Saturday, October 16, 2010

My double life

Sometimes I feel like I lead a double life here. Let me explain myself.

When I made the decision to come to Haiti, I knew that I didn't want to live like a traditional missionary in Haiti. Haiti is full of missionary compounds where a lot of times American and Canadian missionaries can live a very secure, comfortable life with luxuries like 24 hour electricity and running water. Sad to say, a lot of times (from my limited observation) it would be easy for these missionaries to refrain from engaging in daily Haitian life. I'm not saying that is how all missionaries live, I'm just saying that some can and do. That's not how I wanted to experience Haiti. If I was going to come to Haiti, I wanted to experience Haiti as much as I possibly could.

Fortunately, Dr. Manno's mom was willing to let me come live at their house which is not in a compound, but in the "town" surrounded by plenty of neighbours and a mountain to climb behind it. By Haitian standards, the house is very comfortable. Most of the floors upstairs where I live have ceramic tile. There are 3 washrooms with running water (when the town water system is working which is most of the time). The electrical system is hooked up to the clinic's generator so we have electricity during the day when the clinic is open. There is always food available to eat and everyone eats twice a day (except me - I get three meals a day). Yep, it's pretty comfortable. It's not all rosy though. I've had my encounters with rats, ants, cockroaches, no water, noisy neighbours blaring their music,

However, everyday I see my neighbours who do not live as luxuriously as me. I see children bathing outside from my bedroom window. I see the holes in the roofs of their houses when it rains. I know that only the eldest boy of 4 children (with another on the way) of a single mom next door is going to school this year because that's what the mom can afford. I see his little sisters wear the same 2 dresses everyday.

While I see these harsh realities around me everyday and I try to interact with my neighbours, I know that I can never fully understand what they experience. You see, because I am a "blan" (foreigner), I know that I will always be able to find food. I will always have money to buy gas to put in the truck or motorcycle. I will never have to decide if I will eat today or send my child to school or to the doctor. I can plan a vacation and get on a plane or a bus within a day and leave this country simply because I have a Canadian passport and access to money.

I'm usually uncomfortable when I'm given special treatment because if my skin colour - like being offered a chair at a futbol match when everyone else is standing. But sometimes I like it. Like when I get to sit in the front seat of the truck instead of being squished in the back, or I can walk into a fancy hotel to use their washroom and know that no one will question my presence there, or when I can walk through "security" at the airport with no problem, and so on.

I don't know how to reconcile these two lives. I don't know if I ever will be able to. And I'm writing this from inside a nice, missionary house where I am currently house/cat/bird-sitting with 24 hour electricity, internet, running water and a North American kitchen - and I like it and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to stay here every once and awhile.

I don't mean for this post to be judgmental in any way - it's just thoughts that I'm trying to process.

1 comment:

Arden Gustafson said...

It is a difficult thing to reconcile. But it is an important question to wrestle with, and I appreciate your candor and honesty. Keep praying and wrestling and writing your thoughts.