Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti - Last entry before returning home

This is the final entry about my actual travels. Reflections may come later, but for now I want to record some of the last interviews I had with people.

I had to scratch and claw my way onto a flight leaving Haiti. So much tumult because of the earthquake and the chaos it produced. My confirmed airplane seat vaporized, but there was still the possibility of this or that. While at the airport, I talked to a long time friend who was still in Haiti. His story is amazing.

I am on the airplane now. What an ordeal! I was on the flight. Then not. Then I am again. But now the plane is too heavy. Can only take 5 not 8. So I stay. But I wait. My friend says he has a possibility. A flight coming in with doctors might have space. So we wait. And while we wait I interview him.

He works at the local airport in a city in north Haiti. I knew that he had married an American woman. Apparently, after they married, they returned to the states and he attends college. But his heart is in Haiti, so he and his family return and build an incredible operation supporting education for Haitians. But his story doesn't start there.

He used to live in a small town in Haiti. A missionary comes and visits for a week. She sees him and likes him, but then she's gone. However, it seems she is not done with her Haitian experience. She decides later that she needs to help him. Just him. He wants to go to school. So she pays for his education. He moves to a larger town with a good high school. I meet him there. I'm there for the summer to see what I can see and do what I can do.

Soon, he is done with school. Eventually he meets someone from the States. They get married and move to the northern US. He is able to attend college because a well-known business man has bequeathed a large portion of his fortune to the college, so that 3rd world people could get an education. So he is able to afford the education! Amazing.

He graduates. I don't remember what he said he studied. Was it business administration? He loves his new life in the States, but he has a heart for Haiti. He is where he is because of generosity of others, and he can't ignore that. So he wants to give back.

Why does he stay in Haiti? What is the draw? He himself says that one must be crazy to stay in Haiti. There is nothing here. N O T H I N G. No exaggeration. But his heart is here. He and his wife build schools, and they support education for over 2000 students. Some of their success stories involve doctors who, now educated, have been able to help with the recent crisis --- traveling to PAP to provide emergency medical care. He supports students in whatever they want to do. Become teachers, doctors, nurses, construction workers, plumbers. He supports them all. And he is amazed.

It takes a special person who wants to stay in Haiti. He encourages his students to stay, but does not obligate them. No one can be forced to stay here. There's nothing to offer. How many decide to stay? About 25 or 30%. That seems low to me, until I look around. Everything is dilapidated. And not because of the earthquake. Everything is a chore -- having a car, a house with running water, lightbulbs that glow from a steady flow of electricity, a job, etc. You have to build it yourself, make it yourself, run it yourself. It gets very overwhelming after a while.

I finally get on a flight out of the country. I have to pay extra to fly on the airline whose plane has just landed. Anything. I need to leave now. I've said my goodbyes. I make it on the plane and feel as if I've just climbed a mountain, it took such effort. I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to my mom, or to the nice gentleman who helped me so much. I wave at them over the large iron gate as I walk out to the plane.

Many on the plane clap when it leaves the ground on take-off. They had the same experience I did -- having to pay more for a seat. It's worth it. We fly 25 minutes and land in Provo on the tiny island of Turks and Caicos. It's a world of difference, 25 minutes away. The airport is sophisticated. In a modern building equipped with running toilets, warm water to wash my hands, and air conditioning. Air conditioning! I'm shocked that I've missed it as much as I have.

From there, on to Ft Lauderdale. Then Los Angeles. Then San Jose. I'm home. The journey is so long that is helps make the break from Haiti to home. 2 different worlds. Easy to forget one while in the other. But I'm hoping that my writing will help avoid that. Time will tell.

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