Stephanie H.

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I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since I was in Haiti. There are so many memories that I will hold dear.

One night while standing on the roof watching the sun set, some of the team members were talking about their desire to jump off stuff and that sometimes that feeling almost overwhelms them, usually when they’re not wearing a harness. This was not a morbid conversation but a reflection of man’s propensity to do things that are scary because of the electrifying feeling that is the result. In a world where one’s synapses are constantly bombarded by television, video games, cell phones, traffic lights, and so on, it becomes increasingly more difficult to feel something amazing. We can be so connected that we’re no longer present.

For me, Haiti was a scary idea just like jumping out of an airplane or eating ‘rare’ delicacies. I allowed the application to sit in my inbox for close to two weeks before I even started to fill it out. The only reason that I opened it again when I did was because I knew if I didn’t, the opportunity would slip by without me even having a chance.

After that, things happened WAY too fast to even have time to be scared. Even now, so much of it is a blur — the congratulatory email, the trip meeting that next Saturday,  packing, and then meeting at the CLT airport all occur before time even begins to slow back down. What a blessing this trip was for me and I’m so glad that I jumped.

It’s funny to me how our trip truly began and ended with a hot van ride over the mountains. On the way to Cange, everyone was careful to stay in his/her personal space and not inconvenience each other. We even apologized for touching! After a week of tripping over Connor’s flip flops, borrowing anything you couldn’t find in your bag, trying to figure out who was napping on your bed, using Madison’s nasty handkerchief, and sharing 2 bathrooms among more than twenty people things definitely were different on the van ride back to Port-au-Prince. People were sleeping with their heads on other’s shoulders, had random body parts situated to feel as comfortable as possible,  and we were singing old t.v. theme songs. In the span of one week, we grew from perfect strangers to family.

My first night home (not my 4 hour “nap” before I had to be at work on Monday), my phone continually beeped as text messages and Facebook alerts arrived because we didn’t know what to do in the quiet of our own space.

Our plan was to teach these children and this community how to take photographs. It is simple to measure that success in the images they produced which were breathtaking and extraordinary and all the equipment that we were able to leave with them. But the real gift is that we printed, for some of them, the first photograph they’d ever had of themselves or that newlyweds in Cange will no longer have to travel to Port-au-Prince to have a wedding photograph taken.

While the gifts we’ve given them were tangible and meaningful, the gifts that I received far outweigh anything I left behind. The memories of my experience will stay with me forever: Playing in a rainstorm with the children who desperately wanted to spend time with the Blancs (that’s us Americans). Listening to Luke share so unabashedly about his dreams the school that he has started in his mother’s childhood community. The girl who I worked with growing comfortable enough with me to test her English skills. Friendships formed over laughter and the “hardships” of being in a third world country.

We have a bond in this experience and we will forever hold these people and the memories of this trip in the most special part of our hearts.

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