Saturday, May 31, 2008

The transition

May 27, 2008

Last night in DC, I told some of my best friends Estera and Elizabeth that I am at a point in my life where I have a lot of love to give, that I am happy, doing exactly what I want to be doing with my life right now. At times like this when I feel overcome with love for the people around me, I just want to cry. Which in fact is what I am doing now as I sit in the Washington Reagan airport, at 5:30 am waiting for a flight back to Lafayette, LA.

The last time I felt this surge of teary love was actually about four weeks ago, standing in my sister’s bedroom, just after she left the house. Since that time, I’ve had the chance to have a virtual People I Love Parade. I’m flying back to Lafayette after a three-week tour of DC-and-everywhere-in-a-6-hour-driving-range: Charleston WV, Roanoke, Charlotte, New York, some woods in WV… it has been busy!

At this time yesterday, I was sleeping in a tent on cold roots and rocks in a West Virginia campground, surrounded by 15 friends, both old and new. It was a weekend that so perfectly typifies what my life in DC has been during the three years before I moved to Haiti. I’m still amazed at the new people I meet here, and thrilled to watch the mingling of those I’ve known for years, with those I’ve known only for months. I love discovering new friends of friends, who I would steal for myself if I were in DC longer! I told Estera last night that a weekend like this is like a Veggie Delight sub from Subway, where every bite tastes different, a unique blend of assorted vegetable goodness—one bite lots of olives, another is a huge chunk of cheese... So is each moment a unique blend as my diverse friends come together to share, bond, and form a whole new type of veggie camping combo.

Many people have asked how I’ve felt to transition from the shock of poverty that is Haiti, back to the known territory of the US. The transition has been so much smoother than I might have expected, mainly for two reasons. First, I know my time in the States is temporary. As I sat in a fabulous restaurant for dinner with a friend recently, I fully enjoyed my surroundings, at the same time holding a twinge that said, “Thank God I won’t be expected to do this on a regular basis, this is exactly the type of luxury my colleagues in Haiti could only dream about.” Knowing I won’t be splurging for fancy dinners in Cameroon made it easier to enjoy my time in the States, partaking in dinners that would have seemed entirely normal to me six months ago, pre-Haiti. It’s this same knowledge of temporary-ness that has allowed me to buy the $2 cups of coffee I’ve consumed every other day of this trip. If I were back in the States for good, I would have to, for my own good conscious, do more to reconcile my American lifestyle with what I experienced in Haiti.

The second reason my transition out of Haiti has been less awkward is the joy I’ve felt in being with my family. Three times now, we’ve asked, “Does Dad have cancer?” and we’ve had to assume the worst. For now, after months of medical tests and the stresses of uncertainty, the answer is no, and another layer of gratefulness is added to my life. I can go to Cameroon not wondering how I will tell the Peace Corps that I need to leave and get back to Louisiana. When Dad was first checked into the emergency room for tests in March, I knew, “if Dad were in Haiti, he’d be a dead man. Period.” My family’s access to health insurance and the best medical care available have made me embrace the seeming excesses of American wealth, as opposed to shunning them as I might have done otherwise. When it’s your Papa on the line, you’re reminded why living in a developed country has its advantages.

Less than a week, and I’m off to Cameroon. Holy cow. :)

No comments: