One of the first things that I was taught here by some of the other American/Canadian girls was about “Haitian time”. It has become sort of a joke now: “Are we talking real time or Haitian time?” and “give me two Haitian minutes, s’il vous plait!” are common exchanges between us.
To paint a picture of Haitian time I will describe part of our day on Saturday:
Saturday was our picnic/park day with the orphanage LMT. One of our friends has “Haitian time” down to perfection. He told the orphanage that we would pick the children up at 8am; he left at 8am to go pick up breakfast. After having said he would be back at 9:30 at the latest, he walked in at 11:15. From there, it took 30 minutes to leave the base and we still forgot the suitcase of toys and someone had to go back.
Do some work, drink some water.
Do some work, take an hour Internet break.
Do some work, drink a beer.
Do some work, take a nap.
Although this is frustrating to someone who has only known the pace of The American Dream, it is a way of life for those who live in Haiti. I’m learning to enjoy it.
Another challenge I’ve encountered so far is that there is only so much I can do. Volunteers can sort clothes and backpacks, take kids to the park, paint, and hug on children (my personal favorite); in the end, however, our aid is short term and our handouts often aid the dependency of the nation. Shortly after realizing this, I vented my frustrations to one of the founders of Haiti Communitere. He validated my feelings, saying that the “give us your stuff and get out of here” attitude of the people of Haiti has been developed BECAUSE of the way the Western World has given aid.
On another note, just in the first few days here I have learned a great deal about taking care of myself. I’ve always been told, “You cannot help people until you have helped yourself.” But I didn’t ever take it seriously. It wasn’t until I was by myself in a developing country with bug bites covering my legs, sunburn covering my back, and weakness from both a lack of sleep and heat exhaustion that I realized the truth of this statement.
With this in mind, I talked with a new friend about boundaries yesterday- about not sticking around people who treat us badly. I strongly believe in giving away mercy because I have been given mercy. However, continuing to allow people to treat you poorly without standing up for yourself can beat on your emotions. As someone who tends to be extremely emotional, I’ve always allowed myself to wallow in self pity rather than putting an end to it. I am constantly afraid of hurting the persons feelings, or being in the wrong, or losing a friend. What I failed to realized is that in all of the effort I spend trying not to do these things, I am losing the opportunity to meet people who treat me well and whose correction feels more like love.
Port-au-Prince is a hard place to be today. I wrote this over the last few days, and some of it seems silly now. All of it is true, yet all I can think about is that a little girl, if she survives, will grow up without her twin brother. In addition, I was sick for the first time today and a friend got sent home because she wasn’t taking care of herself. I’m seeking other volunteer opportunities, even if just for a short time, in Port-au-Prince or in one of the smaller cities north of here. Please pray that God continues to protect, provide, and lead me. I love all of you so much, you have no idea how much your love and encouragement means to me.