A view from a roof in Port au Prince


There, Here... and Whatever is Coming Next

On November 7th, 2012 I packed my luggage and headed home to Minnesota. It was pretty quick decision I made to come home, as my original plans had mapped out that I would be staying in Haiti until December. I'll explain something I have noticed about how my relationship with Haiti works. I love Haiti and feel joyful and thankful every day that I am there... until I have been there for about 8-10 weeks and then I am aching for a break, even just a couple days to recuperate in the United States. (A disclaimer in case other missionaries are reading this, I know many of you go much longer without a break. I wish I could do it like you all do! BUT there are also many people that can only last a week in Haiti, so I guess I am some sort of a happy medium.) Anyways, I had been in Haiti for 12 weeks since my last visit home and I was tired. Part of what made me so tired was my busy schedule in the Emergency Room. I was working as the only nurse and would work 8-10 hour shifts without taking any breaks. I would be so tired by the end of the day, that I would come home and scarf down a meal, shower, and then lay in my pajamas all night until it was time for bed. I really enjoyed the work I was doing in the ER. It was challenging, fast-paced, and I was learning things each day, it just took a lot of energy out of me and I didn't have energy to balance my time doing other things I enjoyed like going for walks or spending time with people in the evenings.

Starting around the end of August, I began talking with a hospital in New Jersey about the possibility of a job where I would work in their hospital for 6 weeks, and then be sent to the hospital in Milot, Haiti for 6 weeks and so on and so on. It was perfect for me. How could anything else satisfy so well my passion for Haiti while still allowing me to work in the states? It was planned that I would start this job in December. This opportunity, paired with my fatigue, was my reason for coming back to MN in November. When I arrived back in MN I realized that things sounded much simpler in Haiti. I had to change my MN nursing license to a NJ one, which cost me several hundred dollars, and the wait time is 8-10 weeks for it to be processed. I have to find a place to live in Jersey, transportation... and I didn't have income for the last year, so the situation is very complex. So that leaves me with the big question now about what to do. I have been forced to look for jobs in the MN to hold me over until the NJ thing comes through, and I am not sure what will happen if I land a dream job here. It would be hard to leave it to move somewhere on my own, even though it would allow me to do something I really love.

I think moving to Haiti took me through a bit of a gradual culture shock. Like sometimes, after a couple of really hard days of conflict, I would realize.. oh, this is a part of adjusting to the culture. It wasn't the obvious things that put me into "shock." I was prepared for the sights of poverty and many aspects of life in Haiti. The hardest part of culture was learning the lessons that slowly crept up on me. Like seeing the happy faces on the side of the road turn to angry, disappointed faces as I walk by, because it had been months now and I never really did anything to help them or their families. They lost hope in my smiling white face. For me, it was just a walk, a friendship, and I was their neighbor. My "work" was at the hospital, and this was just my free time, my time for walks and runs. But for them it was different. The kids would giggle and run after me, hold my hand and chant my name. The parents would watch on with smiles. I never knew what they were thinking. I thought maybe they were happy just to see their kids so joyful and having fun. But on one run, it sank in a little. I was running by the houses where the kids live, and as the kids started their routine of running, laughing and chanting, the mother sharply interrupted them and shouted something along the lines of "Why are you happy to see her? She never does anything for you." I felt like a rock had been thrown at my stomach. I wasn't sure if it was a flippant comment or if she was really angry at me. Another part of the shock was in realizing that the medical staff that was always nice to me, flirting with me, asking me to come talk with them... were the same ones spreading rumors about me and saying I was after them and talking about my different friendships behind my back. After learning this, I became pretty anti-social with them and avoided social conversation or a chance for them to ruin my integrity.

Moving back to the states is a different kind of culture shock. It's quick and in-my-face. It's the feeling of dizziness when I walk into a department store, or literally not being able to order a meal at a restaurant because I am so overwhelmed by the options...or being too poor to go to the restaurant in the first place!  It's coming back "home" but not actually having a home to live in, but rather temporary resting places with a time limit on it that is quickly dwindling away. This is the first time in my life I have felt I do not have a home, and it is a horrible feeling. It is battling relationships against schedules and precious time. It's a race and everyone is breezing past me as a I struggle to lace up my tennis shoes. My fingers fumble with the laces as if I am learning to tie for the first time, but they are my same old, worn in tennis shoes so it seems ironic that I am so unnatural with them.  It's the holiday cheer and bustle, gift buying, party planning.. and after spending the last few Christmas's in Haiti where Christmas is not tainted by gifts or consumerism, I am not sure I am excited to a Christmas in Minnesota.

So far I have kept busy with  seeing friends and family and applying and interviewing for jobs. The feeling of unemployment is unsettling and very uncomfortable, but I am thankful for time it has allowed me to see some of my very close friends that I have had limited time with over the years. I have also probably played over 50 games of Yahtzee with my 93 year old grandpa. Hopefully I will find a job before that number reaches the triple digits.

So that's that. My departure, and my transition back to Minnesota. Thank you to everyone who emailed, Facebooked, read my blogs, commented, and gave money to support me in my time in Haiti. It is clearly not my last time, in fact I will most likely return for a visit sometime in the next 3 months again. Having you all by my side through the joy, triumphs, life-lessons and hardships gave me an outlet to share my experience and gave me encouragement and feedback that I needed to keep on keeping on. THANKS!

Here are some pictures with friends and family since being home!

We look related, but are not related by blood, just sweet memories from over a decade! Izzy, Felicity and Luci.

My Beautiful friend and ex-college roommate, Rachel, with her baby!
My very good friend, and nursing colleague, Angel
My birthday dinner with Getchen and Andrea. It was exactly what I wanted!
Me and my older brother Joe. And.. the pumpkin Andrea decorated. It had to make it in the picture.