Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Worlds Apart

As I sit on the plane flying from Miami to Dallas, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.  I’m taking an unexpected trip back to the States to visit my Grandpa who we just found out has severe liver cancer.  I found out on Sunday, and flew out first thing Monday Morning.
Today has been hard for me.  I was not ready or prepared to leave my Son for the first time, not to mention the emotions that coming back to the States bring.  I read several other Haitian Missionary’s blogs and always hear them say how it’s so hard to go between the two places.  They often mention that it’s harder to return to the States than it is Haiti.  Last time I came back it wasn’t really an issue.  I have been going on Mission trips since I was twelve, done a lot of research and projects on human rights issues around the world, and have a very realistic view on poverty.  Going between these two worlds has been something I have done a lot.  I have always been able to come back from being abroad with out having any cultural shocks, on either end.  
But today for some reason I’m really struggling.  Maybe it’s all the emotions from leaving my baby for the first time, or the fact that I won’t see my husband or all the people in Haiti that I have grown to love for two weeks.  Maybe part of it is the news of my Grandpas cancer.
Honestly though, I think I am feeling cultural shock for the first time.  Multiple times since I left COTP I have felt like crying.  In the Miami airport, I felt so out of place.   I just sat there in a daze not fully knowing how to handle myself.  In the background was CNN which kept talking repetitively about some politician that sent inappropriate pictures of himself to some lady.  There were more choices of food than I knew what to do with.  I stood in front of the food court and just stared for a while, not sure what to choose.  As I stood there, one of those carts drove by me carrying people who appeared to be to lazy to walk from one gate to the other.  I was surrounded by more technology than I knew what to do with; cell phones, ipods, computers, cameras, tv’s, Kindels, and so much more.
It was frustrating.  I wanted to start screaming and informing people that only two hours away is a complete different world where people are suffering daily.  
Why is CNN not talking about this.  Isn’t it more important to talk about the injustices of this world, the suffering that millions face every day, rather than slamming some politician for inappropriate acts.  People bought the food with out even thinking twice.  I looked at the pizza line, almost $5 for one piece.  Or Chinese food, $9 for a plate.  Seriously?  Again, there are people 2 hours away who take care of their whole family for less than $2 a day, and they were wanting me to pay that much for ONE meal.  That $2 doesn’t just pay for food, but rent, charcoal to cook with, and if they can afford it, schooling, medical help, and clothes.  There was a water dispenser in the food court, and several people filled up their water bottles without thinking about the millions of people a few hours away who have to walk great distances carrying their water, which often isn’t clean; wondering silently if they are getting water with Cholera in it.  Fearing that this water might make their children deathly ill, but having no other option, they bring the water home and give it to their children.
I then think about people that walk hours to come to our facility for help.  We see nine month pregnant ladies walking an hour plus to come to prenatal class.  And Mom’s walking for several hours carrying their new borns to bring them to the formula program.  There’s others who are sick and walk for 3+ hours hoping that we will be able to help pay for their medical care, their kids’ education, or even just be able to give them a little bit of food or work so that their family can eat that day.  They walk because they have no other choice.  They walk in the heat, up and down dusty, bumpy roads, crossing rivers and mud pits.  Some times they have shoes, sometimes they don’t.  They do what they have to to take care of their family.  And then I see people who can’t even walk across the airport.  I have no problem with people with disabilities taking advantage of these accommodations, but people my age who are capable of walking.  It’s ridiculous.  
And technology.  If the people in our area of Haiti had access to even a fraction of the technology that was surrounding me in the airport, their lives would be way different.  The airport had lights about every 3 feet even though it’s walls are all windows and allows in natural light from the outside.  Our village is completely dark at night, no one has electricity or running water.  I would assume most of those people bought these items with out even thinking much about it.  It was something that they “need,” right?
I sat there wondering what has caused me to change.  Wondering how the next two weeks are going to go.  Am I going to fit in here?  Am I going to break down and get frustrated by the way people live here when there are so many people who are suffering there.
How do I explain these two different worlds that I live in.  That are in such contrast of each other.  One where medical care, food, and shelter is available at every turn and one where these things aren’t available anywhere.  One where I grew up, and one where I live now.
How do I explain the fact that I can be down town Cap Haitien or at the local hospital, surrounded by people of another race, who don’t even speak my language, and feel so at home; while I feel so out of place here, surrounded by people and a life that I have known for my whole life.
How do I explain all these thoughts that I am feeling right now.  All of these emotions.  No one here gets it.  No one understands what it’s like to constantly make life and death decisions everyday.  To have to turn people away who you know are desperately in need, praying that you made the right decision, and that your choice won’t lead to them getting sicker, or dying.  But sometimes we do.  Sometimes we hear about those we didn’t help dying and it’s hard.
Although I am very excited to spend time with my family who I haven’t seen in a long time, it’s difficult and painful to be here.  I now have a much clearer perspective on all of the blessings that we have, simply because we were born here and not there.
When I first moved to Haiti, we had a women come to our gate several times complaining of pain in her breasts.  We assume that she has breast cancer, but none of us will ever know, because there aren’t doctors to check for those things there.  She has nothing to take for the pain, and thats why she walked, for who knows how long, to us, to see if we could help her.  To see if we had any medicine to make her better, or if we could help pay for medical expenses.
We have the blessing of knowing what is making my Grandpa so sick.  We have the blessing of knowing ahead of time so that we can say goodbye.  We are blessed by the fact that he has pain medicine that he can take to make the agony go away.  His doctors call his house to check in on him, and are now going to start coming TO him for appointments rather than him having to go to the doctors office.  All these things are huge blessings that millions world wide couldn’t even dream about.
Please pray for my Grandpa’s health and strength for my Grandma and our whole family.  This is a difficult time for all of us as my Grandpa is very well loved.  But while you’re praying for us, please also pray for all of those who aren’t blessed with as much as we are.  Please pray for all of the people who come to our gate on a daily basis in desperate need of assistance.  Pray that we know who to help and when to help them.  And pray that some day, medical care will be available to all world wide.


  1. Nikki,
    I hear your heart and I too know that pain of seeing the haves and the have nots. But yoy have given yourself totally to help the people of Haiti. Yes you are experiencing culture shock for sure. I pray peace to your heart as you visit your family; that you be able to be present to your family and let God and Nik take care of Haiti.
    Praying for you and all your family. Praying strength and healing and redeeming times with Grandpa.
    Love and Hugs,
    Mary Charpentier

  2. Nikki, you blog is seriously inspiring. I hope you know how many lives you touch by living the way you do, and writing about it. You are amazing, and your posts literally bring tears to my eyes everytime I read them (hence the reason I need to stop reading them at work because Koreans don't understand outbursts of emotion as well as others). I will be praying for you, and for your family both in Haiti and at home. All the best, Laura

  3. What a perspective, thank you for this post and this extremely important reminder of our fortunes.
    Lots of love,