Thursday, June 4, 2015


I left Haiti on May 24th. It was very hard to say good-bye to everyone. Patients, students, little children, neighbors, colleagues, roommates, friends - they have been my Haiti family and leaving them behind hurt. A lot.
Creole is such a limited language that the only way to explain my move back to the US was to use the phrase, "M prale net", which translates to "I'm leaving for good." Every time someone asked me, "Mis Keziah, ou prale net?" I wanted to hide somewhere and cry for hours.
I won't try to describe what it's like to say "I'm leaving," to a dirt-poor single mother who has been your friend for 5 years, a woman that you were with when her 2 youngest children died.
I won't attempt to convey how empty I felt after saying good-bye to the young men who helped me sew wounds shut and save the lives of burned children.

I won't try to make you understand what it felt like to ride the dusty paths of the Savann Desole and know that I will never ride those trails again with my bike crew.
I won't try to explain how the words choked in my throat when I tried to tell my roommates what it has meant to me that they have loved me through my best and worst moments.

And I won't try to put words to the gut-wrenching pain of hugging Johnny J while he stared solemnly at me, confused by my tears.

I said my good-byes to them, and now, it's good-bye to you, dear blog readers. Thank you for your prayers and kindness over the years. Thank you for sharing my Haiti life with me. I am going to be making an effort at living "normal" life now, so I will not blog anymore. If you want to contact me, please email me at, and please, don't stop praying for me. In some ways, the hardest part of my journey starts now.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Final days

My final days in Haiti were jam-packed. I still had class every day, and because Cody, our clinic director and nurse, was in the US, I was helping in clinic much more than usual. My TAs graciously shared the last sessions with me so I got to teach a few subjects one last time. I also worked on preparing all the class materials, sample tests and answer keys, books, games and other supplies so that my TAs could work as smoothly as possible in my absence.

I crammed the afternoons, evenings, and holidays with Haiti fun. I took a couple kids from our school out to the countryside to pick mangoes and visit old fort ruins. I hiked with my friends and biked with my friends. We went to the pool and picnicked by the river. I played with kids in the schoolyard and let little Down's syndrome Jesula and burn victim Samantha play with me whenever I wasn't teaching.




I didn't sleep very much. There were too many people to see and things to do. How do you try to wrap up 8 years of your life? How do you try to do all the "last" things that you've loved in a country? The last mango, the last class, the last reading session with the 4th grade, the last avocado, the last tickle session with a little kid, the last suturing, the last ridiculous party with your roommates, the last sunburn, the last bike ride...It was impossible and beautiful and exhausting and at some moments, unbearably sad.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I teach because...

On the first day of class, I always ask students why they chose to take a community health agent class. One young woman answered this way: "Last year, I was at my favorite aunt's house when she had a stroke right in front of me. I immediately lifted her up and got people to help me take her to the hospital. But despite that, she ended up paralyzed and died a few days later. All my neighbors and family told me that it was my fault, that by picking her up so soon, I caused her to become paralyzed and die. I've always felt guilty for killing her."
In Haiti, this is the common belief - that when someone has a stroke, you cannot touch them. You have to leave them on the ground until they are able to get up of their own strength. If you touch them, you will make them be paralyzed.
I looked at that student and I told her, "It wasn't your fault. You did the right thing and it was not your fault that your aunt died."
She stared at me and then very slowly, a smile spread across her face. "Thank you," she whispered. "Thank you."

That is why we teach.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Haiti life

 I see these things every day in Haiti. And I suddenly realized (about 5 minutes ago!) that I will not see them anymore after I move. How strange.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

It's time

I leave Haiti in 25 days. 
It was a hard decision but I feel like it's time. I've lived here for 8 years and I'm ready to be closer to my family, and selfishly, to have forests in my life again. I've also noticed in the last year or two that I am more easily frustrated and less compassionate in the daily challenges and needs that arise, and I prefer to leave before I become bitter or burnt out. 

Knowing that my time is limited makes me appreciate this place more than ever. My friends and I have been doing a lot of biking and hiking in our time off and I'm amazed yet again at the beauty I can find among the thorns and the cacti and the barren hills. I've always wanted to leave Haiti when it was still hard to leave and I am both glad and sad to announce that I've gotten my wish. When I stand atop this mountain with my dear friends, all I can think is that I have a beautiful life here in Gonaives and leaving is not going to be easy. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Where there is no internet

Dear everyone,

There's this great book we use in Haiti called "Where There Is No Doctor". It tells you how to care for most accidents and illnesses without the wondrous tools and supplies of the developed world.

I've decided to write a companion book titled "Where There Is No Internet". It will teach you how to survive in the 21st century without internet, ie how to essentially disappear from the outside world.

Our internet stopped working about 7 weeks ago. I can get online about once a week at a friends' house, where they have FiOS, so if you were worried that I had died or contracted some rare disease that renders me incapable of blogging, be reassured. I am in great health, but busy living a whole lot of life Off-line. Someday I will sit down and compose several scintillating posts that will summarize everything I've been doing in the last 2 months. In the meantime, Haiti is good, I am good, and life without internet really isn't bad. You should try it sometime.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Unconditional love

Her name is Jesula, which in Creole means "Jesus is here." She may be 11 years old, or 7 years old, depending on who you believe. She's in preschool at Jubilee School. She loves to dance and eat hot sauce on her rice.
She has Down Syndrome.
His name is Joniel Fils-Aimé, which means "Beloved Son". He is an English teacher at local schools and a teaching assistant for me in the community health classes. He's a husband and a father. He recently had a bad case of typhoid.
He'd never heard of Down Syndrome.
Jesula wandered into my classroom one day, as she often does. On that day, I was doing a practical demonstration for my students; I was wearing sterile gloves and holding a catheter dipped in lubricant. I summoned my TA, "Joniel, can you get her please?"
He called her over to where he sat on a short chair. I wondered what would happen next. My TAs are Haitian; they have been taught their whole lives that handicapped people don't have value. But they have also spent months watching me welcome Jesula the same way I welcome any other kid. So I watched. Joniel and Jesula's faces were at the same height as he talked to her very quietly. I saw her nod, shake her head. And then it happened. He opened his arms and the little girl threw her stumpy arms around his neck and leaned onto his chest.

It's rare to see a Haitian man be physically affectionate with his own children, never mind a handicapped child that he's not related to. But that's what unconditional love does. Jesula doesn't care if you're white or black; she doesn't care if you're rich or poor, ugly or handsome, educated or illiterate. If we will just give her the chance, all she wants is to love and be loved back. Joniel welcomed her and in return, he received the greatest gift.

I would have cried if it hadn't been for the lubricant dripping down my arms.