The waves seek out the shore and the birds sing their morning songs. The sun beams through the window giving us rays of warmth. I roll over and stretch out on my clean white sheets. I open my eyes and look out the window. I can hear the water and smell the familiar aroma of the ocean. Where am I? Certainly I can’t be in Haiti. I struggle with a strange mix of emotions. Am I supposed to be enjoying this beautiful scene? Am I wrong to gaze out the window in awe of the blissful serenity? Is this just an oasis in the desert? Yes. I think that it must be just an oasis.
I gather myself and push my confusion aside. I’m here to help. I brush my teeth with bottled water as we have been told not to get the water in our mouths. I shower in the cool water. If this doesn’t wake me, nothing will! At times, I look down and the water is brownish. I question how dirty I really was before the shower. Somehow it seems more comforting that I was just really dirty rather than to think I am trying to clean in water that color.
As I lace up my boots and prepare for the day, (this includes a full body spray of OFF with deet) I pack small snacks in my bag in case I get hungry throughout the day. I meet everyone downstairs for breakfast. We talk about our plans for the day and then set off for the parking lot where our ride is waiting for us. I love travelling in the back of the truck. We get to see everything and the warm breeze is in our faces.
The children are so happy to see us again. They clamor around us, hugging and jumping up and down. They are already wearing the donated clothes we brought. Some of the girls have Baby Phat, Baby Gap, Old Navy and other designer clothes on that I’m not familiar with. I wish that everyone who donated could see how happy they all were. We had work to do though. We had to sort out a ton and a half of donations. We had to paint the orphanage. We had to help with the school building project which is located next door. We wanted to give all of the children new sheets for their beds. Their old sheets were completely worn out. Most importantly we had to play with the children, love them and hug them, get to know them, comfort them, bath them, help feed them and as Phil says, ‘be their parents for the time that we were there.’ The younger children do not speak a lot of English. This never seemed to be a problem though. The older children translate for them. The children are a family. It’s so heartwarming to see how they all treat each other. In the whole time we were there, I never witnessed a single argument between any of them. I have to break up arguments between my children every five minutes! The children love to have their pictures taken. Even the younger children can say ‘photo, photo!’ Young Stanley, age 12, often just sits next to me in silence. He doesn’t speak a lot of English yet but seemed happy just to be near me. There are two baby girls around a year old; Majine and Thara. Thara is walking but Majine looks like she is still recovering from malnourishment. Majine is always hungry. I’ve never seen a small child who can eat as much as her. She touches my heart with her big goofy grin.
I worked over at the building site for a while with David. We tried to level off the ground to prepare for concrete to be laid. All the men were watching us. Perhaps they were wondering how long we could hold up under the intense sun. I guess nobody told them that I’ve painted many a roof underneath the treacherous, Bermuda August sun! To be fair, the heat was just about the same as July and August here and it’s been about five or six years since I’ve been up on a roof. I could feel the skin on my hands becoming irritated as I smacked the hoe down into the rock and sand underneath. I was prepared though! I whipped out my work gloves. As I was about to put them on, a 15-year-old boy came over and asked if he could please borrow them. He had been working away without stopping once to take a breather. I told him yes he could. He told me that from then on, I would be his Mother. His name is Geradson. David lent him his hat, and he quickly became his Father.
The cooks at the orphanage made us a special lunch. We had peas and rice, spicy pasta and fried plantain. It was all absolutely delicious but I didn’t feel like I could eat too much. It was a combination of not wanting to get sleepy in the middle of the day and also not knowing how many other people needed to eat after us.
We spent more time with the children in the afternoon. Bernie had her hair done by all the girls. She looked a hot mess! I watched the women washing the clothes outside in basins of water. I thought of my Grandma and how she told me that this is how they used to wash all of their clothes. I thought of how I hate to do laundry at home and I have a washer and dryer. I found it very challenging to be able to tell myself that I’m actually a good person when it really seemed like I’ve been spoiled and angry about stupid little things my whole life. I’ve never been a particularly materialistic person but having said that, I also can’t imagine life without the luxuries I do have such as soap and clean running water, electricity, transportation, etc…
When we got back to the hotel in the afternoon, we all went for a swim in the ocean. We wished we could bring the children back for a swim. We talked and talked as this experience truly takes a huge emotional toll. We are forced to deal with our weaknesses. We are forced to look at our lives from an entirely different perspective. After just the first day, we already conceded that our lives will never be the same again.
Originally Posted on March 8th 2012 at http://rachaelburrows.wordpress.com/
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