The time has once again come. I have left Haiti for my summer gig at Chop Point Camp in Maine. It was a hard decision this year; I was hesitant not just because of the increase in my work load since the quake, but also because I didn't want to leave the community that has adopted me on Delmas 91. I was not going to go, but enough close friends and family looked at me and said, "Keziah, you need the time away. You need the change of pace and the change of scenery. Go to camp."
So here I am. I left Haiti a week ago, spent 2 days sick on the couch at my parents' in Boston, and then flew, still sick, to visit my former roommate and good friend, Dannae. Dannae lived with me last year at Dorothy's, so she is someone who knows me well and who, although she was not there for the earthquake, can relate when I talk about Haiti. We had a great visit, with time on the beach and time to watch our favorite movies and eat some delicious food (once I stopped being sick) and just catch up on many months of separation. It was a much needed R&R between jobs.
I made it back to Beantown yesterday, watched the Celtics take a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals, and today, I will make the drive to Chop Point. I'm excited. Apprehensive because it's about 50 degrees in Maine today and my Haiti-acclimated body starts to shut down when it drops below 80, but mostly, I'm looking forward to one of the most beautiful places I've ever known.
Sendhie, one of my staff at Delmas 24, has taken over most of my medical visa work while I'm gone. She is not medically trained beyond what she has picked up from working with me, but she will hold clinic weekly just to check blood pressures and refill prescriptions, and she can answer my phones and keep the visa process moving. I had been hunting for someone to hire in this role for weeks and suddenly realized that the perfect person was right under my nose. Sendhie is young, only 19, but she speaks English fluently, is computer literate (most Haitians are not) and eager to learn. She also has a kind and patient demeanor, very necessary when doing medical visas and when telling a hundred different patients, "No, the American nurse is not here. She will be gone for 2 months."
I miss everyone, from the St Joe's boys and workers, to my crew at 24, the babies at Dorothy's, my neighborhood kids, the Ravine kids and the Gonaives kids, my youth groupies and fellow leaders. You don't realize until you leave just how many people you know and love in a place like that!
The reverse culture shock has been particularly strong this year - how do you go smoothly from a place where rubble is everywhere to a place where the lawns are manicured and you can walk miles without seeing a piece of trash on the ground? For some reason, changing locations awakens earthquake fears too. Whenever I sleep in a new location now, I have earthquake nightmares on the first night, awaking in a panic, my heart beating furiously, convinced that aftershocks are happening. I also have to walk through a place listening and feeling and offering my brain good explanations for the things that remind me of earthquake. For example, at my parents', the radiator in my room shakes, making precisely the same noise that my gate in Haiti makes during a quake. At the restaurant last night watching the Celtics game, the friend sitting beside me kept bouncing his leg, making the table vibrate. All these things make me panic a little inside and I have to pause and tell myself very clearly that it is not an earthquake. It is odd to me that I struggle more with fear when I am away from my Shoebox, but I have to hope that in the same way that fear faded when I was home there, it will also fade as I'm home here.