I regret to inform you that Jillian and I will be leaving Haiti tomorrow, and moving back to the States. This isn’t an abrupt decision, it’s actually one that we have put an enormous amount of thought into, and made before the New Year. Back then the choice seemed like an easy one to make: we were ready to go back and leave the troubles of Haiti behind us. Now, it seems like that decision is so much tougher.
In typical fashion, Haiti has been great to us in the three months since we decided to leave, as if right after we booked our tickets all the pieces that we couldn’t find before started to fall into place. We have such great friends here, and have experienced so much, that it’s impossible to not feel like leaving is a mistake. Whether it’s playing football on Sundays, or experiencing Kanaval in Jacmel, the last three months have made our decision to leave seem like a short-sighted, and ill-researched, conclusion to our brief stay in Haiti.
During that stay we have experienced more than we had ever anticipated. After the earthquake there was the (attempted) recovery, and then cholera, and then tropical storms, and then the elections, and then the riots, and then the return of Duvalier, and then the return of Aristide. Bottom line, you couldn’t ask for a crazier year. Scattered among those were random other experiences that have changed our perspective on life, and have changed us as people, in a way that we are still trying to define.
But the reality is that after almost two years, the country has taken a lot out of us, and we need to regroup. I’ve told everyone that has asked why we’re leaving that regrouping is the key, that we need to step away from the craziness of life here in Haiti, and focus on ourselves, and each other. We only gave ourselves a month after the earthquake to regroup before we returned, and that just wasn’t enough. We have gone through so much while we’ve been here, just because we live in Haiti, but also because we have a lot of things that we need to work out together. We’re pretty sure that will be easier to do when we don’t have to worry about midnight earthquakes and cholera.
But right now regrouping seems like such a scary, and enormous undertaking. I was recently in New York City and could not stop comparing life there to life in Haiti. “$45 for a taxi from JFK to the hotel?!?! Do you have any idea how much a tap-tap to the airport is in Haiti?!” Or after a glass broke in a bar and everyone started to freak out screaming “Is anyone wearing flip-flops?!?! Watch out!!!” catching myself thinking that I could introduce these people to a couple million kids who walk barefoot on glass everyday in Haiti. “In Haiti, In Haiti, In Haiti…” This is going to be a problem, and something that I’m going to constantly have to keep in mind so I don’t become “that guy” who won’t stop talking about how in Haiti we have potholes as big as your car (it’s true, I’ve seen them…)
But like I said, Jillian and I can’t stop thinking that we are leaving a good thing, and continue to question our decision. When we left DC to move here we had these same thoughts, and I remember laying in bed together asking each other: “Why would we leave when things seem to be going so well for us?” We have great friends, we know the place, and we have really interesting lives. But it was that decision to leave DC that gave us this incredible opportunity in Haiti, and taught us so much both professionally, and personally.
Another problem is that after living in Haiti for a bit, life in the States just doesn’t seem that interesting. And that’s one of things I fear the most: that once we return to the States and our lives become exponentially easier with the help of smooth roads, customer service, and fast food, we will realize how truly boring life is in the States because you barely have to fight for anything. Everyday in Haiti is an adventure, and that went from an incredibly exhausting undertaking to something that we thrive on.
A good friend of ours explained to us that you should never leave a place when you’re fed up with it, rather deciding to leave when you know that it will be hard to say goodbye. More and more I agree with that statement, as I’m glad that Jillian and I didn’t leave before Christmas with a negative outlook on the country. Instead, we are leaving with truly fond memories to go alongside those truly horrible ones, which I think will leave us connected to Haiti forever. The earthquake will forever connect us here, but our experiences since that time has intertwined this country, and the people in it, with our internal fabric in a way that keeps a part of our hearts here forever.
So as our friend’s eyes glaze over as we tell stories about being teargassed in a tent camp, we will realize how much this place has really changed us, and how our perspective on life has changed in a way that only a place like Haiti can do to a person. We’ll never look back at this time and regret it, in fact I think we will look back and know that it was some of the most important years of our lives. We’ve become who we are now because of this country, and even though many of the days have been tough, it’s taught us what we are capable of doing, and on the flip-side, what we’re not capable of.
Right now leaving Haiti is the right decision for us, and I would never rule out us deciding to return. We will keep the blog up, at least for now, as I have some backlogged stories that I would like to finish, and I’m sure our reintegration into the world of over-consumption and 4G networks will be an interesting (if not frustrating) one.
Thank you to the Haitian people, who have given us so much perspective during our time with them. While I might not always appreciate the way they walk into the middle of the road without looking both ways, they have taught me so much about how to live when life just doesn’t go your way. We take soooooo much for granted, SO MUCH, and it’s a great thing to have that shoved in your face from time to time.
And lastly, thank you all for joining us through our journey, your support over the past year and a half has truly helped us make it through some of the toughest moments, and helped us laugh during the good ones. To our friends in Haiti, we will miss you dearly, and life will not be the same without the company of some of the best people in the world. This is not a ‘goodbye’, it’s a ‘see you later’, because our experiences here will forever connect us. Haiti can do that, I know it can. Because after you wade through the rubble and the riots, the trash and the traffic, you find some of the most amazing people on the planet, and that’s why it’s just so hard to go.