Ke Kontan

Ke Kontan

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

One way ticket to Happiness..

This week sure has been an adventure to say the least. From Port Au Prince to Jacmel to Montrouis to Cite Soleil and then to the airport to say goodbye to two great friends who I have definitely enjoyed having here in Haiti with me.

Since returning to Haiti it has seriously just been non-stop go. I have numerous unanswered emails, facebook messages, and even text messages, so I apologize to those who I have still not responded too- I'm working on it !!! I tried to get as much accomplished this week as I possibly could.

Since being away, my babies have grown so much. It makes me sad. Tyson is now pulling himself up, he has a very distinctive laugh, and he is a little bugger now !!! The twins have finally grown hair and are bigger and have wonderful spunky personalities that make you smile non-stop. Norens is still the same old Norens- loves to push buttons and laughs his butt off over the simplest things- his missing two front teeth make the laugh even cuter. Don is still "cool" Don but is also the biggest sweetheart he has told me over and over and over again how much he missed me while I was gone and is constantly giving me kisses. Don always knows how to make my day- he is quite the ladies man and knows how to impress us especially when he just looks at you and grabs your hand and says "You are SOOOOOOOOO beautiful" (yeah he learned that line from the movie "The Little Rascals"). Wendel has been ill and looks even smaller than he did before. He has been to the hospital twice now but still no results- supposed to be getting them tomorrow. Breaks my heart to see him like this as all he wants to do is just lay in bed. Christine - where to begin with her. She is the strangest, silliest, but most adorable little girl. She is quite the comedian without even knowing it. She has a very big heart and loves to help out with the babies. She will make a great mother one day (like in 50 years from now). Jenny is a very independent child- well let me refrain that- teenager. She has attitude but can't complain as I was just as bad or probably even worse. She is a huge help around the house though and is a good big sister to the other kids. I missed them so much and after being away for them for so long you learn to appreciate all the little moments you have with them. I do not know what I would do without my kids. They are the reason I can honestly say that I am happy and that I am where I want to be.

This past weekend I took Justin and Julia up to Jacmel to visit Bassin Bleu and we had the time of our lives together!!!! We sang our hearts out during the whole 4hr drive and danced and stopped on the mountain side to watch the sunset and to take wonderful pictures. We drove up to Bassin Bleu the next day and hiked up the mountain and swam under the waterfall. Julia and I are both terrified of heights but managed to find the courage to climb up the waterfall as the pressure from the water was making our hands slip. When we finally reached the top rock we debated whether to actually jump off and plunge into the water below. We were totally for it- that was until we looked down and saw the rocks and cliff side that we could possibly knock ourselves out from if we happened to slip and loose our footing. Julia decided it just wasn't for her and moved to a rock further down. After watching Justin jump I decided I had better do it since there was no way in hell that I would be able to climb back down the waterfall as that seemed a lot more terrifying and dangerous then actually jumping itself. So.. I took that 20 seconds of insane courage that you need to make a decision.. and jumped. It was a blast, but not going to lie.. it kind of hurt !! I can honestly say that this past weekend was probably my best weekend in Haiti yet.

On Sunday we decided to pack up all the kiddies once they returned from church and head to our old place in Montrouis and spend the rest of our Sunday at the beach. I decided to go and visit tiny and his family at the mountain top and I took Julia with me. This family is my second family. I love them and care for them as if they are my own. I was brought to tears seeing all 6 of his kids clinging off of me saying they thought I forgot about them. Tiny no longer has a cell phone so I was unable to contact them to let them know that I would be out of the country for a month. The love they have for me is so overwhelming and the love I have for them is completely and utterly unconditional. As soon as I stepped off the moto Tiny had lifted me into the air hugging me and kissing me and started yelling out "Manma, Manmna is here !!!". I danced and sang with the kids on the top of the mountain and we also watched the beautiful sunset. Julia took footage of their destroyed house and how 11 people are currently living in a small one room house made of mud and sewed together jeans. As amazing as it was to see them and although we had a blast together- as we always do- I walked away with a broken heart and an unsettled mind. It hurts me to see them struggling. They have all been ill since I left the Montrouis area and have lost a significant amount of weight. I am doing my best to try to support them but with not having a vehicle it makes it hard to check up on them and to bring them the supplies they need. I made them a promise- that I will re-build their house. They are currently taking shelter in my old home but the contract finishes in April, 2013 and then they will once again be homeless. This is a promise I have to keep. However, time is running out and funds are running low. I have sent out a request via facebook and on our website asking people to specifically donate towards this project as right now, it is one of the main priorities in my heart. I wish I could give them the world, I wish I could see them living comfortably and I think my worries and concerns will be more settled knowing that they will at least have a stable roof over their heads that won't fall when the next storm rummages through the country. Every little bit counts, especially in this case. My goal is to provide them with not only a home but also sanitation as they currently do not have toilet other then a small hole in the ground. I think putting in a toilet and teaching them about general hygiene would significantly improve their health and well being. My goal is to have this project started by Feb 20. If anyone is interested in partaking please do not hesitate to contact me.

On Monday I took Justin and Julia down to Cite Soleil to visit the school that Bridge2Hatii is supporting to take some footage and get some background on the history of the school. Julia is filming a documentary on our journey and our projects here in Haiti however, we decided that it needs to be a collective effort- I do not want the film to be focused on solely what we (Hime For Help) have done but what others are also doing in Haiti that are making positive changes and affecting peoples lives. Sarah and Christian are doing fabulous work in this school that currently has over 550 children. These kids are seriously amazing !!! I was chased around all day by tons of little feet and they all wanted to be picked up or to touch my straight hair. Finally after being tackled to the ground and covered in dirt and sweat I decided to take the kids into one of the classrooms and we took Tampico bottles (plastic Juice bottles) and I made music out of them and had the kids dance. We ended up singing "Baby" by Justin Bieber at least ten times and "Dekole" by J.perry at least 20 times. I had an absolute blast with these kids. These children have grown up in the slums of Haiti and most of them are literally living in a dump. Sarah has given these children an opportunity to get an education, to eat at least one good meal per day, and has also provided them with clean drinking water. I got to know some of the children and had the opportunity to speak one on one with them. I can't wait to visit these kids again !!!!!

Justin Parkinson and Julia Monk left today. Justin had been here since the end of November and has done such great work and I am truly impressed by him. There is not many people who get you- like completely- but he was one of those people for me. To be honest.. I did not think that him and I would hit it off as well as we did in the beginning but boy did he prove me wrong. From our long chats about life, dreams, frustrations, corruption, poverty, and just the world in general we were able to form a friendship that will not be broken. I want to take the time to thank him for keeping me sane, for making me laugh, and for assisting in changing, bathing, feeding, burping, and playing with all of my babies. His extra pair of hands sure were a huge help. Also thank you for staying with the kids for a whole month while I had to be in Canada. I know what you must have experienced and how stressful it must have been to take on the role as "boss" but you did a great job and I felt confident having you there with my kids. I want to wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours and I know that you will do, and accomplish many great things. I hope to see you back in Haiti soon. & that goes for you as well Julia !!! Thank you for taking this week to film some of the "behind the scenes" things we do here at Ke Kontan and for allowing us to voice our joys and frustrations about Haiti. I cannot wait to see the finished product.

I am currently sitting in Rebo Cafe (they have free Wifi) catching up on emails and messages with my friend Maeve who said to me this morning as we were lying on my bed chatting about our lives:

Maeve: "do you think things will always be this way?"
Emily: "what way?"
Maeve: "Us.. Growing old.. Laying in bed together .. Without husbands.. And you getting up when the babies cry and me laying in bed cause I'm lazy"
Emily: "uhm yeah.. Sounds like our futures"

Ten minutes later

Maeve: " Do you think we will always be this poor?"

I laughed so hard. But then thought to myself... I would be completely content with being lonely, poor, and stuck with a friend that likes to constantly remind me of both of those things.. because even though I may not have materialistic things, I truly believe I am one of the richest people in the world- I have all I could ever need. And a husband.. nahhh.. I got 5 little boys that already own my heart & their love is as unconditional as it comes ... :)

As I spend more and more time in this country I begin to think more and more of how impossible it is going to be for me to ever leave. After many years of searching, I have finally found my home.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Goodbye Canada Cold, Hello Haiti Heat !!!

As I am sitting here in the Four Points Hotel in Detroit enjoying my last hot water shower, big comfy bed, and flat screen TV and mini fridge filled with beverages (yes, that's right I am indulging) I am reflecting on my longer then expected visit home. Normally I despise coming home. But this time I was quite content with it. I think my body and mind were finally telling me that I needed a break. I enjoyed this visit home. I was able to spend a lot of time on my own just thinking and trying to figure out my own life as well as spend a lot of time with friends and family. I was only supposed to be home for 2 weeks, but due to health issues, I ended up putting up with this -15 degree weather for a month. I am so eager to get back and see my babies, this is the longest I have been away from them. A few of my days were actually more stressful being home then being in Haiti as I was constantly worrying about the kids or had situations occur that I had no control over and I was really in the dark about certain situations. I am excited to see how much my babies have grown and to just suffocate them with hugs and kisses. I miss all of my boys in the Tent City and playing silly games with them. I miss the mountains, the beaches, the craziness, and of course all of my friends. It seems like I have been gone a lot longer than a month.

The hardest part about coming home is having people ask a million questions and expect a simple answer. You can usually tell who is asking because they are actually interested in what you are doing and then others who ask because that's just what you do. A lot of people probably find that I am bitter when it comes to talking about Haiti and its simply because I can't emphasize enough that "you just won't understand" and it's not your fault. And thinking about Haiti and talking about it, makes me emotional and makes me miss my kids and friends even more then I already do. It just like talking about my family while I am in Haiti, it hurts my heart. It hurts me to answer some of the questions. No matter what I say or tell you, you won't fully understand it. It's impossible. Everything you picture in your mind is most likely going to be wrong. Until you truly experience Haiti- and I don't mean by just popping in and out for a week- you won't understand it. And I am not saying that there is anything wrong with not understanding it. I appreciate those that actually try to understand it. But for me, it's just very frustrating and upsetting to try to explain something that I am so passionate about and seeing people form ideas and assumptions in their minds that are completely inaccurate or ignorant. I still don't even understand Haiti fully- not sure if I ever will. But although Haiti has many many issues and problems, I have so much pride for the country because I have met the most inspiring, resilient, courageous, and kindest people. They are the ones that keep me going and some days they allow me to stop straight in my tracks and re-evaluate my life and my behaviour. I have found myself here. I have found one thing that I am so passionate about that yes- risking my life over it- is COMPLETELY WORTH IT. I wouldn't have it any other way. It seriously hurts me when my friends and yes even my family make jokes or certain comments about Haiti, it makes me furious. I know that most time people are just trying to get a laugh, but don't do it at people's expense. I often just sit there and won't comment but for those of that are reading this who do that, please stop. It also drives me insane when people tell me "look what your doing to yourself, look what it is doing to your health". If I could write what I want to write in response to that, I'm sure I'd have a lot of negative responses to this blog.. so I am going to censor it a bit. Look people, I do care about my health, and yeah I don't enjoy being sick, who does??? But I came to Haiti fully aware of the risks that I was going to be taking. I chose to give up my life and put everything I have into these kids and into helping the people I care about. You can sit there and tell me that "you can't help them if your sick anyways" - well no kidding. But I also can't help them if I return home every time I get a little bug in me. I chose to move to Haiti, to indulge into the culture and the lifestyle and no matter how wrong any of you may see it- if I am sick- I will do what the Haitians do. I will be treated the same way the Haitians are (well, not true as I do have better access to hospitals and medicines) I feel terribly guilty even knowing that I can escape any problems that may occur in the country- natural disaster, civil war, and yes- illnesses. I feel so guilty because there are so many people here that don't have that opportunity who need it so much more then I do. If they can tolerate it, then so can I. Us Westerners are so pathetic when we are sick or injured. We milk it with everything that we possibly can and just mask the pain with pills, alcohol, or other types of drugs. Imagine watching a woman suffer from Breast Cancer for 3 years without ever receiving treatment or medications and her lifting her shirt up and witnessing how the disease is literally eating her and destroying her body. Not only that, but then watching her two young boys (12 & 11) digging through the trash to find any scrap food to give to their mom as they have absolutely no money. Now please.. please.. try to understand why I don't wish to rush home when I get sick. I have stayed home for a month due to health reasons, but I didn't come home for me, I came home for my family and my friends- to finally put their minds at ease so that they can see that yes- I still have two arms, two legs and a heart that beats. My life has drastically changed from stories such as the one above.. that was one of those moments where I stopped dead in my tracks and just cried realizing how fortunate we are in Canada and the United States. It still breaks my heart to this day, it is one of the very many images that will never escape my mind.

I can't force anyone to try to understand the passion that I have and what I'm willing to do to fulfill that passion or live out that passion. When I feel passionate about something, nothing will come in the way of it. I will give everything I possibly can. Even if that means my own life. Because if I didn't do that, I wouldn't have a "life" anyways. Everyone always tells us that we only have one life to live and I always brushed off that saying without ever really considering the truth it contains. I understand that saying now. And if my life ended today or if I was laying on my death bed - the only way that I would be content with dying is knowing that I tried. That I did my absolute best to change a life, a situation, and even myself. That even though I may have put myself in vulnerable situations and set myself up for failure, at least I am not wondering "what could have been". I have a history of making decisions very quickly about people and even situations, I have always loved and trusted quickly- whether that be with someone or something- without caring about the risks or consequences. If there is passion, the rest doesn't matter to me. I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone and everything, but to assume that everyone/everything is capable of reaching his/her/it's highest potential. Often, I am a victim of my own optimism but sometimes.. but the odd time, people/things surprise me.. & that right there is worth it all.

The point of this message is that I am just so exhausted of trying to make certain people understand why I do the things I do, why I take the risks I take, why I am willing to suffer certain consequences if it is going to better another's life. If you are human at all and if you have experienced even half of some of the things I have, looked into peoples eyes that have actually experienced true suffering- then you should be able to understand why I am doing what I am doing today. You should be able to stop being stubborn and ignorant and realize.. that I do what I do because I truly believe that we human beings were put on this earth to love one another unconditionally, to live out our lives to the absolute fullest- instead of settling for what most put out to be the "perfect american life". I don't ever want to sit in an office, to feel tied down to something that I am not passionate about, or to go through the day to day motions faking a smile. I want to be happy, I don't ever want to have to fake that. I want to do what makes me happy and be with those that make me smile and laugh even if that consists of my life and my decisions being absolutely ludicrous through another's eyes.

“Tis' better to live your own life imperfectly than to imitate someone else's perfectly.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

The countdown is on until I get to run through my gate and be tackled by a bunch of my little rascals. I cannot wait. My flight leaves at 6:20 tomorrow morning, so early to bed for me tonight !!!!! Looking forward to not feeling like a human popsicle anymore, but will definitely miss my friends and family. Till we meet again =)

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Self Discovery..

Whenever we embark on a journey it is almost like we are getting into a small plane and setting out into the air for unknown lands. With wholeheartedness comes inspiration, but sooner of later we will come across a sense of loss, a sense of fear. Like every story of explorers, we seem to be drawn into finding what is waiting for us out in the big old world without knowing if we actually have the courage to face it.

I have spent the last six days in Claremont- a very small town on the outskirts of Toronto. The house is completely isolated, surrounded by fields, forest, and beautiful scenery. I spent most of my days with my guitar or journal in hand just sitting, thinking, or taking a stroll through the forest. Most people would think that this would be so utterly boring, my cousin kept apologizing assuming that I was bored out of my mind, but I was the complete opposite. I was in a state of bliss. I was fascinated by the peacefulness and the ability to finally hear my own thoughts that have been rummaging around in my head. I was able to process a lot of things that have occurred in the last year or so in those past six days, not just in Haiti, but in my personal life as well. I kept looking for answers, blaming others for not understanding, and clinging onto things that I should have let go of long ago. I found myself in a place with no sounds except the trees blowing, the snow crunching beneath my boots, and the water from the stream moving onwards.

It is inevitable that at some point we all experience fear. Fear is a universal experience. Even the smallest bug feels it as we are about to squish them beneath our shoes. Fear is something that we all share. We react against the feeling of loss, loneliness, death, or losing grip and no longer having anything to hold onto. During my time in the small town of Claremont I came to an earth-shaking revelation about life, about happiness, and about myself. When we begin a new adventure in our lives we have all sorts of different ideals and expectations. We are constantly looking for answers that will satisfy a long ongoing huger that we have felt for quite some time. People always try to warn us- not to have expectations- not to indulge in certain adventures- yet somehow all of these warnings don't quite convince us. In fact, at least for me, they draw us closer. However, no one warns us to stop running away from fear. We are very rarely told to move closer, to do the unthinkable or the unimaginable, and to become familiar with our fears. This is something I have chosen to do a few times in my own life without even realizing it or understanding it until now. I am terrified of heights, I get the shakes, my muscles tighten, and all I want to do is get down and can't wait for the ride to be over.. but I always convince myself to keep going. I have rode on the biggest roller coaster, I have hiked numerous mountains, I have climbed to the top of buildings to enjoy the view. I get a thrill from fear and especially from accomplishing them. I now look at my life in that way- that I need to put that fearlessness into every aspect of my life- not just the thrilling ones such as roller coasters- but also into relationships, desires or aspirations that I have, and into the things that make me feel the most uncomfortable, the things I have wanted to do or say but have always held back from due to the *fear* of embarrassment or of exposing myself, and most of all due to the fear of rejection. The only advice we are given is to usually smooth it over, take a pill, take a drink, or distract ourselves from the feeling, and by all means.. make it disappear. It is our nature to disassociate with fear. Usually we think that our hero's and the one's that we look up to have no fear, that's why we admire them. The truth is that they have just as much fear as we do but they understand their fear. One thing we need to realize is that even when fear creeps into your mind the trick is to keep pushing on and not to bail out, even when you find out that it may not be what you thought it was going to be. Nothing is what we think it is. I can say that with great confidence.

After moving to Haiti and finally doing something for me, something I was passionate about, everything that I had not been able to see about myself before was finally dramatized. Haiti itself is a wonderful place for self discovery, you learn that you can take more than you thought you ever could, you learn to have sincere compassion, you may also realize that you get frustrated easily and often overreact (maybe that's just me). However, Haiti is also an amazing place that will test your fears. I am not speaking about just the fears we have of the dangers that we may encounter, but also fear about not knowing the language, the fear of not knowing the country or the culture, the fear of becoming ill, the fear of losing it all, the fear of death. I was terrified when I first arrived in Haiti. I never really thought of this until right now. Recently a friend called me a "risk taker". At first I tried to deny it, but then found somewhat of a truth in it. I always just told myself that I am not brave or a risk taker.. I am just following my heart. But I started to think as to why I am so willing to take these risks for those things and people that I hold dear in my heart. I have come to the conclusion that I am not yet the risk taker that I want to be, I am still scared of many things, I still fear many things. I am terrified of love and of loss and letting go of things that once meant so much. But I look at my life and how I was living it for everyone else before, I was merely going through the day to day motions without actually feeling alive. When I decided to change that, to follow a deep passion of MINE, it made me come alive. And I was totally aware of the risks that I would be taking, and I was so ready for all of them. I would so much rather risk, to be crazy, to experience the rawness of life, then to sit back and be constantly wondering "what if" or having regrets. After being unhappy for a greater part of my life, I now know that I am the only one that holds the card for happiness in my hands. I realized that I could not get lost in trying to justify myself and blame others and hiding from the inevitable truths. That kind of exit is no longer available for me.

We all run, we run like crazy. We use anything and everything to escape- all of our addictions stem from this very moment, the moment where we decide we can no longer take it. We feel we have to mask the pain with something- whether it be religion, medication, alcohol, or other people- anything that will take away our pain or fears. I believe that the materialism in our world stems from these very feelings. There are so many ways to keep ourselves occupied or entertained, there is so much noise out their to fill our heads and take away our thoughts that we no longer have to feel the full impact of the pain that arises when we are completely unable to manipulate the issue to make us come out looking good. For rebirth, we must first experience death. That means we should be accepting our fears or pain and simply let it go and allow for new things to begin. Reaching our breaking point is like finding a doorway to sanity and to the goodness of humanity rather than encountering some sort of punishment or road block.

I have also learned that there is always so much more to learn. We might think that it's going to take bigger issues or circumstances for us to reach our limits. The interesting thing is that it is our biggest issues are the ones that awaken us and allow us to come to new understandings and it tends to be the little things that catch us off guard. However, no matter the size, shape, or colour, we need to realize that it is better for us to lean more towards our discomforts and seem them and understand them clearly rather than running from them or trying to protect ourselves. I now know that the awakeness that I once only could feel in Haiti, can also be felt anywhere, in a small forest sitting on a log watching the water pass, or in the midst of chaos. It is something that is found in our simple pleasures, in our pain, our confusion, our wisdom, and it is available at any moment and any minute of our crazy lives. We create our own demons and we allow them to develop out of shame, jealousy, abandonment, rage, and feelings of loss. They are all the things that make us feel uncomfortable that we continuously run away from. We escape without facing what's happening in our hearts or our minds. Or we shove the feelings away in a drawer and throw away the key and somehow kill the pain. We could chose to spend our entire lives trying to escape the demons in our minds but eventually we get so caught up in running that we forget to take advantage of the beauty around us. We become so used to rushing past things that we rob ourselves of our own joy.

For 2013 my goal is to no longer try to escape fear or make pain go away or to even try to be a better person, but to just take everything as it comes and face it. My goal is to take every moment as it is, to take a deep breath in and watch the anger, frustrations, confusion, and the past be gone and to enjoy the simple and beautiful things around me. I am no longer holding onto concepts or ideals. My goal is to be so open minded that nothing can surprise me or disappoint me. My goal is to let go of all the things that have been weighing me down and to be my truest self with no hesitations, no second guessing, and no fears. Just love. For everyone, but also for myself.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Haiti Withdrawals...

Two years ago, Haiti was just a place on a map to me. I knew what everyone else knew – about the earthquake, about the number of people killed and displaced, about what a tough time the Haitians have been through and were continuing to go through.

But now, having been to Haiti numerous times and officially giving up my past life and moving to the small Caribbean island, it means something completely different to me. Haiti is my home away from home, full of people that I love and admire. Haiti is where I work and dream and hope. Since my first expedition to Haiti, I received many comments and strange looks whenever I 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 felt 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.

Yes- I am currently at "home" in Canada. And yes.. it is absolutely freezing. I love seeing the snow but I don't love the constant shivers and not being able to feel my fingers and toes. This trip home has been a lot easier than the last, I am not as angry and annoyed by people complaining about foolish things or how much we take for granted here. Although, something is still missing. I am enjoying all of the time I get to spend with my family and friends, I enjoy singing and jamming out with my friends, and I enjoy rolling around in the snow.. but there is still a void. In Canada I don't feel like my whole self, a part of me is missing. I find myself thinking too much- something I wasn't really able to do in Haiti. I also find myself very bored. It feels like I have all the time in the world here as where in Haiti I was constantly on the go. I feel useless- and it's the worst feeling in the world. I am itching to get back to Haiti and to see my babies, however, I no longer have a say in when I can return. I have been asked to say to see a tropical and infectious disease specialist in London. I am not too concerned- I am more concerned about getting back to Haiti. The worst part is the uncertainty and not knowing when I can hold my babies again. I am going through horrendous baby withdrawals.

After being here for 2 1/2 weeks the culture shock is starting to wear off a little bit. I still crumple paper money up in a wad like the Haitians do, kiss people on the cheek when I greet them, and I am still getting used to seeing so many white people- for some reason it makes me feel uncomfortable. Its strange that I can just hop in my car and drive wherever I need to go- from one end of my city to the other- within 15 mins. And that I can do laundry whenever I want. Something that really shocked me was remembering that I can actually drink tap water here !!! Usually people go through culture shock when they leave the comfort and familiarity of their surroundings to go to another environment. One would think that the worst culture shock for me would be when arriving in Haiti, but it's the complete opposite.. if that makes any sense. The culture shock gets me is as soon as I finish the first leg of my trip back to Canada and land in Florida. All of a sudden I am thrown back into the culture that I was born into and a culture that is part of the fabric of who I am. You would think this culture would bring the comfort of normalcy since it is what I am accustom to. However, it brings me great uneasiness and as I sit in the airport my patience runs thin and my homesickness for Haiti begins.

My life in Haiti is far from normal. Life there represents the abnormal. Problems that we face, challenges that we have, and the solutions are all fundamentally different than I would have ever thought possible. But I love it. I love the challenges, the struggles, the frustrations but most of all.. I love the adventure !!! I love how you never know what is going to be thrown at you each day. I love waking up to 8 little people that I love and who love me unconditionally. I miss riding down the drive way on skateboards, bandaging scraped knees and cut open toes every hour, I miss hide n go seek and playing "What Time is it Mr. Wolf?", I miss my Haitian friends and family. I miss the mountains, the cool breeze during a really hot day, I miss legumes and bouillon, I miss moto's and goats and even the chickens that are confused at what time it is and insist on making noise all through the night, to break it down for you... I MISS HAITI.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Beginnings....

Hmmm.. Where do I begin?

This year has been full of dramatic highs and terrifying lows. It has tested me to my core. I decided to do something more with my life in February, when I started my Non-Profit organization "Hime For Help" with the assistance of my friend Eric Patenaude. I was tired of the day to day things at home and I was sick of just sitting in a classroom listening to one person tell me what I need to do to be "successful" in life. I was tired of people being so ignorant to the fact that they actually are fortunate and that just because their car broke down or they missed a payment on their credit card or they got into a fight with their husband- that they have a pretty good fricken life and that they will survive. I was sick of the same routines and standards of American society. And most of all, I was tired of belittling myself to meet everyone else's expectations and opinions. I was tired of controlling my passion and keeping it under the surface. I just wanted to help people. I just missed Ghana and most of all...Haiti. I decided to write a facebook status about the anger I was feeling one evening and the end result was this: "So you’re a business man?.. you make a lot of money?. That’s great. Does that impress me? NO. It actually does the opposite. See.. I have a different outlook on things. For me, success comes from changing a life, not about the amount of numbers you have on a pay check. Success for me is reaching out a hand to those who need it most; reaching out a hand to the minorities or those who are less fortunate than you. Success to me is when you can look past the colour of someone’s skin, or the age of a person, or where the person is from and even look past where that person may be going. To me .. success is about giving everything you have to improve the lives of others, instead of trying to improve your own." Eric, someone I had just met happened to read this status and felt compelled to not just merely scroll down the page like most did. He didn't know anything about me.. but what he did know was that I was itching to get back to the small Caribbean Island that I had lost my heart too. That's when he developed the Hime For Help website and decided to print out an application for a Non-Profit organization. The events that unfolded after, were completely unexpected and unimaginable.

I can honestly say my life began on April 24, 2012. This is the day that I stepped off the plane into the scorching hot sun, into the very complex country that I would now be calling home. I didn't know what to expect. I really didn't have any plans. All that I knew was that my heart was leading the way. For the longest time I had been battling with my head and my heart (and I still do to this day) but it was time that I let my heart win and even though it seemed impossible - It was time to do what I had always been wanting to do. Help people.

The truth is.. I was naive coming to Haiti. I had no clue about the troubles I would encounter, about how difficult this country can be, and I didn't really think of all of the responsibilities I would be taking on. At times, I think to myself "this is too much" but then I know that if I choose any other path in my life I will be saying "this isn't enough". My life has changed drastically. My outlooks have changed, my personality has changed and my skin has become a lot thicker but at the same time.. my heart is more fragile. Haiti changes you in weird ways. It makes you tough but yet breaks down your walls and releases emotions you thought you never had. You learn to adapt to the un-adaptable- the things that are far from what most reading this would consider "normal".

Throughout this past year I have experienced more then what I thought I would ever experience in my entire life. I have held hands of starving and dying children, I have stared into their eyes as they took their last breath. I watched people shoot at each other as if we were in the midst of a world war. I have watched people be treated as animals- especially women. I have heard the cries of rape victims that not only lost their dignity & virginity but also their health as HIV rushed through their veins. I witnessed the cruelty of mother nature as I stood at the top of the mountain in a small house made of mud and sticks in the midst of a hurricane and watch it tumble to the ground as I huddled with the family I have fallen so deeply in love with to keep warm. I have witnessed corruption first hand. I have experienced love, loss, sorrow, anger, and grief beyond measures. My heart has been thrown to the ground, stomped on, and then put back together with my babies smiles, laughter, and from the support and comfort of friends. Some days I just can't speak or tell of the things I witnessed that day because it just hurts too much and its frustrating trying to illustrate a picture for people to understand ... the only thing I can do is just laugh and laugh until I forget why I was crying before. This is when my best friends come in handy.

Despite all that being said.. my heart beats louder than it ever has before. I am truly blessed and I can say that with confidence. Despite the heart wrenching days, I get to come home to my kids. They make me laugh harder then I have ever laughed before. I get to hold them and hug them and kiss them and love them. And that's enough for me. That makes everything worthwhile.

I want my kids to know that I never expected to be a single mother at the age of 19 (now 20). That I never imagined having eight children running around and clingy off me every minute of every day. I never imagined that my days would be filled with changing diapers, cleaning up vomit, bandaging wounds, punishing children by making them sit in the corner, and running around kicking soccer balls and riding down my driveway on skateboards. But I would not change it for the world. If they read this one day, I want them to know that they are the bravest, strongest, and most resilient people that I have ever met. They are so talented and intelligent and I am impressed by them more and more with each day that passes. That even though I embarrass them, tease them, and annoy them, that it is all out of love. I want them to know that I am going to make mistakes...a lot of them.. but I promise to always stick by their sides, to defend them, to protect them, and to love them even when they think they are undeserving of being loved. I promise to encourage them, to motivate them, and to be there cheering them on every step of the way. And I promise to spend the rest of my time on this earth reminding them how truly magnificent they are and to never settle for less then what they deserve.

I came to Haiti not speaking the language, not knowing the culture, and not knowing much about the children's lives that I would be entering into. My kids have taught me everything I know. They forced me to learn Kreyol by not letting me use "language barrier" as an excuse to not understand them. They had patience with me and taught me with repetitiveness, hand signals, and just screaming at the top of their lungs until I finally understood them. They taught me about their culture, their food, how to wash my clothes by hand, and how to interact with people on the streets. They opened their hearts and allowed me into their lives. They trust me and I trust them. They put up with my horrible sense of humor and my desire to trick them or embarrass them, and they have finally learned to start doing it back to me (Don has become quite good at that). And I do believe they love me just as much as I love them. They are the reason I am still able to wake up with a smile each morning and carry on during my most difficult days. They are the true reason why I can say that 2012 has been my best year yet.

"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand."- Henri Nouwen

This past year I have met, befriended, and have been reunited with people that have touched my life in such great ways and who fit the above description perfectly. 2012 allowed me to leave my country, my comforts, and explore a new culture, new lifestyle.. and well.. new people and friends. There are many people that I have crossed paths with within this past year that have inspired me, encouraged me, motivated me and they have allowed me to take a break from the chaos and hear myself laugh. I have always been independent and have never relied on others for my happiness, however, this last year I have become a lot less independent and have looked to friends to pick me back up when I have fallen down. They understand me better than most as they too are submerged into the complexities that Haiti has to offer. They understand why I am here. They understand my desire and willingness to leave my past luxuries behind. And they understand how I can curse and express my hatred for Haiti, but still love it with all my heart. They are the ones that remind me who I am when I feel more lost than ever. Maeve Mcgoldrick, Sarah Griffith, Tina Florial, Val P, Christian Laplanche, Justin Parkinson, Bill Waterman, Brunache Jocenel, Rigan Louis, Wilmen Jean Pierre, Lesly Pinard, Matt & Sarah Rideout, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart !!!! And to my friends back home who still write to me, who are waiting for me to come home for visits, and for those who have came to visit.. thank you for still sticking by my side even though I am thousands of miles away. Some of you don't understand my new lifestyle or why I have this passion. But I truly appreciate that you accept it and are willing to listen to me tell you all of my endless stories when I come home and comforting me when I cry when I am missing my kids and friends back in Haiti. You have shown me what true friendship is.

To my donors, sponsors, volunteers, and fundraisers. Endless thanks to you. I would not be where I am today without your ongoing support. You have not only made my dreams possible, but also many childrens dreams possible as well. You have impacted more lives then you can imagine. To Bridge2Haiti (Sarah Griffith) thank you for not only putting a secure and comfortable roof over our heads but also thank you making me laugh until I cry, for supporting me, and for being someone I can go to for advice. To my volunteers- thank you for taking the time out of your lives to engage into a new culture and to spend time with my children. I hope to see many of you return to Haiti in the future :) Huge thanks to my current volunteer Justin Parkinson for missing his Christmas and New years with his family to stay with my kids so I could see my Canadian family. Your understanding and ability to adapt to Haiti has truly impressed me. I am very glad to have you there and honored to call you my friend. To Eric Patenaude, I have definitely not said it enough.. but thank you for making any of this possible. Without your eagerness for me to start the Non-Profit I never would have wound up where I am at today. I am forever grateful.

2012 was just the beginning of the rest of my life. And I can't wait to see what 2013 has in store.