Haiti for the Holidays

Taking a stroll down a street in Jeremie, Haiti

It’s Cyber Monday and it’s following closely on the heels of a record breaking Black Friday.  In Indiana alone, it has been estimated that the average household spent nearly $450 over the weekend.  After several years of economic doubt, it seems as if the country is exploding with pent-up consumerism that can no longer be denied.

But as Monday rapidly draws to a close, I have yet to spend a dime.  Call me a bad American, but I didn’t stimulate the economy.

I am, however, thinking about shoes – old shoes, worn shoes, used shoes, small shoes, shoes for children who have none to call their own.  If all goes according to plan, this time next month I will be back from a mission trip to Jeremie, Haiti where I will have helped several kind-hearted souls share gently used shoes with children who give the term “less fortunate” a new meaning.

The runway in Jeremie, Haiti awaiting the arrival of our commuter plane

It will be my first trip to Haiti and I fully anticipate having my expectations for what constitutes an acceptable lifestyle reset by what I will see – which, by the way, is one of many reasons why I travel. 

Case in point – my recent week in Venice taught me that my definition of “old” needed to be rethought.  In a country where a large well maintained building like the RCA Dome can come and go in less than 35 years says something about our expectations and priorities.  Venice makes do with 300, 500, even 1,000 year-old buildings held together by giant bolts and screws, and where snaps, crackles and pops are a way of life.  We freak out when doors won’t latch and ceilings crack.

When I left for Venice, I was actively looking for a new car to replace my 11-year-old Jeep.  The air conditioning doesn’t work, the ceiling fabric is starting to give, the radio light only comes on when it rains, it’s pushing 190K miles and, by most American standards, it’s old and I’m overdue.

But after Venice, I came back with a new appreciation for keeping what works and making the best of the situation.  At the hospital in Venice we watched orderlies moving an elderly woman in an old wooden wheelchair that looked like it predated the Titanic.  But guess what?  It worked!  It looked to be well maintained.  And I bet it was paid for.

When I returned home, I stopped looking.  My pretty red Jeep may be well seasoned like me, but it gets me where I need to go, so why give up on it now?  In this country, we give up on things too early and often for the wrong reasons.  I know of someone who once got rid of a perfectly good washing machine because it wouldn’t match her new dryer which she bought when the old one stopped working.  Am I the only one who finds that odd? 

Map of the Gebeau compound in Jeremie, Haiti. We’ll be working on the auto shop using our carpentry skills.

So I’m packing for Haiti, but I’m planning to have my expectations reset again.  I don’t know how yet – that still remains to be seen.  But I know that this trip will be an adventure and an experience and an eye opener.  That it comes on the heels of Christmas isn’t lost on me either for it is this time of the year when our desire for new toys grows to its most fevered pitch.

The local school has invited us to attend the children’s Christmas program.  I am excited beyond words.  I know that in the streets of Haiti I will see poverty, especially near Port au Prince.  I’m hoping it’s not as bleak as my imagination believes it to be.  But I’m also praying that in that little school in Jeremie I will also see hope and joy and happiness too – in short, things that come from family and friends and not from catalogs and websites and big-box retail stores.  That too remains to be seen.  More details on my trip and my fellow explorers to come soon, but for now, it’s enough to ponder the adventure.

(Photo credits – David Duba)

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jon Fueston
    Nov 27, 2012 @ 09:48:11

    Really looking forqward to this article…..but I suspect it will be more bitter than sweet….hope I’m wrong.

  2. Does This Blog Post Make My Butt Look Big?
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 11:11:48

    Jon, I think there will be a great many sweet surprises in store in Haiti, plus a real dose of third-world reality. Every trip should impact us somehow, some more than others.

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