I hit my financial goal with about ten days to spare and I am now back in Haiti, as weird as that is, so I guess this blog’s mission has been fulfilled. Now that I’m back, though, I have a feeling I’ll be using this blog to tell a lot of stories about what it’s like to be back. It only takes 90 minutes to be back in Haiti, but coming back to Haiti in other ways — emotionally, culturally, spiritually — will no doubt be a much longer process.
On my first day back, I can already tell that a lot has changed. There’s a new president in power, who seems to be doing a fairly good job. A new industrial park and university have opened just down the road from the city and newly paved roads will take you there. There’s a guarded sense of optimism here, a sort of “wait and see” attitude. Things might slowly be getting better (very slowly), but then again, this is Haiti. The last time everyone was feeling this way, the earthquake happened. People know better than to get their hopes up.
Cap-Haitien, the city where I live, was one of the few major Haitian cities unaffected by the quake in 2010, but it left its mark here in a rather bizarre way nonetheless. All across the city, signs emblazoned “Tsunami Evacuation Route” now point pedestrians uphill in case another one ever happens. To my knowledge, in its 300-year history, this city has never experienced a tsunami, so for the government to spend limited resources plastering these signs at nearly every intersection strikes me as odd. Still, the signs (along with several other traffic signs and non-functioning traffic signals) are shiny and new and a small sign of progress in a country where everything is mostly beat up and run down. I’ll take whatever I can get.
In the “still hasn’t changed” department, the realization came to me, as I sat on our breezy porch earlier to avoid the heat inside, that the breeze was carrying over smoke from the school next door. Cap-Haitien still lacks basic sanitation services, and the garbage truck comes so infrequently in most neighborhoods that most people, including our neighbors, simply burn their trash. Trash left in public places, like dirty canals along major streets, gets burned, too, so that the canal will not eventually overflow. By night, the fires light the way down the length of the canal lining National Highway 1.
One thing that has seriously improved, however, is how people here access the Internet. For the equivalent of about $50, you can buy the little 3G device pictured above, which connects to a cell phone tower and delivers unlimited broadband Internet access to any computer with a USB port for a reasonable monthly fee. Having lived through the “dial-up days” (which lasted well into the 21st century here) and the days of setting up an expensive satellite dish in our yard to tap into a sub-par Internet connection, having a flash drive that lets me take the Internet with me wherever I go (something I didn’t have even in the U.S.) simply blows my mind.
A prayer request comes to mind as I close. I just found out today that I will have a whole other class to teach this semester (the Gospel & Epistles of John). I was already feeling anxious about my General Epistles class, so adding this to my plate is going to be a challenge. By the time Christmas break rolls around, I will be ready for a break. I’ll only have enough time, though, to turn around and begin preparing to teach the book of Revelation next semester!)
I’m not complaining, though. Tonight, after driving home past trash fires in the stifling summer air, I found myself asking, “What in the world am I doing here?” The answer came back quickly: “I love to teach.” I am so excited to finally get to do what I love doing!