Updated: Feb 7, 2021
[Link to a special video at the bottom ;) ]
Ooooo-oooooooh. I get it.
For all those in the United States, I get it now. I understand the quarantine—at least a little bit—and the insanity that is COVID. Haiti has been very blessed so far in its low and controllable cases. At least, that is what it appears to be for everyone and daily life is generally unaffected.
Just so, I went home for Christmas and I experienced your reality. And dang, it was a bit of a bummer, but there is still no place I would have rather been. Unfortunately, one of my family members tested positive and the results emailed Christmas morning, several days after this person felt better and received a negative rapid test. So Christmas plans were canceled and there was crying and a general sadness. My brother was particularly sad, as he could not be with us. If he did not have a wonderful girlfriend, he would have risked it. Alas, he has a wonderful girlfriend (she’s really great).
Thankfully, we were still able to get together, just outside and bundled up by a fire.
It also meant we didn’t get to spend Christmas with my uncle, cousin, my cousin’s girlfriend, and a dear family friend too. Like we do every year. Everyone was disappointed.
Let’s just say we spent a lot of time doing puzzles and watching TV.
While it wasn’t the Christmas I imagined, it wasn’t bad. It challenged me to find joy in other ways. Christmas is not about the gifts, I think we all eventually learn that, but we come to see it as a time for family and miracles. A time to be generous and giving. Peace and Love. Still, we couldn’t be together as we had hoped. I am sure many others had a different experience of Christmas too. Maybe they were alone. Maybe they had a loved one in the hospital. Maybe they were in the hospital. Maybe someone passed away. This year, for me, was a reminder that even during the good times (you know, when there isn’t a pandemic), there are still people who experience that pain and loneliness. This time, we all experienced it together.
Before I left Haiti to go home a couple of people told me to check in with how I felt, to observe the differences and similarities.
The first I noticed was on the plane. On the starboard side flying out of Haiti, you can view nearly the entirety of Haiti. I could follow the road I took from GwoMòn to reach Port au Prince. Similar to my observation when flying in for the first time, the mountains appeared dry and barren of foliage. There were small towns visible, but not a lot of infrastructure beyond that. Flying into Miami, there are tons of hotels and resorts along the beach. You can see the blocks of neighborhoods, some with more green-space and bigger houses, some much closer together. It wasn’t until I flew out of Miami though that it hit me. It was dark and near Christmas. The amount of light I could see was astounding. It was like rivers of gold and silver swirling in an empty void, the void made more prominent by the darkness of the Everglades where the light ends. Just viewing that amount of power compared to where I was before was shocking. Just a two-hour flight away is a country that, comparatively, is quite dark.
Data service is fast too. I forgot how fast the internet could load on my phone, even without wifi. It is much faster than anything I ever get in Haiti. Moreover, I could do that anywhere. Granted, there are still places and communities that do not have that luxury in the US, but everywhere I went, I could get a signal and load the internet or Google Maps in 2 seconds or less.
Oh, and the food! My mom is an amazing cook and she was a rock star with cooking up the list of food I sent her. There were so many leftovers! In Haiti, my snack and food options are much more limited. It was such a treat to have all sorts of options when lunch rolled around. And it was all so good!
American ice cream is so much better too. Ice cream in Haiti does not compare to Graeter’s or the ice cream we keep in the freezer.
When I landed in Dayton, it was also much colder, obviously. I met my mom at the baggage claim and, after a long hug, she gave me a heavy coat, hat, and gloves. On my bed, I found 6 layers of blankets and I used ALL OF THEM.
I enjoyed being home, despite the quarantine. My dad and I played golf and went skiing, my mom, sister, and I decorated Christmas cookies, my mom and I took a trip to get steamed bagels at Miami University, I got to see a handful of people I don’t normally get to see or talk to, and just relax. There was always a puzzle in the family room that my dad and I worked on with some contributions from Mom and my sister. We watched Christmas movies and the Hallmark channel, ate Christmas cookies, and just enjoyed our time together overall—although it was tough not being able to do other activities.
It was also an important reminder of how blessed I am. Haiti is a whole other world with its own trials and tribulations. It's a reminder for me to never forget how blessed I am. To never forget the people that the world wants to forget are there.
Coming back to Haiti, I realized more things as well. There are a lot more people on the streets and I forgot just how loud everything was! Every little bit of noise carries across town and through the walls. Last week, the local Catholic church celebrated their patron feast day and for the novena leading up to it, they would be singing from 5pm-midnight or more. February 2nd, the feast day, had rain so we were spared some of the late-night festivities. I never joined myself because of a little quarantine nightmare, but maybe next year.
Huh. On January 13th I celebrated my one-year anniversary. It passed while I was quarantining from my stay at home. Looking back, it all went by so quickly. These next two and a half years are going to fly by as well. So, seeing how this is a new year, I’m going to set up some goals of what I want to accomplish this year in Haiti. I have never been good with New Year’s resolutions, but I think I will give it a shot.
This year, I want to begin a regular workout routine. At the moment, I’m planning on 3 days a week and I hope to stick with it.
Wrinkles has a harness and leash now. I need to start taking her on regular walks.
Another goal of mine is to stick with a daily prayer routine. I want my desire to follow God’s will to reflect in my prayer life. Currently, I have a timer go off at 8:30pm as a reminder to do a prayer of my choice: saying a rosary, reading the Bible, taking time in silence, or Taize.
In this last month with the extended quarantine, I feel disconnected from the community. This year, I hope to strengthen those bonds and continue to grow in familiarity with my Haitian home and my Haitian community.
Next week, I’ll be jumping back into work at Grepen and Maison Bon Samaritain. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again and hope I can get back into the swing of things. Yesterday evening I was stumbling over my numbers so I need to exercise my Kreyòl a little bit.
So, cheers to all of you during these tough times. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.
Here is a link to a One Second Every Day video for the time I was in Haiti. I hope you enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-_EXMqeGdk&ab_channel=JillianFoster