Tuesday, February 5, 2013

One of those days

I've lived in Haiti for over 5 years and I tend to forget that the things I see and do every day should not exactly be normal. Occasionally though, I have a day when I remember. Today was one of those days.

I saw Katie, my friend who teaches at the Jubilee School, searching through her students backpacks on the hunt for a stolen lollipop. She stuck her hand into a small outer pocket and yelped! She had shoved her fingers straight into a mound of hot, sticky rice which the student had hidden in his bag. He wasn't the only one; we found rice stashed away in half a dozen other knapsacks.

"I'm taking it home to eat later," the kids explained, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

Ten minutes later, I watched our clinic staff do the intake for a new patient in our MedikaMamba malnutrition program. Her name is Linda, she's 5 years old and she weighs 24 pounds. Most American children weigh that much at 18 months.
We have a contract that the parent is required to sign before we admit a child into the program. Linda's parents are both deceased so her grandmother is her guardian. Her grandma can't read or write, so without thinking I turned to Linda's older sister, who is in 3rd grade in a Haitian school, "Can you read and write?" She nodded and then laboriously scrawled her name.

That was when it hit me - children saving rice for later because it's probably the only food they'll get all day and 3rd graders barely being able to write shouldn't be normal. It shouldn't be normal...but it is. It's my life; it's what I am surrounded by every day and it doesn't often make me sad or hopeless. I sometimes fear that the cause may be callousness, but I think that it is actually a subconscious choice that I've learned to make. I can choose to be overwhelmed by the abnormalities or I can look at the the moments that are simply good. Moments like Katie's students yelling her name and giggling madly as they shove rice-y backpacks at her. Moments like Linda devouring her first MedikaMamba while her sister walks out of clinic with her arm around me.
Today was one of those days. One of those days when I remembered that my life is not normal and decided, yet again, that it's OK.

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