is my opportunity. And if I don't take this chance and dive into this new lifestyle, regardless of how crazy it may be, I may forever regret it. The ones who love me and who understand my passion will still be here, no matter how many miles apart, no matter how many holidays or birthdays I may miss, they will still love me and be here waiting for me when I am ready to return. Or at least that is what I am hoping for.

Since my first expedition to Haiti, I've received many comments and strange looks whenever I have mentioned my intention to one day return to the country. If only they knew how totally serious I really was. I came away from Haiti blessed with an indescribable spiritual connection to it's presence that has since left me unsettled in my everyday life here in Canada. On a very subliminal level, I feel as though I left a part of me on the island. But I don't mean that as in a sense of loss - quite the opposite in fact. I've gained something intangible, something you cant buy with a stack of bills or a pocket full of change. I've gained or rather been granted an honourable opportunity to return to this country and to start a new chapter in my life. If I'm honest, I've never really felt a 'connection' to my home country (the place where I was born) and after experiencing something so powerful as Ghana and Haiti, I already know that I'll never be able to settle in life until I 'settle' where I'm connected - and that will be home. And if that means that I remain in Haiti then so be it, but even if I end up right back where I started, here in Canada, then that's fine with me as well, as long as I can feel some sort of connection and sense of belonging like I have felt in Ghana and Haiti.

Something happened to me during those first 26 days that I spent in Ghana that I'll never be able to describe in actual words. The only chance I've got of someone 'understanding' is to physically find another person who has gone through the same life-changing experience. I thank God every day that Montanna and I have crossed paths. It is remarkable that we only met a short time ago and yet we have already discovered how much we have in common. It is the greatest thing to have someone who understands your passion and who shares it with you. Someone who can relate to the things you have seen and heard. I am so glad to be sharing this journey with her as well as with the other volunteers that are planning on joining us throughout this summer! It is going to be one hell of a ride and the more the merrier !

What’s really interesting about all this is that I haven’t really gone to any great length to seek any of this out until the last few weeks. It’s all come and jumped straight in my lap. It’s all presented itself at just the right moment in just the right place, right on cue, as if by design. Although I am eager to return to Haiti to see my babies and to start all of the projects that we have planned, I am so overwhelmed right now and exhausted, and stressed, and on an emotional roller coaster. This is definitely going to be the hardest goodbye yet. But I do look forward to the next hello, as I will have so many great stories and memories to share with everyone. This is just the beginning of the rest of my life... I am unsure of where it may lead me, I am unsure of how exactly it will all unfold... but I guess the unknown is what makes it so exciting.