Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Home with the Armadillos

Katie observed that we have 7 days left in Haiti. She asked me how I felt about that at dinner. I stared at her face blankly. I felt…

How do I feel?

I feel like I am in a glass cage of emotion. Haiti is a place of juxtaposition; my feelings are a juxtaposition too. I feel dozens of identifiable feelings, plus some that I cannot name. Those feelings contradict and reinforce each other.

I cannot wait to leave. It is May, which means it is the sweaty season. It was too hot to hug Katie last night. I won’t miss that. The States is air-conditioned. I mean the whole of America- it’s like a giant dome of climate control sits atop the country.

I went to lunch yesterday and our car was hit nearly 3 times by tap-taps and water trucks simply coming into our lane. Traffic in America is a sweet tranquil blessing compared to Port-au-Prince traffic. Everything is just easier in the States. I would like to upgrade to easy.

I would like to get water from my tap that won’t caused my insides to wretch from bacteria and amoeba hell. Friendships in American have naturally deteriorated in the time I have been gone, and I hope they can be restored. I have an amazing community of people who care about me and I want to spend time with them.

I do not want to leave Haiti. This place has become my normal. I am uncomfortably comfortable in this place. When I go back to America, I feel out of place. I hate large crowds; I don’t like being out at Targets, Wal-Marts, malls, or other large gatherings. It gives me anxiety. I feel at ease walking on the streets of Port-au-Prince. I know what to do here. Finally after all of this time I know where to go to get what, who to see about what problem. I know which restaurant is worth the $40 US it will cost us to eat.  I dearly love and care about my students and want to invest more time in them. I want to see them develop as post players, point guards, writers, historians, and people. I have an amazing community of people who care about me here and value the work that I do and I want to spend time with them.


There is something oddly safe and comfortable about life here. I have been doing it so long. I never stayed in one place for long before Haiti. The 3 years in this apartment is the longest I have lived in one place in the last 11 years. Working at QCS has been my longest term of employment. I get how to do to life here. I forget about how to do life in the States.  I fear that I am close to being institutionalized. In The Shawshank Redemption one of the older prisoners, Brooks, cannot stand life as a free man and kills himself. I do not think I am going to go all Hemingway, but I do wonder if I can be “normal”.

And then part of me does not want to. I have grown and learned so much from my time here. The benefits to my faith have been remarkable. I want to leave Haiti changed. Marked. Different.

On top of all of that is the deep dark unknown of what they hell lies before us? Will I find a job for this school year? Will I be waiting tables in October? Will we be forced to eat our young to survive like the Irish during the potato famine?

None of this makes a lot of sense, like I said. Juxtaposition.

How do I feel? Aren’t you sorry you asked?


  1. Having left Nicaragua to return to the States (even though temporarily), I can totally relate to this post. Hope you both have a great transition - I'll be praying for you!

  2. This is well written and insightful, Ben. I can certainly relate. So many people naturally assume that people like us would love to go live back in the US and don't really grasp the tension or "juxtaposition" that you describe. All the best during this transition.

  3. I feel out of place every time we return to the US. I'm critical and frustrated for the first few weeks at all the excess and comfort. Then slowly I get integrated and a little settled (I love that shopping doesn't stress me out and I don't have to worry about stray animals), then we come back to India and I get to start the cycle all over again. All this to say I understand so much of what you are talking about and the conflict of emotions. Will be praying for you all in the days and months to come.



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