John's Personal Account
Sipping my outrageously strong Haitian coffee, I gazed down from the shade of a thicket at the morning activity along the riverside. Before the light of the tropical sun crept down into the valley, I watched the noiseless figures that seemed to drift across the shallow water, busying themselves along the cobbly banks. A strange assortment of shepherds leading donkeys and goats, scurrying children, and women balancing saucer-shaped baskets like giant hats mesmerized me. The water looked so beautiful and inviting, I would have loved to swim and drink from the river with the people below me.
It’s almost a shame that it would probably kill me.
I knew the water in Haiti is so polluted with disease and contamination that my immune system wouldn’t handle it. The people who grew up in that region can though, their bodies either adjust or they don’t grow old. Either way, daily life goes on.
I can’t exactly remember what I was thinking while perched in my spot. Perhaps I was thinking about last night’s football game with some of the village children. A throng of giddy little brats hooped and hollered and laughed as they played keep-away with me and Kyle, another mission member. Smirking mischievously, they’d keep the ball just out of reach of their panting, pale-skinned friends from another continent. Our consolation prize was having at least eight different children try to hold our hands while talking with the few English phrases they knew.
I could have been thinking about stories from the medical team last night. About the woman who spent three hours praying on her knees as her child went through surgery in the stuffy clinic buzzing with US and Haitian medical professionals. Perhaps I was looking at yet another person on a stretcher getting carried across the river, wondering what they had gone through. How many months or years did they live with that grapefruit sized tumor, slipped disk, hernias, or malnutrition? How many hours did their family carry the weight of a loved one over mountains and streams to see the doctors, nurses, and surgeons who travel to Haiti once a year to work for free?
Honestly, I was probably thinking about how much I wanted to speak to them. Yes, we could communicate through hand gestures, a broken mish-mash of Creole and English, smiles, or the “Chimo-Chimo-Chimo” dance. I wanted to ask them about their work, school, and families though. As each person looked with hope and longing at me, asking if they could have a soccer ball, clean water bottle, watch, heck even the shoes off my feet, I wanted to explain to them that there wasn’t enough for everyone, we had to conserve our resources.
I wanted to say that they are loved, and we’ve been excited to see them all throughout the year.
But I couldn’t, and it was time for breakfast. Before going in, I thought it would be fun to surprise the hiding children peering at me through the leaves and trash piles. I’m sure they were as curious of this funny looking college student as I was of them. After scattering when I jumped down at them, I took the perfect opportunity to slip away and prepare for another full day in Haiti.