The day began with a superb awakening at approximately 3:00 in the morning. As the group anxiously made its way to the KCI airport, the thing that was on everyone’s mind was “do I have everything?” and “what is the following week going to be like?”. We arrived at the airport to find that the start of our trip would be described as a series of long lines. Lines to get our tickets, lines trying to check our bags, and lines trying to get on the plane. Our late flight meant that our connecting flight to Port au Prince had already began boarding when we arrived. We made the connection, and immediately saw people who undoubtedly were headed to Haiti to do work similar to our own. The shirts they were wearing and the things they were talking about painted the unmistakable message that we were not alone in our endeavors.
However, the true start to our journey first became real when we each stepped off the plane. Suddenly the rush of hot air and the sights and sounds of unfamiliar things started to overwhelm us. The team stuck together and finally managed to get past the crowd of people to meet our first driver, Duarte. The smile on his face and the welcoming tone of his voice immediately let us know that he was there for us. As we exchanged Salut’s and Bonju’s he guided us past the other drivers with a sense of pride. The unmistakable cheer in his voice reminded us that we truly were making a difference in the lives of the people that we were coming into contact with.
The drive to Petionville was astonishing in both the beauty and the poverty that surrounds the country. Just as we had seen when our plane was landing, the mountains further inland presented an awe inspiring image of the beauty that is so integral to Haiti. The tragedy of course was in the clear poverty of the people and the towns that presented themselves the second we left the airport. However, despite all of it not a single person seemed to have a look of despair or of destitute. They greeted us cheerfully and all seemed to enjoy our presence.
Once we finally arrived at EMH guest-house there was a general sigh of relief that the busy nature of Day 1 seemed to have met its conclusion. For a while we all just rested as we tried to take in the heat, the beauty, the poverty, and the wondrous nature of the new land in which we suddenly found ourselves. Eventually we decided that it was time to convene and have our first team meeting in our temporary home; so we met downstairs and began to play different board games with some of the other people who worked in the house where we were staying. Eventually we mustered the strength to get up from our games and we were given a personal tour of the facilities by Pastor Yeshelle. We learned that there were over 1,000 students who were being taught at the facility and all of the good work that they had done for the community.
We returned back to the house and once again convened so that we could enjoy a dinner that had been prepared by one of the house caretakers, Belorne. The meal was wonderful; consisting of fresh avocados, chicken, beans and rice, plantains, and coconut cookies for dessert. Both the meal and the conversation that we shared with Pastor Yeshelle were wonderful. Learning about the history of both the facilities and the island itself gave us insight into the work that we would be diving into over the next few days. As we split up and slowly made our way to bed, we each went to sleep knowing that the next day would only bring us closer to our work, closer to the people of Haiti, and closer to God whom had called each of us to undertake this journey.