Thursday, October 29, 2009

Misconceptions

It's been a good and busy week, I'll be ready for the weekend to come. We got TONS of donations yesterday but it's too long of a story for me to have the patience to write, so once Licia writes about it on her blog I'll post a link :)

Nickenson's doing the same... hoping when we weigh him next he'll not have lost weight again...

This is a conversation I had with a thirteen year old girl last night… her name is Ilene (pronounced ee-lehn). She comes to the clinic once a month to pick up meds for her skin condition and school supplies. She lives far away so she comes to spend the night so she can get in line early the next morning. I am writing it just as we spoke it, broken and simple since it was in Creole, and I’m still not perfect…

Ilene: Hi! Remember me? (hugs me) I love you!!!

Me: Of course! How are you?

Ilene: hungry. Give me food.

Me: Did you come in time for dinner?

Ilene: No. My stomach hurts

Me: You know that if you don’t come for dinner that the food will be gone.

Ilene: I know, but I had school. I’m hungry. Is your stomach full?

Me: (feeling somewhat bad) yes.

Ilene: Give me clothes

Me: I don’t have any to give you.

Ilene: I only have these (she pulls on her shirt and skirt)

Me: That’s good you have those! Who gave them to you?

Ilene: Licia… Where’s your baby? (Referring to Nickenson)

Me: He’s not my baby, he’s sleeping.

Ilene: He’s not yours?! Do you love him?

Me: Yes.

Ilene: Then why don’t you take him?

Me: I don’t want him.

Ilene: (shocked by my blunt answer) Why?

Me: I am 20 years old, don’t have a house or money to buy milk for him. I can’t pay for him to go to school and I don’t have clothes or shoes to give him.

Ilene: What about your mom? Can she give you clothes to give him?

Me: But then she would be his mom and not me! I can’t take care of a kid, so I do not want a kid.

Ilene: (obviously never having heard this perspective before) But you love him!

Me: I love all these kids but I don’t want 75 kids! I love you but I am not your mom…

Ilene: laughter. (with at least some understanding) Ohhh. Ok then, he is not yours. Please come sit and talk with me over there.

Me: OK

Ilene: (beginning to braid my hair) Your hair is pretty.

Me: Yours too! Who braided it?

Ilene: Some lady, it’s not pretty though. I want your hair.

Me: But my hair won’t even stick! (referring to how their hair stays exactly where they put it).

Ilene: But it’s long and ‘cheve blan’! (white peoples hair) Black people’s hair is ugly.

Me: NO! I think it’s beautiful, I think it’s even better than mine.

Ilene: I think white people are pretty.

Me: Me too. I think black people are pretty too.

Ilene: hmm… (as if she had never thought of the concept of more than one race being pretty)

Me: Do you have any sisters or brothers?

Ilene: Yes, 3 sisters and 2 brothers (then she went off to name every person in her family including aunts, uncles grandparents etc.) Do you have any?

Me: one sister, one brother.

Ilene: That’s all!!! Wow, do you have food where you are from?

Me: Yes. We eat some different kinds of food.

Ilene: When you are where you are from, is your stomach full?

Me: Yes.

Ilene: Do you love Haiti?

Me: So much, Haiti is like my home.

Ilene: Why? Haiti is so bad and the US is so good.

Me: Why do you think that?

Ilene: I’ve seen it on TV.

Me: Have you ever seen Haiti on TV?

Ilene: Yes…

Me: What does Haiti look like on TV? What do the TV people look like?

Ilene: Well, good and pretty and the people on TV are pretty and have clothes and eat.

Me: Do they show your home on TV? Or your neighbors homes?

Ilene: (laughing) nooo… just the pretty people’s homes.

Me: Same with the U.S. All they show on the TV is the good things, just like all they show about Haiti are the good things.

Ilene: There are bad things at your home?

Me: Of course! There are bad things in every place. Good things and bad things, just different good things and bad things.

Ilene: Oh….

… and the conversation went on and on.

The sentences exchanged between Ilene and I were so simple, yet in my opinion SO loaded. I hate that some Haitians have been taught that the US is "better" than Haiti. What I'm about to describe is hard for me to describe logically and get out how I want it to sound- so hang with me as I try ;)

…In America there are girls who would KILL to be as stunning as Ilene- Long, skinny, toned, dark or tanned, beautiful eyelashes, ethnic looking. In Haiti girls long to be curvy, light-skinned, long straight hair, blue or green eyes. Why is it that our world can’t just get to a place of gratefulness with the cards God dealt us?

And WHYYYY does everyone (including Haitians who have NEVER been to the US) think the US is so stinking amazing??? I don’t understand! Yes, there is an abundance of resources. Yes- there are many opportunities. Yes- things are more equal legally. Yes. There are great things about the US. There is amazing medical technology… But that says NOTHING about the quality of life of individuals there… just compare suicide rates for Haiti and the US. Maybe sometimes the things we find great on paper don’t quite measure up after all. Maybe life is simpler than we make it in the US. Maybe our quality of life is how we make it, and the worse we start out, the easier it is to find hope to improve. Maybe...

One thing that REALLY bugs me is when people talk about how those poor children finally get to get out of Haiti, and go to a better place and get a real family. How awful it is that they come from the poverty-stricken, lost island of Haiti. Haiti is the most beautiful place I have ever been. The land itself, and the people- inside and out. The people here (with some exceptions- just as their are exceptions in the US) love their kids so much and do everything possible to cover their needs. Many of them just can't. Many in the U.S. don't either- especially when it comes to emotional needs. Many of my friends growing up didn't have good role models; or had parents who gave them everything in the world except for time. Yes, there is major corruption in Haiti and major poverty and a major lack of education. But how I see it America has major consumption/economic problems, major rising mental health issues, and major ignorance issues.

My point is not to bash either the US or Haiti, I just think too many people see third-world countries as miserable places, and places like the US as this land of Gold; and in my opinion that’s not the case at all. There’s more hope, joy, fellowship, REAL friendships, happiness here than I could have ever imagined. And the families here are T.I.G.H.T. And best of all, people are real. I mean if they don’t like you, they tell you. They mean what they say and they say what they mean. If they like you, they tell you; and if they say they love you they will do ANYTHING for you. I have no doubt that some of the friends I have made on the streets of Haiti would do anything in their power to help me if I needed help. There are problems everywhere in the world, some are just a bit more hidden. Haiti's problems are out in the open- ribs popping out of a kid are harder to cover up than a dysfunctional family. I just think it's important for me to say this because often I will tell the stories of the bad stuff: the hurting, the starving, the bleeding, the neglected. But I don't want people to think that is what makes Haiti. The hope that Haitians have for their future is what I see in Haiti, and I praise God for all the GOOD he blesses Haiti with.

2 comments:

  1. Anna I totally agree with you 100%. I think if you haven't been to Haiti it is really hard to understand what you are saying. Haiti has a way of changing you. It is amazing. I love it and I miss it so much. Lisa

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  2. I've been reading your blog this afternoon after a neighbor pointed me in the direction of your facebook page. I am so moved by your words (especially in this passage) and experiences. I admire your willingness to give your heart to these amazing children and wish you well in this time of terrible crisis.

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