Most of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I spent at Dr B’s office, helping him do translation and web design work on the NLL website. I am the most computer illiterate college student ever, but by Haitian standards, I am a genius, so my mediocre work was well appreciated. It was hugely frustrating, as you can imagine, to be spending my final days in the office and not with the kids, so when Dr B asked me to also come to his house for a night to continue working, I flat out refused to come without a few kids. He agreed, so I got to take Jacques Obain and Emmanuel up to Tomasin for the night. We didn’t get much time together, but the little things made it worthwhile: both of them sleeping on my shoulder on the ride up, Emmanuel asking if he could help me work, serving them dinner…
On Saturday, I woke up and headed over to the boys’ house to take them up for basketball at 7am. To my surprise, they said they didn’t want to go since it was their last morning to sleep in before school started. Of course, having said that, they were all awake, so I’m not sure who was benefitting from the “sleeping in.” Several of them (Jefthe, Daniel, Emmanuel, TiJude) were already awake and having their monthly head shave. If I had my way, they would only cut their hair once every 3 or 4 months because I think they are so much cuter with hair and they all agree. I told the rest of them to hide in the showers so their heads wouldn’t get shaved, but the nannies kicked them out.
Back at the girls’ house, I kicked the girls out of my room so that I could finish packing and cleaning. They had helped me sweep on Friday, but after all the hanging out and emailing that went on in my room since then, it looked just as bad. Emmanuel, Nerline and Bernadin had asked to help me, so I sent Emmanuel off to take pictures of the NLL nannies (a friend from France had requested them for her newly adopted baby’s album), and Bernadin carried load after load down to the library on the second floor. Nerline cleaned and organized the library for me (she did such a good job that I am going to pay her to clean it every Saturday during my absence). The boys also helped me buy and deliver sodas to the laundry ladies. One of the laundry ladies is Emmanuel’s birth mother; she washed my clothes for me every 2 weeks while I was living at HFC. When she saw me this time, she gave me a huge hug and scolded me for not saving any dirty clothes for her to wash. A few minutes later, she came running after me: “Keziah, I never got a chance to thank you for helping Emmanuel pass in school. I really appreciate all you did for him.” Well, I love him, lady, probably more than you could ever know, and if helping him pass meant that he stayed at the orphanage, I was more than willing.
The rest of the day, I hung out, helping the kids send their final emails, and doing a lot of hugging. Merline Guillaume cried in my arms for an hour and Kattia refused to talk to me. She said she was mad at me for coming and leaving so soon. Emmanuel was really quiet all day, but thank God, did not cry. I don’t think I would have been able to handle another sobbing good-bye like we had in May. And then there was Bernadin. He was beside me all day, holding my hand or putting his arm around me, grinning hugely at me, or just randomly walking up to me and giving me one of his crushing and never-ending hugs. And I would just hold him and cry. The thought of not seeing him or any of my darling 60 kids for 4 whole months was unbearable.
In the late afternoon, we all went on the roof to watch the final of the summer soccer league that plays in the street in front of our building. I had helped the organizer and the neighborhood boys hang a long line of Haitian flags back and forth across the street as decoration for the final, and I had told Oudy, one of my friends from the neighborhood, that I would be rooting for him. I was late getting to the roof, but as soon as I got there, I could see Oudy looking for me on both the girls’ and boys’ roofs. He finally spotted me and immediately got this big silly grin on his face. And then a minute later, he scored and even before running to hug his teammates, looked up to see if I had been watching. When I had first arrived in Bolosse, the neighborhood was too dangerous for me to even cross the street by myself, and I always felt nervous walking through the street with all these unknown black people staring at me. Then I met my neighborhood boys. We would play volleyball, soccer and basketball together, and pretty soon, I had friends who would talk to me as I walked to and from the mission. It is honestly thanks to those boys and young men that I feel safe walking in the streets now, and I wish there was more I could do for them.
I spent Saturday night at the boys’ house. During devotions, Jacques was asked to pray out loud. He started praying for me, for safe travel, for a swift return to Haiti, and thanks for all that I have done with them. I was crying by the time he ended. Seeing me cry made Job cry too, and he plopped down on my lap and cried till he fell asleep. Bernadin had also seen me crying, so he came over and put my head down in his lap. We started watching a movie and he played with my hair and squeezed my arm throughout the whole thing.
The boys started falling asleep (it was about 1am) and I went to find Jacques, who was standing by himself, just watching the sleeping Fort Mercredi. I coaxed him to go to bed (he was exhausted from several late nights with me on the roof and at Dr B’s). I know we talked for a while before he fell asleep, but I cannot remember what it was about. I just remember laughing a lot and threatening to cut his ears off. The last thing I did before falling asleep between Jacques, Emmanuel, Bernadin and Duck, was kneel by Miscardet’s bed. I prayed for him and then went to sleep.
On Sunday morning, I thought I would make a dry run to the airport – I usually don’t cry in the morning. Wrong again! I went to the toddler room to say good-bye to Fedlens, my TiBlan. His French adoptive mom is picking him up later this week, so I won’t see him again. I was crying while I gave him a big hug and prayed over him. It will be so strange to go to HFC and not hear him lisping my name and see him running to leap into my arms.
I said good-bye to most of the kids as they went off to church, and then we loaded the tap-tap with the older boys and the older girls: Stephanie Q, Argentine, Jeanine, Kattia, Martine, Fabiola, Youdemie, Merline G, Emmanuel, Drisk, Duck, Bernadin, Peterson, and Jacques. They waited for me as I checked my bags and then I came out to say good-bye to them. Emmanuel had one little moment when he hugged me, pressing his head into my shoulder and clinging to me, but he didn’t cry. Merline Guillaume made it without crying too, thank God. And I didn’t start until I got to Drisk. As I hugged him, he started talking “Drisk”, making those funny little noises that he makes. It hit me that I wasn’t going to be able to hear those sounds for a very long time, and I started getting teary. I hugged my favorite Duck in the world – I warned him to be super well behaved because he's an example for the younger boys. He promised to be perfect. Bernadin was the last one I hugged and I was really crying by the time I finished with him. He got all teary too and that’s when I had to walk away because otherwise I was going to rip up my ticket and stay right there.
It was rough, really rough. I got home at 11pm and just got in bed and sobbed so hard that I couldn’t breathe. I had thought that this time would be easier, but if it was, it was only marginally so. The only thing that is better this time is that I am busier with school and my new apartment, but whenever I get a moment to relax, I have to fight the tears. Several of the kids have written, so that helps, but really, the only thing that will solve the problem is being back with them. I hate to think about the fact that when something silly happens, I won't be there to join in the fun. That if one of the girls has a nightmare, she won’t have anyone to wake up to pray with her. And that I am surrounded by wonderful friends and family who have absolutely no idea what it is to fall in love with 60 orphans. It is torture but a torture that I am happy to undergo because it means that I have loved deeply and been loved deeply in return.