One year ago today, I boarded a plane in Port-au-Prince headed to Miami. From there, I traveled to Virginia. This was no vacation. Neither was it traveling for work. I was evacuating Haiti, a phrase I’ve resisted using — in fact — it pains me to type those words.
And before you get the impression I am back in Haiti — I’m not. I’m still in Virginia, my first and other home.
Haiti, the place where I had lived for more than seven years, was hot, as my friends there say. “Ayiti cho!” Haiti is hot! Not just weather-wise. More than a year of turbulence of all kinds had culminated into “peyi lòk”, countrywide lockdown.
Yeah, always the trendsetter, Haiti was locked down long before the rest of the world so easily used that phrase.
Opposition parties had promised the lock down in early September 2019 as school was starting. They protested President Jovenel Moise’s corruption, though the politicians in Parliament faced just as many charges of corruption. The economy of Haiti was in shambles with the local currency weakening, inflation rising and unemployment skyrocketing.
Gangs and random criminals controlled the streets, with robberies and kidnappings, often fatal, on the rise.
So, no, Haiti was not the place to be. Even so, to leave the place I have come to love as my home, to hug my friends good-bye and head back to Virginia was extremely difficult.
After five months in the States, I was able to return to Haiti in early March, only to leave again after 18 days, this time because of the pandemic and its version of lockdown.
I’ve come to think of it as being out of Haiti for a year except for a short vacation back home.
Home. I named this blog The Long Way Home long before I would realize what that means. Switching careers, stepping into my calling as a mission co-worker and adapting to living in Port-au-Prince — all of this has changed me. And for the better.
I am blessed to spend time in Virginia with my sister and her family, enjoying four seasons in a place that has more than just summer and enjoying the comforts of the United States. I am able to work from here, keeping up with friends and colleagues in Haiti and around the U.S. and world.
Change, especially when its abrupt and significant, requires adjustment. After a year, it feels relatively normal wearing socks rather than flip flops and sweatshirts instead of short sleeves. Still, though, I’m eager to return to that other home, to the place where the hot sun beats down, where soccer players whoop and yell outside the front gate, where the kitchen table often is crowded and prayers always earnest.
For now, though, I take great pleasure in this wild and crazy life I live and look forward to what comes next.
As a mission co-worker with Presbyterian Mission Agency, I’ve been able to visit a number of other countries. I’ve learned a new language. I’ve come to love so many amazing people who at first blush seem so different.
I’ve lost loved ones. I’ve mourned and celebrated, been loved and taken some hard knocks. And after almost eight years, I find myself back where I started.
What a year it’s been. While here in the U.S. we still avoid crowds and the COVID, the people of Haiti are doing the same and still struggling with a perilous economy and political upheaval, dangerous criminal activity and the end of hurricane season.
What a life.
The beauty of it, always, is that home is not an address. It’s where you hang your hat.
And it’s where you leave a part of your heart.