I stared out the plane window into the heart of Port Au Prince, Haiti. As I stared at the buildings, my mind flooded back to the trip to India when I was seven and the many mission trips we had been on to Romania. I was thankful for having been outside of the country so much and to be going to Haiti at age twelve. I wondered how similar this trip would be to the other multiple trips out of the country I had been on.
The plane landed and our team got on the bus, which would take us to our destination, the town of Neply. An hour and a half later, we drove through Neply with a population of 2,500. As our team walked off the bus to the place we were staying, it was like walking into a new world. We were greeted by several Haitian children who rapidly spoke Creole to us. I tried to use the limited Creole I had learned at home to greet them, knowing I was probably pronouncing everything wrong.
We pulled our suitcases and bags inside the gate to the courtyard, where the American hosts showed us our room containing multiple bunk beds and a few windows. Once seeing our look at the beds, they told us that we would be thankful for no comforters and only one sheet because of the heat at night. They also told us the use of Wi-Fi had to be limited and when taking a shower, to use as little water as possible. We settled down in our room a little wide-eyed, and I already knew this trip was going to be different than our others.
That night, my friend ran up to tell me there were a ton of kids asking to play outside the gate. I walked to the gate where my friend had already gone through and I put my hand on the door to outside. Fear of the unknown caused me to pause and wonder what I was going to face outside. “This is what we came here to do,” I reasoned with myself, ”Fear will only lessen the opportunities out there.” With that, I pushed the gate open and stepped outside.
Immediately, I was surrounded by masses of kids talking very fast Creole and expecting me to understand. A toddler came up to me wanting to be held and a younger girl came and began to braid my hair. “There goes my personal bubble,” I thought with a laugh.
Over the next week, I began to cherish the time I had with these kids. I appreciated when a love-starved toddler I had never seen came up, wanting to be held. I loved talking and trying to understand the kids speaking Creole and I enjoyed taking quick cold showers after a hot game of frisbee. I found myself constantly wanting to be with these kids who were looking for love, attention, and my time.
I had the chance to help with the feeding program for kids who didn’t have enough to eat, and help teach kids who were child slaves. Between those events, our team spent the rest of our time playing frisbee, and soccer with the kids. Any spare time I had was out talking and playing with the kids.
Then, one night after we finished playing Frisbee with the kids, it hit me; we were leaving early the next morning. As I gave the kids hugs, I tried hard to compose myself, at least until I got to our room. But when one of the little girls through her arms around my neck and said in Creole “Eden, I love you and want you to stay,” I let the tears come. She sat up and asked me why I was I crying. I didn’t know how to tell her I didn’t want to leave and I wanted to stay right there with her, so I just said “Mwen reme ou,” which means I love you.
The next day as I stared down out the window at the disappearing island of Haiti I had come to love, I thought over the time we had had with the kids. I remembered when we all swam in the ocean together, the endless hours of frisbee, sitting under a mango tree trying to knock off the fruit, and so many other memories. If I hadn’t taken that brave step out of the gate the first night, those kids would just be faces, not my friends. True, my heart wouldn’t break every time I thought of them, but I would wonder what would have happened if I had left my comfort zone. Taking that step out of the compound made it a lot harder to leave but that step also changed my life.
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