Friends who had gone before told me so many stories. They told me exactly what I would see, who I would meet, what smells would be in the air. I even knew some of the children's names and some of their beautiful language before I ever set foot on their soil. Culture shock won't get me, I told myself. I know what to expect.
But I sit here, writing this at the kitchen table, Bon Iver playing in the background, and I'm crying at just the thought of what I saw and what I experienced.
Culture shock is an understatement. As I stood on the back of a truck as we rushed through the unpaved roads that twisted through the villages, I was sure that this was not real. In fact, it still doesn't feel real.
I had seen it on TV. I had seen it on the internet, probably under a big blinking tab that said "Give". And I probably did give. Oh, you poor thing, living in a sorry excuse for a mud hut. Sure, here's ten dollars. Hope this helps. Maybe I'll remember to say a prayer for you tonight.
But it was so much more than the dirty, crying faces that I had seen on TV for my whole life.
This was real.
I wish I could tell everything. I want to tell everything. But I can only tell one story.
The last picture in this post is of a beautiful little girl. I don't even know her name. I asked so many times but I was never able to pronounce it.
She befriended me. She held my hand. She showed me around the beach. She gave me gifts of seashells and live crabs and broken glass and trash. She sat on my lap and she danced with me. She brushed the hair out of my face every time the wind blew.
She told me I was beautiful, and I told her she was very beautiful. For that day, for those few hours, we were best friends. She was my favorite person. She still is.
Like I said, you won't understand. You can't understand. Because I was there, and I don't understand.
What's the big deal about a little Haitian girl brushing the hair out of your eyes with her dirty little hands? I don't know. I don't know what the big deal is. I don't know why I proudly display those broken seashells on my shelf. I don't know why I think about her everyday. I can't explain it to you, because I don't even know the answer.
Haiti ripped my heart open, slapped me in the face, tore me apart. And even with all of that going on inside me, I've never felt more complete.
I swear, Haiti brings out the best in me.