The Return: (North) ‘Merica

Standard

Well, it’s late July.  Not sure exactly how time travels so quickly but if we could monetize that speed none of us would need to work ever again.  In this short time, I realized a few things.  First, I kinda sorta needed a job.  Second, a shower and haircut were imminent.  And third, I was BACK.  But what was this strange new world, (North) America?  Whatever it was, it was very welcoming.  In case you haven’t already seen the video, here it is.

For the first few weeks, it was a surreal and very glossy view.  Nothing seemed to fit reality.  Half of my heart and mind sat here at home while the other sat wondering why his twin had left him in South America.  So many incredible memories still do sit down there.  In between jagged peaks and flowing valleys and rushing rivers.  I don’t think I was struggling to come to grips with the realities back home because I was afraid of anything, I was actually excited to start work again.

No, there’s something else.  There’s something about a place that can have such a big impact on who you are and become.  I lived among 6 countries in South America and the Caribbean for 5 months.  I spent 248 hours in some form of transportation.  I visited 27 cities, towns, and villages.  Over 200 miles of hiking trails, roadsides, and city streets were crept across by tired feet.  I took nearly 10,000 pictures and videos.  But does any of this mean anything?

This was always an interesting question I tried to answer, what happens after the trip? I’m still not quite sure how to answer it, but I think I’ve come along a bit further than where my thoughts were on April 9th.  More than ever, it’s about people and how I decide to interact.  Making the most of every moment.  Appreciating EVERYTHING you have.  Because you never know when you might drop everything and search for 5 months for those very things you missed so much right under your nose.  It’s about spending life with the people and things that mean more to you than anything else.  It’s a cliche, but for a good reason.  I knew the cliche before.  Now I feel it.

 

A Reunion in Haiti – vol. 1

Standard

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!