July 2011: The time I watched Linsey do a Flying Squirrel.
April 2012: The time I did a Flying Squirrel.
April 2012 2.0: The time I failed to teach Jordadson (a new boy to our orphanage) to do a Flying Squirrel. Vole Ekirèy (Flying Squirrel), anyone?
I’ve been telling people, since I returned State Side, that I’ve traveled to Haiti three times, though my passport will only show two trips. But it really felt that way, and while every trip is my favorite trip to Haiti, my second week in April was different and differently special in a million ways.
The first time I went to Haiti, last July, my eyes were like saucers, scanning the streets of Cap from the moment our plane touched down.
“I’ve never seen that before.”
“Does that goat, cow, chicken, dog, belong to someone?”
I still remember gazing through the windows of a big white van trying to abstain from blinking while my brain was hitting sensory over-overload. I don’t think I said a single word from the airport to the orphanage, even though my mouth hung open in amazement, and it was probably better that way, because really- what use would my observations and opinions going to be? The whole week that followed was a whirlwind of kids, love, meeting God, beach, Citadel, more kids, and a ton more love. Every second of an entire week tweaking my opinions, thoughts, the way I love, and way I see the world. Second by second.
And after seven days, of Haiti, Haiti, Haiti, and some long flights back to the US, my eyes were still permanently fixed as those saucers, yet now surveying the world I called Home. Despite the dehydration, I really wasn’t as spaced out as I appeared. My friends and Danny (the boyfriend) were convinced I was losing my marbles/health/voice/blabbermouth, while in fact I was just trying to process all that I had seen and lived in Haiti, and applying it to everything I’ve always known. It can quickly become very overwhelming when you return home and scramble to remember all the stories, all the images, all the kid’s names, and none of the Creole.
This trip, while walking back to Kay Anj from the Beck Hotel, I remember Tom Roselius asking me my thoughts in comparing my previous trip and this one. All I could think of was something a lot of the volunteers heard me ponder throughout the week, and it was me struggling to figure out whether Haiti had actually gotten vastly more beautiful in nine months (unlikely) or if Haiti and I are in the puppy-love stage (I concur)? It’s like falling in love with anything really, you keep seeing beauty, no matter what is in front of your eyes. While many of us have experienced this phenomenon in our past human relationships as a stupid blindness, for Haiti and I, it’s God’s greatest gift.
Leaving part of your heart somewhere in July, and I mean that with more emphasis than the figurative, then the opportunity to reunite yourself with that missing piece nine months later ought to make the colors more vibrant, the air fresher, and the kids’ smiles appear bigger.
The first week was a little rough for me. Traveling with the group overwhelms me at times. I am self conscious about my faith, petrified of morning devotional, and I tend to let that get the best of me. I found myself off focus. I was afraid to use the Creole I’d been studying, I was nervous for the next week I was going to spend with Linsey and Justin. I kept hearing God telling me, “Cut it out, Bailey. It’s not about you.” So on the third day God gave me the Haitian Gunge. What?!
“No, no, God wouldn’t…” Wait- let me explain.
We spent a ton of time trying to pray the Gunge out of me. Joan Shetterly was my own personal prayer team, but it wasn’t budging. It was in my stomach, and angry, and especially didn’t like plain bread. While it seemed like it ruining MY beach day, it was in fact, making the greatest beach day for Cedeline, who was given a chance to show our group her loving side, void of all her usual mischief. It was ruining MY sleep, but gave me ample time to talk out loud to God from bathroom stalls, and pick up that Creole book and practice.
Thanks God, because without you slowing me down, I would have been out of luck the next week at Kay Anj, had I not learned a thing or two about Haitian Creole grammar. (And thanks for healing me just in time to do that one-time epic flying squirrel.)
Cut to the second week, group’s gone, I’ve got a million plans- It’s art time. I learned my first lesson about making plans in Haiti the moment we said our farewells. Trying to navigate a Jeep Cherokee around Cap-Haitien on Good Friday, is not an easily executed task, and will quickly teach you that while you may have things to do, Haiti has it’s own plans. So if you can’t get a paintbrush, Plan B: Squeeze, love, and draw some fish with the kids.
Our kids have a very clear definition of who is an artist, and who is not. It’s pretty funny, because you can ask any one of them who The Artist is, “Floumens.” And who the artists are? “Floumens, Mickerson, Jonas, Benzi, Michelle Danise.” But Romane wanted to draw a fish, and so did Frantz, and Nodwitch wanted to color a fish, but not draw it. And so that is just what we did. If you look in the office there are tons of drawing that have multiple names signed to them, and that’s because it’s all about the team effort. If a drawing has six names on it, then all six kids contributed, which I kinda love.
We spent a ton of time working on the boy’s bracelet making. I appointed Floumens in charge of all the string, because as with most things, he’s a great leader, and often the lone voice of reason. He and Jonas were rockstars, they really understood that, while I love them decorating the volunteers with bracelets up to their elbows, we need to sell them so they can make money.
On Easter we had Sleepover #1 at the orphanage. We watched Jurrassic Park with the older kids, which was a riot. Nothing cracked me up more than watching the kids watch the movie. My poor hands were crimped from all the squeezing. Vedeline got startled by a Velociraptor, and she leaped, cleared three heads, and shot down the stairs. The best part about watching that movie was later in the week when I reached the end of my Creole knowledge, and found myself in an awkward silence among the kids, I’d just engage Raptor mode and ran around the house. Then Lin Lin could use his very refined Ti Spidamon (Little Spiderman) skills to trap the rouge Raptor with a web. BEST. GAME. EVER. Momma Adaline gave up her twin sized bed so that I could share it with Tanise, Clina, Sabiana, Darline, AND Deborah. Yes. That’s two full sized people and four minis, oh- and one random sheet to cover us. That takes a whole lot of coordination to figure out.
One of my favorite days was a weekday, when all the kids were at school, except SheLove’s brothers Jordadson and Harry, Kay Anj’s newest additions, and Big Lie Lie, Clovis’ son. Since Jordadson and Harry are so new they were too late to start school, and Lie Lie goes to another school. Well all Jordadson had to tell me was that he was sad and wished he could go to school and that melted my heart. Swimming at the Mont Jolie, here we come! Turns out Jordadson is THE best swimmer in Haiti. He zipped around the pool, underwater like a Ti Krapo (Little Frog).
And Linsey and I had a thought, “We’ve gotta teach him a Flying Squirrel.”
Linsey: “Jordadson, ‘Ou di Flying Squirrel.’” (Jordadson, say ‘Flying Squirrel’.)
Jordadson: “Fiyee Skirl”
“Di Fly-ing SQUA-IRL”
Other great parts of the week included eating fried street chicken, which is just awesome fried chicken we got off the street, or which may very well be chickens from the street that got fried up- but still awesome. Someone needs to give Harris Teeter and Wegmans the recipe, because I’m not sure I’ll ever buy an $8.00 bucket again with my new comparison. I got to see a bunch of the other hotels in the city, all of which were beautiful, but no one has a pool like the Mont Joli. There was a crazy amount of rain everyday, and watching Sony and Archi dodging the rain like a bunch of cats, cracked me up overtime. Did you know every one in Haiti will melt if they get touched by rain? True story.
We also attempted to make paper machete bowls, but Duicell (Justin’s goofy moto driver) bumped into all of them and crushed all but one. It was funny that the kids didn’t even seem phased, but I think that’s because I didn’t do the best job communicating their use. Case and point: When the intact one finally dried and we took it out of the office, I later found it being worn as a hat by Wadley, and then Walney.
We finally got that paintbrush towards the end of the week, and we painted a chalkboard wall- I started to paint a chalkboard wall, but ditched the brush and forced Tchanel to do it, since he couldn’t help but make fun of how short I am, and my jumping up and down to edge the top. Whatever boys! Do it yourselves! It was a big hit, and the kids filled it up in about three minutes, not even a sliver of space to draw anymore Ti Sony (the cat) portraits.
The last night, regardless of my early morning flight, we had a second slumber party at the orphanage. When we got there most of the kids were sleeping already- and it wasn’t even late. Except maybe Floumens and Jonas, because that’s my bracelet making team, and my little brothers so I told them the surprise.
“PA BON (NOT GOOD)! Wake up guys. Let’s go, let’s move.”
Only the teen boys, plus Lin Lin, who let’s face it, is really a 52 year old man (3 years old, actually), wanted to hangout. So Justin put on a movie, Linsey started snoring, and I spent the whole night collecting seven new little brothers who even took the time to analyze pictures of my boyfriend, and give me their blessing- minus Tchanel, he wants me to move there and choose a Haitian man instead, and Mickerson was more interested in the photos of Danny carving the “gwo poul (big chicken)” from Thanksgiving.
Then somewhere around 2:30am- Whoops! I realized that I had nowhere to sleep, and insisted I sleep on the floor. The boys weren’t having that so they started trading blankets and sheets to get me the best set, cleaned off a top bunk (that was filled with art supplies, which apparently Floumens sleeps with… as if the kid isn’t big enough in the first place he somehow shimmies into bed with a bunch of canvases), and I slept with a bed to myself (big improvement from the arrangement Easter night) aside from a snuggley spider so big I swear I could hear it breathing- NO MESI (NO THANKS)!
I had 22 hours of traveling to get back home. So I spent a ton of time condensing over 1,200 photos down to 381 good ones. I was hitting the Swedish Fish and ChexMix hard, and catching up on Dance Moms. How quickly I was able to turn on that wi-fi and get back to the emails I needed to answer fourteen days ago. Back to all my cluttered American nonsense and duties, go go go.
But then, I woke up in Baltimore the next morning-
“NO, NO, NO! Back to sleep! Hopefully wake back up in a bunk bed made from bicycle scraps, surrounded by 43 best friends!”
“C’mon, Bailey. Back to sleep.”
Debbie and Bill always talk about the decompression. We all do it differently, yet it’s pretty much all the same in the grand scheme of things. I, for example, after my first trip, Craigslisted nearly my entire house and 100% of my winter coats for free, while listening to “We are the World for Haiti” on repeat. Irrational? Most certainly. Especially when winter rolled around this year, but it was my little way of trying to balance Haiti, where I left a piece of my heart, with my home where I am so blessed, yet so misguided.
This time I had my first round of decompression, while facing my second round of The Gunge, but in the comforts of my own bathroom. There I sat for hours staring at my shower curtain, hoping at some point for Shelove and Vedeline to pop out and bring me a 5 gallon bucket of water and some instructions about flushing the toilet-
“Darn it. This Baltimore toilet flushes on it’s own. Hmphf.”
I’ve been having these moments all week. This afternoon, while throwing more hydrogen peroxide on some unhappy bug bites, I smiled as I reached for the BandAid box. I laughed about Naschali’s affinity for bandaids, and the Kay Anj scab picking mutiny, that left me no choice but to outfit half the house with matching ones.
I have reoccurring dreams about the goodbyes that morning after the final slumber party. You aren’t supposed to cry, but because Flou started crying, I started crying, and it was that same gut-wrenching goodbye hug I give to my mom when I leave Chicago. I didn’t have that the first trip, and I’m not sure had I not stayed the second week it would have been like that either. Somewhere between the bracelets, the teasing each other, the Jurassic Park, the soccer game where the kids gave me all their sweaty jerseys to hold on the sidelines, Linsey’s pet chickens, and all the badly pronounced Creole, Cap-Haitien became the place where the rest of my family lives.
And I miss my little brothers and sisters. I really REALLY miss them.
One family, two different countries. One has two brothers and one sister, the other has 43, one has three Golden Retrievers, the other has a Ti Sony, and both have a Linsey depending on the month…
But only one has Fiying Skirls.
Bondye Bon (God is good),