Sunday, October 30, 2011

I almost didn't post this blog.

I try to be the sort of person who, in the absence of something nice to say, is silent.   In conversation, I am frequently challenged by this, but composing a blog post has given me several chances to stop, edit myself, avoid complaining or whining. 
This last week has been extremely difficult.  We discovered upon arrival that the expected construction on our rooms was not only incomplete (we were told they were still in need of doors ; but what we didn’t know is that for the door to be installed, the entire wall would first have to be constructed).   Instead of a few days in the small “guest room,”  we are looking at several weeks to (please, God help me) months.   Haiti Lesson #1: time moves differently here.  Lesson #2:  Haitians are a people of acceptance and endurance.  This American family, not so much.
The guest room is 16’x16’ concrete block construction with 2 small windows- just cinder block holes on the front and a series of small holes (“windows”) along the back wall.   We were given a double bed, bunk beds for the kids and mosquito nets.
In a place where roofs are made of lacey tin and people sleep on floors of packed dirt, we should be grateful for the accommodations.
But, we’re finding it difficult.  We are almost always hot.  Initially, the bugs were unbearable.  Flies, mosquitos, bees all came and went freely.  We have since installed screens along the front windows, which has helped tremendously.  The materials are here to place screen over the back windows as well, but we haven’t yet had simultaneous availability of carpenter and power.    We run through a perilous few hours at the end of the day when our room is just too hot to be in.   The cool of the evening can be enjoyed if we are willing to pay our blood offering to the mosquitos, otherwise we give our sweat offering sitting under nets on our beds.   Blood or sweat.  And more than once, tears.
We are sharing a bathroom with the Pastor Joseph and his wife.  It is in another building across a courtyard.  Cold showers are an accepted truth of Haiti, so I won’t complain about them here.
For the first few days we didn’t understand that food was being placed on the dining table in Pastor’s apartment for us.  We were waiting to be invited in.  We were frequently hungry, because Pastor and Madame work non-stop, often not pausing until well after the sun has set.   Now, we’ve learned the routine, and when to expect the food, and to be bold in entering their apartment- they honestly don’t mind.  We’ve also made it to the grocery store, and bought a little microwave. 
Again, I almost didn’t write this.  Why would anyone want to read our complaints?  But, today I started reading a great book, “The Art of Crossing Cultures,” recommended to me by a friend who left home to plant a church in Paris.  In the first chapter of this book, the author lists several difficulties most expatriates experience in their first few a weeks abroad.  He expresses how it is important for people on both sides of the international relationship to understand what the expat is going through- the complete upheaval of all routines, all norms, all predictability of their world.  Yep, that’s us.  I can’t wait to get to the next chapter where he tells us how to deal with some of these difficulties, but for now it is enough for me to know that I am not failing if I admit that I am temporarily miserable.  I am not being arrogant to miss the virtues of my homeland.  I am not blind if I find myself annoyed with the locals.  I am…we are…adjusting.  We are building new rhythms, new routines, new norms.   There are days when all we want is to go home.  And, there are days when home is where we are.