I know two things for certain: there is no shame in applying coconutty SPF in the security line of the airport, especially to beat out the stench of battery acid and bug spray; and I will never again take the luxury of shaving my legs for granted.
One of the visuals I will cherish forever is the boisterous, big-breasted woman, pumping well water, splashing from the ground at a Tap Tap filled with blan. She laughs a deep laugh, and her contingency of men, banter in plaid and stripes, all of them openly, and maybe even forgetfully, acquainted with the smell of human feces. She sings of fresh mango and cocoa butter, glistening in a hot-pink-barely-there-onesy, three sizes too small. Haiti was sweating like a Hershey bar in August against a bright white smile, and my fear melted along with the ignorance I’d been trying to shed like the cocoon of a comfort zone stamped on my white, Midwestern forehead.
In lieu, or more so maybe in spite of sounding completely arrogant and selfish, I can confidently say that my third-world escapade shattered through the expectations I’d had regarding my future as a doctor, and maybe even one day I’ll feel like an ounce of a humanitarian. I am still scared shitless (and wow, it feels so great to curse again), and I will probably be in tears for the majority of the next year of classes, but in Haiti, I rediscovered a part of myself that I’d lost a long time ago. Because I’m already sounding crazy, maybe there is something to this notion that we were once something, or someone else, in a past life. Maybe that is where the nature part of the argument plays in. I don’t remember the last time I felt more at peace, more in my element, than I did assisting the doctors and nurses during the Go-Haiti morning clinics at the compound. I was in sync with my brothers and sisters; rubbing backs, laughing through very broken lines of French Creole turned Spanglish, and holding on to my belief that love, really is, a universal language.
There is nothing more disgusting than the thought of holding a foot care clinic in a third world country—and for some reason, cutting overgrown toenails and scrubbing calloused feet (feet that looked more like gnarly tree stumps than the pristine state mine will be in after a solid washing tomorrow) was a real blessing when I had the privilege to serve. My challenge and present, my joy, is to be bold enough to serve with a team of committed, dedicated, loving individuals.
Staph infections. Oh lovely, repulsive, living, growing skin diseases. I used to have issues with rashes, scabbing, contagious infections—the burden was lifted. I was sad, I was angry to see little people that were given triple antibiotic ointment and Azithromycin for rampant dermatological invasions that they’d more than likely caught from the other littles cohabitating in tiny, tin-roofed bedrooms. I knew damn good and well that the Z-packs handed out would be dispersed through the neighborhood, diluted and rendered useless, if not potentially immuno-harmful, within an hour of leaving our makeshift pharmacy. Public health, public education, public resources: they’re all as scarce as water in a dust bowl, but the resilience, the hope to live another day with passion, fervor, with smiles, that is why Haiti is still powerful enough to transform and make a cynic like myself believe in a God like their Jesus. I spent the afternoon scrubbing down small children, swabbing soft skin with hydrogen peroxide and alcohol, and applying salve to their grateful, brown bodies.
Adoption, even orphanages, they do not seem to be the answer. I heard an argument that Haiti is modeling itself after first world successes, when in actuality, it would be advisable to look to other third world countries like Ghana (and even Rwanda), that have made exceptional progress in the past few years, rebuilding and striding away from poverty. I don’t really know what I’m talking about, I’ll be the first to admit that, but I do think that we need to be cognizant of reality and have faith enough to continue conversation.
I swung awake in my hammock this morning to crowing roosters, acting as if the sun might forget to rise without a four A.M. chorus call; the clouds ensconced a pink sky—saying goodbye to the moon. I stretched my arms out above my head and walked along a gravel path, brushing my teeth and giving Haiti my own versions of a final good-morning and farewell. There were tears and final photos, and a Haitian like limo where the same fake first-world laden stench of barbequed baked lays, peppered into nauseating roller-coaster like ride to the airport. Palm trees, smoldering plastic and trash, joined with fresh air, fresh smiles and the warmth of a morning without alarm clocks.
And now in flight, my computer has died, and I love seeing the ocean blue—as far as it can go, and I know Miami waits on the other side of this turbulence, ready to sweep me back into the habits of an unforgiving schedule and worry of what I’ll never know. It’s true here, in America, that a good education and relationships mean next to nothing without a piece of paper; that badge of honor, to get one from point A to Bill after bill, a blue ribbon from a higher education institution. That is my reality and I’m ready to face it, one day at a time.