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Martha St Jean

Martha St Jean

Posted: November 26, 2010 05:05 PM

I am back from a recent trip to Haiti. Haiti is a land of healing and hurt, openness and oppression, cooperation and competition, restoration and resistance. It is a study in contrasts.

Stepping into the American Airlines arrival section of the Toussaint Louverture International Airport was a foreshadowing of the irony found in Port-au-Prince. Broken ceilings, missing planks, exposed wires, scratched immigration desks, and a lack of workers -- symbols of the disorder that is rampant. There is a crush of people surrounding the too small conveyor belt set to deliver the suitcases from the belly of the plane. An oppressive heat overtakes the building. Cab drivers, seeking fares, flock like geese upon potential passengers. Welcome to Haiti.

Upon arrival a choice must be made. Do I choose to underscore the positive or the negative, do I come to lend life or bring darkness into a country that already glows dim?

My arrival was on the heels of Hurricane Tomas and reports of the worsening cholera outbreak. I was desperate to be in Haiti. The time had come. The call was loud and clear. The opportunity was like no other.

In my January 13th post, I lamented the state of Haiti. My soul wailed for the future of the country. I was the Haitian-American who had never been to the country of her parents' birth, who loved it by pure instinct. Today, I love the country because its problems and people convicted, challenged and changed me in the midst of the profound chaos. To go to Haiti is to commit to help change the country as the country changes you - you come back to America better.

The sorrow is immeasurable. The streets are in shambles. The tents are unlivable. Children are adults before their time; street smart, they walk along the roads with an air of lost innocence. They no longer cry, not for the cameras, not for the group of Americans or any foreigner. Why should they reveal the depth of their souls to me a stranger, when they have stopped revealing it to themselves?

I went to Haiti with OnCall Medicine with a Mission. To respond to the call to go to Haiti, or places like it - the Congo, Sudan - places of yet untold grief and misery is not comfortable and cozy. In Haiti you face a test of character. Your eyes are confused by the sights -- sights of starving children, parents in turmoil, grandparents desperate for their lives to continue to count for something. "Is anyone listening," the people wonder. Confronting me in Haiti were situations beyond the circumference of the borders and boundaries that I have known in America.

 

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