I take a big breath in, and the smells of burning trash fill my lungs. Though it is an unpleasant first wiff it makes my heart smile and all I can think is, “it’s good to be back.” This is my third time in Haiti, and the day before I had just spent a week in Guatemala. It’s hard to take in the new language, especially because I know Spanish, but Creole not so much. I feel like my skin is radiating and I’m not a pale girl, but under the sun all year round Haitians are naturally a dark people. To be a minority is a different experience completely.
Honorable Mention 2009 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Driving through the city via Tap-Tap (Haitian Taxi), everyone, and I mean everyone turns and looks at you. It’s not out of rudeness but simply pure curiosity for something they don’t see very often. Some smile and wave, it is mostly children who do that, and then you find the young adults to adults who have a very blank stare. They aren’t angry, sad, happy, or any emotion at all and that is more intimidating then someone being angry with you. It feels like they can see right through you and after talking with Gale, the woman who runs the program I travel with, it makes perfect sense why they stare so blankly like that.
It is no secret that Haiti is one of the most devastated places in the world. In fact, it’s the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The kids are all still lively, and the teenagers are all “going to be rap stars,” but then the adults are where your heart begins to sink. The adults have realized where they are and how hard it will be to get out. Not that Haiti isn’t beautiful, but the government is so corrupt and it suppresses the poor so that they can never grow and flourish. They stare so blankly because after their early 20’s and still no rap deal, they have realized that this is what their life will be for maybe, the rest of their time on this earth.
That’s the reason I come, I want to know that I’m helping bringing hope back into these people’s lives. I don’t have to wait long for the feeling of hope to come inside me because we are at the clinic. The clinic is something our organization built and it is in the center of Blanchard, the village we help. You don’t see anyone in Blanchard with a blank face, no matter how old they are. They are filled with hope for a better life, and you can see it in their eyes. Upon arriving, you have 7 kids already attached to any extremity they can grab and mothers and fathers kissing your cheeks saying, “mesi, mesi! [thank you, thank you!].”
Traveling to Haiti, I don’t only learn about a new culture, or learn a new language, I learn how to hope and how to love. I learn how to be strong in my own life and how to help others no matter where I am. I can only hope that everyone takes a mission trip to a third-world country, not for the glory, but for the hope.
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