Monday, August 2, 2010

the importance of belonging

it's hard for me to find words to describe what i do when i'm in haiti. the truth is, it's easier to navigate the language barrier from english to kreyol than it is to navigate the cultural differences and the problem of communicating my experience here back to the people i've left behind.

when i first got here i was surprised by the difficulty i had getting comfortable. i've been to haiti over a dozen times so i expected that i would be just fine. but what i found when i got here is that about three days in i experienced a deep loneliness and near desperation. the heat is difficult for me and i've had migraines every day since i arrived, but i don't think that accounts for what was going on with me. i cried a lot and felt a lot of panic about my ability to make it to september.

when i think back on it, i realize that the language wasn't making sense to me yet - my brain wasn't hearing and understanding it yet - so i felt isolated from the girls. i was a stranger in a way. marcia had been here three weeks when i arrived and it was obvious that everyone was very comfortable with her. she had picked up a lot of kreyol in that time. so i was an outsider feeling like things would be like this for my whole whole stay in haiti. it was awful.

since that day, things have been much better for me. i'm starting to get in a groove with the language. i'm picking up things that went over my head in the days after i first arrived. i've been able to connect with the girls and they're warming up to me too. this has made all the difference. it's just as hot and i'm still getting headaches every day, but i can handle that. it's good to begin to pass through the doors of belonging...even in this place where i will never really belong.

i've even started to have fun.

more later...


  1. So glad you're having more fun now. For lack of a better way to say it, transitioning cultures is a bitch, even if you thing you're ready for it. That's been my experience, anyway.

  2. yes, it is a bitch. sometimes i look around and feel like i'm in crazy world. but it's good to feel more settled. thanks sarah. i love that you're always here listening in. :)

  3. what sarah said. i really like the way she put that.

    let us call things by their proper names, shall we?

    "it's a bitch."

    yes, yes it is.

    i hope you get more settled and belonged-feeling every day!!

  4. yes, it is. and i'm much, much more settled now. haitians have a really good sense of humor. we're making the most of that.

    and today we gave one of the girls a driving lesson. that was a blast.

  5. Many things are bringing tears to my eyes today, this post included. I don't want to be the downer comment, but do want you to know that your sacrifice to be in Haiti, migraines and all, touches me today . . . and my prayers are with you. {hug}

  6. thank you cheryl. i know that's true, but it's good to be reminded.

  7. language and culture are so difficult sometimes...I suspect that no matter how long we've been in another culture, no matter how many trips, or how many months or years, we will always have difficult times, difficult days, difficult weeks. I find that some days I feel so "on"--conversation is easy, the culture feels like my own, and so on, and other days are really challenging and everything feels off. so good to hear that you're setting in.

  8. understanding culture is something i struggle with even at home. sometimes i feel like a foreigner in my own home. i have to remember that sometimes when i'm here.

  9. glad they're warming up to you momma & that you're beginning to feel more at home :)