I've been to third world countries before, but nothing had prepared me for what we experienced in Haiti. The village of Mulet, where the school we funded is being built, was about 6 hours from the airport. If Philadelphia was a world away from Port Au-Prince, the village of Mulet was another planet. As a traveler, I've never been to such a remote area of a third world country - I'm always protected from that kind of truth - and I felt knocked off my feet.
The adjustment to living with my host family, meeting the gracious and joyful people of Mulet, constructing the foundation for a school, showering with a bucket of hand-pumped water....that was all relatively easy. The community went well out of their way to make us all feel safe, comfortable, and appreciated. The living conditions were actually a lot like glamorous camping and someone else was feeding me...
I could have stayed in Mulet longer. Part of me keeps saying, "It was actually easier to live there." Truth is, it was easy because I could leave whenever I wanted and I was given everything I needed. I wasn't stuck there, it was all just temporary and every fiber of my being knew that.
Readjusting to my First World life has been inexplicably difficult. After getting out of the airport I argued with the parking lot attendant about being charged too much while they had my car (the kids in Mulet had to walk 2 hours to reach their current school). I got home to find my freezer was broken (refrigeration, let alone electricity, wasn't even available in the village). My inbox had 51 e-mails awaiting my reply (because I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to work as a professional and make a living). It's all been overwhelming - the bustle and busyness, the trivialities and pop-culture conversations, the obligations to all of my consumerist stuff. For days I found myself struggling to eat, sleep, or get dressed, but with little concept of why. How could I feel like my life was such a struggle after being shown all the luxuries and comforts I've been given. It's hard to feel deserving of such privilege.
But this is my reality. I do live in a First World country. I have all of these things and with them I am responsible for taking care of them. Even if I drop everything, sell my luxuries, and move to Haiti or any other Third World country, I can never stop being a First World citizen. I'm so blessed and grateful, and so utterly torn by my guilt of that truth. I was just born into this life of ease and over-abundance.
This isn't the end of my reflection on my experience in Haiti, but rather a beginning and a "thank you" for baring with me as I learn to walk with humility. I can sense my readjustment will be a process that will expose its lessons over years of my life, and that many of them will be internal and silent rather than outward claims of my new perspectives.
My experience in Haiti was big in every way.
With immense GRATITUDE,