A Reunion in Haiti – vol. 2

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During the week, it was Alexa’s birthday.  She runs the childrens’ home and we all ran to a beautiful farm to celebrate the day.  The farm was organic and used ingenious methods to grow crops and other plants cheaply and efficiently.  It was so much cooler on the top of the mountain where the grasses grew green and winds whispered among the shouldering peaks.  The city of Port-au-Prince below was hot and dusty, a solid layer of beige hovering over it.  Flowers of varying colors scattered the farm as we toured the land.

It was a beautiful day that ended with a humble rooftop party filled with tasty homemade treats and dinner and lots of great people.  White lines of light swung on string around us in the wind as the sun set.  Through laughs and smiles we all enjoyed another successful day in Haiti.

We spent Thursday back at the childrens’ home doing some crafts with the kids and finishing the second coat of paint.  The room looked refreshed and we all spent time with the kids to round out the afternoon.  The following day was spent overseeing a classroom with some young kids taught by one of the people who had worked in the childrens’ home.  It was nice to see that lesson, but it was also an insight into the difficulties some of these kids, even the lucky ones who can go to school, must endure.

It was now Saturday.  The last full day in Haiti and also the last full day of my trip.  I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the people that I was just a number of hours away from seeing.  This day was spent on a trip to the beach with the entire group of kids.  It’s infrequent for the kids to get out of the house for safety reasons and so days like this are precious.  They ran straight for the water and had smiles as big as watermelons striped across their faces.

Jumping into the water myself, I found 2, 3, and sometimes even 5 kids all hanging on my arms and shoulders as I waded around in circles through the clear water.  For several hours, we just played in the water and stopped for lunch and played some more.  It was a beautiful sunny day and I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect day to spend with those incredible kids and for my last day of a miraculous trip.

Emotions swirled around me.  Incredible memories filled my mind as I asked my dearest Sarah some more questions and spent as much time at the beach as possible.  It was a difficult goodbye but of course an inevitable one.  Sarah and the rest of the kids waved as their bus road off into the dust.  We all returned to our rooms and packed our bags, happy, exhausted, ready for home.

After a week spent with beautiful people in a uniquely beautiful place, we shipped ourselves to the airport.  Minutes were splashing past me and I was doing my best just to enjoy the final hours.  Finally, we boarded and rose up into the clouds.  I was on my way home.

A Reunion in Haiti – vol. 1

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140 days past.  Countless memories.  Countless people.  Countless blessings.  It’s pretty incredible up to this point that I haven’t lost anything…or worse.  My mind is everywhere.  Riding a taxi to the airport after a nice final morning walking the streets of Santiago with a friend brought so many thoughts to the fold.  My final hours in this new world, now a very familiar world, were waning down and I was trying to suck up each moment, each sight, each person I met with the absorbency of a thick dry sponge.

Funny enough, that’s how I felt before long in the dusty hot weather of Haiti as I touched down in the airport of Port-au-Prince.  I was the first member of the team to arrive and so me and Alexa, the Haiti Connections Director of the Wings of Refuge childrens’ home.  We went to a brand new cafe that has become a central meeting place for volunteers since I last visited this poverty stricken country.

After running a few errands, we returned to the airport to pick up the rest of the team.  I knew our team leader through some limited meetings, but everyone else was new!  Nothing new for me as I’d been in a similar situation the last 4 1/2 months, but there were plenty of differences in this final week of the trip.

This place, as opposed to all the others I had seen on my trip, was home.   When I returned to the childrens home I felt a coziness that I hadn’t felt since I first embarked to Peru to kick off this adventure.  Walking into the home, a few things had changed but the feeling was the same.  I saw the kids and there were mumblings.  I had doubts.  I wondered if any of them would remember my name or who I was.  How could I doubt.

As we went around the room and all introduced ourselves, I readied myself for my turn to speak.  But as I was about to say my name, I heard it around the room followed by whispers and giggles.  They remembered!  As we all socialized with the kids, I ended up running and playing tag with some of the younger boys before talking with Sarah and nabbing a picture with this young sweetheart.

For those who don’t know, this was the girl who stole my heart by giving me a birthday card on my 22nd birthday during my first trip to Haiti.  It was the precursor to my return for a second trip and the inspiration for this 3rd trip after a 4 year hiatus.  Being surrounded by all the kids on the first day was a dream come true.

Over the course of the next few days, we settled into our new home for the week and also helped a friend living there to move into his own apartment!  It was a big moment for him and we were all so thrilled to be a part of it.  We painted a large room in the childrens’ home and spent more time with the kids.  Running around you in circles laughing and screaming, they make you forget about everyone and everything else.

As we drove around the city those first few days, I noticed less rubble.  Less garbage.  A few more paved roads.  Just a few.  For a country that has been among the most impoverished in the world for many years, progress comes slow.  But progress seemingly does still come, especially with organizations working together to bring benefit to the people.

We met many of these organizations as one of the biggest pushes the childrens’ home has made since I last visited is to partner with other charities to bring greater awareness to various causes.  We visited jewelers who would make beads out of cereal boxes, old glass bottles, and clay.  Ingenious reuse of otherwise indiscernible trash.  We even got to make our own bracelet with a hammer, brass fastener, and some leather.  Far flung from my days of calculating numbers on spreadsheets.

It was a memorable start to an endlessly thought filled ending of the grand adventure that began a short 5 months earlier.  Only a few days remain, but in my mind, it feels like an eternity until I can finally return home!  More on those days in the final post of the trip!

Also, check out this post I wrote for the Wings of Refuge website and some more insights into my trip back to this wonderful world!

Quitting

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It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when a moment of eye-popping clarity comes about.  When it comes to my desire to travel, I could tell you that it was when I went to Haiti in 2012 to care for the most beautiful children.  I could also tell you it was when my parents came to the US to make a new life and sprouted the idea that home isn’t always just one place.  But perhaps more than any other reason, this idea to quit my job and travel started several years ago when I visited Thailand.  That was my first trip unassisted in a country that I did not know the language of.  It opened my eyes in ways that nothing else in this world could.

In a way, this idea to travel is a result of all these things and many more.  After all, quitting your job to travel isn’t the quickest and easiest decision to make, I can attest to that.  But then again, the best things in life are usually not easy and that theory is very applicable here.

While I was on that fateful trip in Thailand 2 years ago, a thought that was built up by my upbringing and by that trip to Haiti started to permeate my mind and I decided at that moment that someday I would quit my job.  While I wanted that day to be as soon as possible, I knew that it would take some time and planning to make it happen.  To be exact, it would take 2 years.

During those 2 years, I have savored the process of saving, positioning myself, and planning for this trip, and while most of this process is enjoyable and exciting, there is always that elephant in the room.  He’s just sitting way too close to you invading your space, but at some point you just need to face him.  That elephant I’m referring to is the prospect of quitting.  In my case, I work(ed) as a CPA in a public accounting firm.  I’d been there for over 4 years having started right out of school as a hungry staff accountant.  I’ve formed relationships with people throughout the firm whom I take great pride in calling my extended family.  While I am very thankful for these people, this also made the idea of quitting even more difficult.  How could I leave these people that I’d figuratively AND literally lived with for so long?  After all, I’d seen them more often than my own family during those years.

I knew that it would take some finesse to start down the path of my dreams while keeping strong relationships with these people.  I started by having a conversation with some of my closer co-workers while also keeping things hush so that rumors wouldn’t spread.  I spoke to them about the idea of traveling and what it would mean for my future career.  While I’m certain that many of them were disappointed, I felt that talking early and honestly helped make a smoother transition.

One of the difficult things to manage at this time was gossip.  It’s something that I can’t control so I didn’t concern myself with this too much, but I did want to be the first one to talk to 2 particular partners in charge of my office.  To do this, it took quite a bit of self-control to not blurt out my dream that had been building for 2 years to everyone in sight!  But I kindly asked each of the people that I spoke with to not go around talking about my plans, at least not until I had told those partners.  I’m once again very thankful to have good people that I work with because there were no leaks of my plans.

Admittedly, as much as it has been exciting to plan out this trip, the prospect of telling people that have employed me for 4 years that I will longer be working with them is still intimidating. When it finally came time to talk to those partners, something rather interesting happened.  Instead of fear and intimidation wrapping my mind, I instead had great clarity in what I was doing and where I was going.  That made it very easy to talk to each of them about my plans without fear of consequence.  Of course, I really had no reason to think that there would be a significant consequence to me reaching for my dreams, even if it did make their lives temporarily difficult.

I think that is the most important thing to consider, that people will never really be upset at one another for reaching for their dreams, as long as you do it professionally and properly.  And if you do find yourself in the position of trying to convince your boss of why you are choosing your dream over working endless hours, then I think it is quite clear where you should and shouldn’t be.  Thankfully, I have had the great fortune to work in a great environment and one in which I hope to be welcomed back to in the future.

It may not always be the best time or easiest time to quit, but when it comes to reaching for your dream, reach all day.  There’s no other way to find happiness that can truly match that of arriving at your goal.  But don’t let that moment of arrival come without setting your sights on the next mountain to climb!

More on that next mountain coming soon.  Til next time! 🙂