A thick blanket of humidity and heat surrounded my mother and me. We had arrived to the rendezvous point where our Haiti Medical Mission Team would assemble before departing for Port-au-Prince, Haiti. As I relaxed on the city-lit South Beach with the warm waves of the Straits of Florida lapping along the tips of me toes, I was still naive and presumptuous in my perception that these comforts of life were available to people everywhere.
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Waking up early the next morning, I met the team as we all boarded the airplane together – fresh, anticipative, and eager to offer medical remediation to victims of the January 13th earthquake. In all honesty, I spent most of the plane ride to Haiti concerned selfishly of personal matters such as food and shower availability. Discussion with my team leader abated these fears as I learned my first lesson: no matter how hard I tried, human intervention could only have so much impact in a disaster-stricken nation like Haiti; sometimes we need to have a little faith that everything will work for the best.
As soon as we landed in Port-au-Prince International Airport, the entire team and I were greeted with jaunty, Haitian music played by a street band in the terminal. I had finally arrived to a 3rd world country. We ran into our first difficulty at the makeshift warehouse that was the "baggage claim." Amongst the crowds of people, we had lost a key piece of luggage that contained endoscopy equipment. However, there was nothing we could do as we were quickly whisked away onto a 2-hour bus ride to the New Missions Complex (New Missions Complex). During this ride, I arrived at an intimate understanding of what indigence and destruction truly were. The earthquake had left its toll evidenced by the broken rubble everywhere and massive "tent cities" where hundreds of Haitian people lived in homes made out of sticks and tarps. However, it was the people's eyes, embedded with hopelessness that stripped me down to a wholly humbled condition. The concept of personal advancement had died amongst the heaps of dirt and rocks.
We finally arrived to the New Mission complex located in the heart of the Leogane plane, a province of Haiti. It would serve as our base from which we went to a variety of different health centers and clinics like Hospital Saint-Croixand the Christianville Medical Clinic. I primarily served in the pharmacy department, unit-dosing pills while my mother worked as an anesthesiologist in the surgical unit of Hospital Saint-Croix. Originally, I approached the job with a supercilious attitude as I presumptuously felt entitled to a more "medically-inclined" job. I was humbled again that day as I realized no activity was trivial in light of the effort and desire involved.
My final significant encounter before leaving Haiti was meeting a fellow 16 year old Haitian student named Bernie Bijou. He shared with me his future plans for Haiti. Through Bernie I learned that a Haitian pre-school may start with over 1000 children, but only about 50 would graduate from high school. Most would drop out as time progressed, enter gangs and commit other acts of debauchery. Through him I was revitalized and re-motivated to strive for excellence in all pursuits of life. The perseverance he showed in such a desolate situation truly elucidated what hope can accomplish.
As always, the people of Haiti imparted more lessons on me than I could have ever done for them through this trip. I could not have asked for anything more than this touching travel experience during the summer of 2010.
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