Friday was our last day in Haiti. We were all sad to see it come to an end. We got up & out early as usual – 5:45am – to head to the 2nd construction site where we had been working the last 2 days. We only had until about 10:30am or so to get our work done. It went very quickly, but we did it. We accomplished what we needed to accomplish. We finished all 11 rows of block on the 2nd house! It was awesome to see it completed. We also ended up with enough time to get another good dose of playing with the kids in, as well as to get a special coconut treat.
We then headed back to the church to wait for the folks from Baptist Global Response to arrive. They wanted to come see the work being done in Petite Goave. We were able to walk with them over to the first home site where the team from Mississippi had completed the roof. The house was basically finished (with a few things that the Haitian workers would finish over the weekend). It looked great! It felt like a huge victory to see it completed. We took a walk around to check it out. We took some group photos. We visited with “our kids” one last time. It was the hardest to say goodbye to them.
Then we loaded up in the trucks and went to the 2nd home site, to show it to the BGR reps. We took our group pictures there and said goodbye to our fellow Haitian workers and those children. We were able to give many of our work gloves & some other items to the workers at both sites.
It was very hard to say goodbye to Pastor Joseph, his wife, and children. We had grown so attached to them in such a short period of time. What an amazing family!
From there, it was a whirlwind. We had a quick stop at the hotel to shower, get our final things packed, and grab a quick peanut butter sandwich. We left almost all of our clothes (& shoes, hats, etc) we had worn during the week there for Stephen to give to the Pastor, for him to distribute to those that need them.
We loaded up in 2 vehicles, with the BGR reps, and started the 2.5+ hour drive back to Port-au-Prince. You can see many of the pictures we took on that drive here in my previous post about seeing the towns along the way. I think I was able to soak in more on the way back than I did on that drive the first day. It was so sad to pass through all of that devastation – passing through the town where the main earthquake was centered (Leogane). So many people are living in tents everywhere. So many buildings are crumbled. The roads are cracked right down the middle. Bridges are out. People are in desperate need. In some places, you can barely tell that there has been any progress made in the last 6 months.
We arrived back at the BGR compound on the edge of Port-au-Prince in the late afternoon. This is where we were to stay the night before flying out early the next morning for home. In a word, it was HOT. No air conditioning here. Just some fans and some tents. Two other groups were staying the night there, along with our group and the handful of regulars that are there all summer and beyond. They said it was the most crowded the compound had ever been. We had to sleep 4+ to each tent. The 4 of us ladies shared a tent, the 4 guys shared a tent, and my dad slept out under the canopy used as the eating area. We all had air mattresses, some in better condition than others (and with varying degrees of odors). I’m still not sure why, but that night for dinner they served us piping hot stew. (In the morning we ate piping hot oatmeal). Hot food in the hottest, most uncomfortable weather I’ve ever been in.
I won’t go in to the narrative of the entire evening and night (you can ask me in person if you want those stories), but we’ll just say it was miserably hot & humid. If I’m going to be completely honest, it was the worst, most uncomfortable night’s sleep I’ve ever attempted. We later learned from the guys that the tents they had were actually designed for arctic weather! To keep the heat in. Dad probably had the best arrangement – outside where there could at least be a breeze. We were lucky enough to have an outlet in each tent that we could plug a fan in to and keep constantly blowing on us all night. By about 9pm, we didn’t know what else to do but to just lay on our air mattresses and try not to move. You know how you can get in such a miserably uncomfortable situation where all you can do is just laugh? All we could do was to laugh deliriously about it all. And then the techno music started bumping from somewhere nearby. It was like the cherry on top of the hot fudge sundae. Needless to say, we didn’t really get much sleep that night. We were just counting down the hours until our flight. And yes, we made it just fine. And now it is a funny story to us all. However, I tell you what, those were some of the slowest 12 hours I’ve ever experienced. It made us so grateful that we had hotel rooms for the rest of the week. With all of the physical exertion that we experienced during the day, it was so nice to have a bed at night, a ceiling fan, and decent air conditioning.
But you know what? There are over a million Haitians sleeping in tents every night in that weather? That’s all that they have. And for most of them, there is no electric fan and there is definitely no air conditioning. And that is their permanent situation. They don’t have a flight out of the country leaving in 12 hours to count down to. A shower and bed waiting for them at home. Those tents, or tarps, or shanty shack – those are home.
Back on what feels like the more superficial side of things, we made it to the airport early Saturday morning, un-showered and smelly. We left the country in a daze, sad to leave the experience of the week, but honestly looking forward to getting home to our cushy houses. By the time we got back to Nashville, we were exhausted. We really didn’t even have many words for each other. We didn’t get a proper debrief time, just due to the nature of the night before and the hubbub of the early morning.
I’ll tell you one thing. The entire week was amazing, but after a night like we had just had, on top of the sheer exhaustion, I was so worried that I had personally ruined everyone in the group forever on mission trips. However, I am very glad to report that in the days that followed, as we all got a chance to talk about the trip with each other and with others when we had opportunities to share, it came out piece by piece what an amazing experience everyone had. How we all immediately wanted to go back. We wished we had another chance to go do more. Help more people. The hard parts (especially those last 12 hours) were glazed right over by the sheer impact of it all.
As my first post after the trip stated, we definitely came back changed. And it’s a change that I really hope and pray will last. More on that next time…