Sunday, April 29, 2012

Look Who's Coming to Dinner!

    Everyone has been asked this before:  If you could invite five people to dinner, who would you invite?  When I was a kid, I probably would have answered with a list of professional tennis players, though the names were quickly replaced in my teens with big-haired 80s heart throbs.  As the years have passed, my list changed to include grandparents I've lost, friends who've moved far away and even my third grade teacher....As I teacher myself now, I'm curious to learn what she thought of me as a kid!  However, after my trip to Haiti last November, I would love to sit down to dinner with some people I met there, including....

     Maxeau, one of the homeowners our team was fortunate to work with.  Quiet and determined, he was always waiting for us at the site when we showed up each morning and very reluctant to stop at the end of the day, eager to move his wife and infant daughter from their makeshift tent to House 209.  I was assigned to work side-by-side with Maxeau most days and I was truly humbled by his resolve and optimism.  Using the French/Spanish/Haitian Creole/English language we created, he taught me so much.

     Tifat, a friend of another homeowner, who volunteered to help build when she became too ill to work.  Although he lost his parents in the earthquake several years ago and now shouldered the responsibility of looking after a gaggle of brothers and sisters, Tifat was always joking and enthusiastic.  He spoke of his dream to immigrate to Canada in search of a job, something that is out of reach for the majority of Haitians.  It would be fantastic to share a big plate of poutine in Quebec with Tifat!

     Tifat's friend and the new owner of House 208 (which happens to be the number of the house I grew up in!)  Although she was clearly tired and not feeling well, she visited us often on the site, bringing sugarcane for us to chew on and warm hugs to keep us going.  I never heard her speak during her visits, but there was an inner strength to her that we could just feel.  When she broke into song at the final dedication, there wasn't a dry eye in the house, literally!

     The children moving into House 208.  Though still a little boy himself, the brother watched his younger sister the whole time they visited the house.  Clearly, he felt that it was his job as the man in the house now to protect his sibling.  And he did have his hands full as his sister ran around, chewing gum and playing in the rocks.

     The kids at the school next door to our camp.  Every morning as we boarded buses to drive to the worksite, we were greeted by girls with bright red hair ribbons and boys in crisp white shirts on their way to classes.  Looking in their eyes, it was easy to see that these children had experienced far too much struggle and pain.  Yet, they proudly and happily walked through the school gate.

love the movie star glasses!


     The mothers who lived in squalid conditions but still sent their sons and daughters to school each day in clean, pressed uniforms.  Despite the dangers for women in Haiti, they then ventured out on the roads to provide for their families.

a roadside spaghetti restaurant

     The Haitians who are so resourceful.  Despite broken promises from their government and undelivered pledges of foreign aid, many Haitians we saw had found ways to rebuild on their own with next to nothing.

soapstone carving artist

     The children who curiously watched us through the chain link fence at the build site each afternoon.  They usually started off with pleas of ,"Hey, you. Water?" but then often broke into conversations with each other that were filled with giggles and funny gesturing.  We didn't know what they were saying, but could assume that some of the words could be translated to "crazy Americans" and "what in the world."

     Junior, a security guard on the build site, who spent a lunch hour telling me (in Spanish) about his dreams for the future.  We promised to meet in the Dominican Republic someday....What a great location for a dinner party!

     Wilmer, a teammate who grew up in Haiti and now lives with his wife and children in the U.S.  If we had moved out of the way, Wilmer probably would have completed the two houses by himself.  The love, dedication and pride he has for his home country was humbling.

     John, our team leader, who tried to be all business but was a big softie.  On the build site, he talked siding, hurricane clips, and trusses, but one day while riding back to camp, I learned all about his work in Guatemala, building schools and organizing sponsorship programs for Mayan children.  John reminded me that there is so much to learn about a person.

     The women who I shared a tent with for six nights in Leogane.  It would be fun to chat about that first night with rain dripping in and the almost unbearable humidity+heat, the itchy mosquito netting and unsteady cots, the glare from the lamp post just outside, the sound of bagpipes floating in from the social area at all hours of the night, and their patience with my insomnia (and the subsequent unzipping of the tent flap that when I decided to talk a post midnight stroll).  This might not sound like fun, but we had a great time together.

     Will, Jen, and Edward, three amazing volunteers and friends.  Each night after dinner we met to talk about our day, trying to wrap our minds around the horrendous living conditions we were witnessing in Haiti.  Our conversations were mixed with meaningful thoughts and side-splitting laughter.  Will, Jen and Edward, like every volunteer I've met on HFH builds, are inspiring, fascinating, and now family.

     Well, I've gone over my limit of five people who I'd invite to dinner.  Maybe it would be easier if I just went back to Haiti.  Hmmm, there is another build there this November....



1 comment:

  1. Kelli-I love your post and reliving our time in Haiti together. I would enjoy sitting at your dinner table with your guest list. I would like to add that we should invite President and Mrs. Carter to the table too. They inspire me to continue serving others throughout my life and into my 80's.