This time heading back to Haiti was totally different than any of the other times, for a number of reasons. I’d be travelling with two of my best friends who were going to stay and live with us for just shy of a month. You will remember them as Ben and Samantha, the ones who held the fundraiser and donated some tools to my carpentry class. The two of them were world travelers and that’s how they’d met. I believe Haiti was something like the thirtieth country Ben had been to and he was several years younger than me. I saw them as humanitarians and as being so, we’d created some humanitarian goals for us all while they were there. Besides having fun and going on adventures, we wanted to hold several First Aid classes. Both my friends were in the medical field and had hearts to help and share their knowledge.
When we did arrive, once again Freddy picked us up. My son wasn’t at the airport but my beautiful wife, who I’d missed so much, was. We kissed and held hands the whole ride. When we got to Adel’s family’s home my son was waiting and I’d like to believe he recognised me. I grabbed him from one of Adel’s sisters still not knowing what to expect, his return embrace let me know there were no hard feelings and that everything would be alright. I carried him back to our place and after an evening of intense visiting, we all went to sleep for some much needed rest.
The next month with Ben and Samantha passed quickly. We held four First Aid classes; a special one for Adel’s family, two for the local moms with babies and one for some of my friends and trade’s people. The classes were all great and I especially enjoyed the workplace specific one. I tried to do the translating for that one by myself but was short on vocabulary so ended up deferring to one of my electrician friends. My insights into the Haitian culture were growing deeper during those classes. I felt value in what we were doing and in a small way believe we may’ve changed some of the attitudes held towards safety.
We also used the classes as an opportunity to express the necessity for proper sanitary conditions, with body and environment. At the end of each class we handed out soap and taught how to properly wash ones hands. I’d taken the First Aid course from Ben back in Canada and knew the repetition was excellent for me. I was learning some important skills which I hoped I’d never have to use.
Another important part of their Haitian mission was to purchase and hand out condoms in the community. In some Christian circles this action would be frowned upon and even condemned. I saw an example of this during my time as a missionary. Once during a day trip we’d witnessed members of the U.N. handing out condoms from their vehicle. I recall one of the visiting missionaries commenting on how disgusting it was and how the Haitians simply needed to not be having sex, especially out of marriage. This attitude may be biblically correct and have merit in that person’s reality but in my opinion is short sighted and unproductive. A major problem in Haiti is the spread of disease and family’s with five, six, seven or even more children. The humanitarian in me knew every goal we’d set out to achieve with Ben and Samantha was justified and not only in our eyes. Each of the Haitians who’d received what we offered and who’d attended the classes was extremely grateful. They also saw the value in what we’d taught and happily expressed their appreciation. I know, for Ben and Samantha as well as Adel and I, it wasn’t only an educational but an extremely enlightening experience.
When we weren’t teaching we were at the beach or playing cards on the front porch. Life was great! We’d had none of the personality conflicts I thought we’d incur and instead we lived, cooked and cleaned like a functional happy family. I had wanted to share all my Haitian experiences and now I was getting to. In the past, I’d imagined walking with Ben thirty times to the sea to get salt water for cooking lobster. This time he was actually there and instead of talking to myself like a crazy man, I had someone beside me to listen. I got to show him how I used my pliers to break the lobster shells and find the hidden meat inside that sweat treat from the sea. Ben slaughtered a chicken for the first time and Adel showed him how to clean it. Samantha was even washing her clothes Haitian style; sitting on a rock, elbows deep in soapy water and surrounded by buckets. Ben jogged through the countryside every morning and I saw Samantha dance at our gate with the local girls more than one time. They were both embracing the culture in body and spirit and it was refreshing to be a part of it. I’ve known Ben for a long time and in large part he’s been a motivating force in my life. He made a decision in his early twenties to move past the walls of life’s bubble and seek something greater. I give credit to his mentorship and God’s leading, for giving me much of the courage it took to originally set out on this Haitian adventure. I am forever grateful.
While on their visit they insisted on treating us to a day trip over the mountain to Jacmel. They employed Freddy as our driver again and unlike the other times, that day he had as much fun as we did. When we arrived to our destination we checked out an art gallery, some historical sights and a fancy hotel were we sat and had a drink on the patio which overlooked a ship wreck. We’d also heard about a pizza place so spent an hour or more looking for it. Upon finding it we were pleasantly surprised at the menu and the selection it promised. When someone finally came to take our order it was revealed that of the fifteen choices only two were available. We could have the cheese or the cheese and sausage pizza, so we ordered one of each and a few beers to drink while we waited. Thirty then forty minutes passed and no one had even come to check on us so I got up to investigate and look for a bathroom. I walked down a long hall to a filthy, smelly bathroom and still saw no one. I began to doubt the presence of a kitchen and wondered what was going on. As to not get myself somewhere I had no business being, I walked back down the hallway and returned to the table only to find our server delivering more beer. We were told the pizza was on its way and it would just be a short while longer. We began to make jokes about if there actually was pizza and where it was possibly being prepared. I could see Freddy was starting to get antsy as he knew it would be getting dark soon. We were hungry and still had to travel for hours, up and over that dangerous mountain, before our day would be done. Ninety minutes passed from when we first ordered when our pizza finally arrived. It was terrible, the cheese was soaked with oil and the crust tasted like cardboard. The meat was hardly sausage and certainly a mystery but we didn’t care and chalked it up to part of the adventure. Freddy safely navigated us home from our day trip and for the remaining two weeks of Ben and Samantha’s stay, the fun and games continued.
This time in my luggage, along with baby supplies, I brought fishing gear from Canada with hopes of providing ample meat for all of us to eat. Big plans don’t always bring big results and this was the case as far our fishing endeavors went. The time was running short and we’d not even gone out once. Ben and I are two ambitious fellows and weren’t going to just talk a big game. We were going to follow through, so late one night we unpacked our gear and started to prepare for the next morning. I’d expected great things so had bought lots of supplies, including some high test fishing line. This stuff was thick and surely wouldn’t break when I snagged the big one. Let me be clear, I know nothing about fishing. I have no idea how to tie a line or set a hook, I’m even unsure if I am using the vocabulary correctly. I did however know how to cast with a rod and reel but hadn’t for fifteen years. I also knew with positive expectations, all things are possible.
The girls were less than interested in our excursion so chose to sleep while Ben and I got up early. We’d begun taking video the night before during our preparation and although it was still dark we commenced with our filming from where we’d left off. The morning was beautiful and full of peace. We walked to our swimming spot, stopping to capture and commentate on our spectacle the whole way. We arrived to the sea just in time to catch the reflection of the sunrise off the crystal clear water. Unbeknownst to us at that time, it was the only thing we’d be catching that morning. Our plan wasn’t well thought out. We had no boat so had to fish from the shore and the high strength line I’d wound on my reel was leaving me short on the cast. I’d send my hook out with all my might and just as it would reach the arch of flight, it would make an abrupt stop and drop right into the water. I thought the reel must be jamming so I’d try again, then again with the same result. I could only send that hook out about thirty feet into the water. Upon closer inspection I realized the thick line designed for a heavy catch had left me no room for length. Ben was getting some distance but he too had no results. He deduced it must be the hook he was using so changed it, took some more video and decided to wade out into the water a bit. I joined him, hoping a deeper strategy would bring us home the breakfast we’d assured the girls we’d catch. Focused and determined to provide, I got out deeper and deeper not seeing the pod of morning jelly fish moving in. I got stung and stung badly! This guy got me inches from my most sensitive spot so it seemed our fishing adventure had come to a painful end. We took some more video and mocked up a scene with lures that looked like fish carefully burying the hook parts in the sand. We told of how we were successful in our endeavor but having seen some starving children on the way home, decided to give up the bounty which we’d caught. It was amusing and momentarily believable to our wives. Although the story was convincing the video evidence lacked credibility. We laughed, all of us, every day. I was, at that time, truly in love with my life. This being said, I still knew of the serious and urgent business which needed tending to.