I’ve just returned from my second trip to Haiti, and to be honest, it already seems like a dream. Barely a week has passed since we left for our trip, but here I am, back at home, back in the routine, and trying to remember all that has transpired.
Many of my teammates, including myself, got this response when we told people we were going on this five-day trip: “Five days? That’s not very long…” I guess it’s not in actual time, but in Haiti time five days feels like much longer. When you’re with the orphans, a single day in their world stretches on and on.
Why does it seem this way? Well, there’s the heat, with no escape from it. There’s the absence of creature comforts, like a clean toilet. There’s the utter lack of any distraction from your present circumstances. There’s the urgent need each of the 120+ children have for a personal touch, a moment of tenderness, and a fraction of your time and attention.
It’s a completely sensory experience where your brain and body don’t get a moment’s rest from the sight of their poverty, the smell of the living conditions, the sound of voices trying desperately to communicate, the touch of their hot, sweaty bodies and small, grasping hands, and the taste of the hot, humid air where the convergence of dust, sweat, garbage, and excrement is palpable.
You hazard to ask, “What time is it?” counting down the hours until the bus will take you back to your hotel where you can take a cold shower and fall into bed. And when you finally make it there, you lay in the dark and think of the children still there … Still in the heat and stench. Still in the dirt and grime. Sleeping on concrete floors and thin mattresses.
And you can’t wait for morning to come, so you can go back to them.