First World = Processed…Things

I realized that my best blogging hours are around 3 am. Unfortunately I don’t like being up at 3 am, so most of the time all that brilliance that runs around in my head just screaming to get out sort of turns into this blob of…well, not brilliance.

In last nights rant in my head I came to the point of being able to tell you about some of the things that I really noticed about being there, in the first world, and then coming back here. I was honestly trying to squeeze something out within the first couple of days back, even while we were there, but nothing. I think it was just too soon. Troy and I were chatting about some of the things that we noticed and I think it was good processing time for me. And, I realized that for a missionary in Haiti, I’m so totally normal. A girl wonders some days.

Sometimes I wonder why I don’t have more to write about in regards to what I see, smell and feel here. I wonder if I’m turned off or hardened towards it. Then I know I’m not. I do see things that break my heart. I smell things that make me want to gag. I feel a lot of different things. I realized that sometimes those things are just plain hard to write about. Part of it is that I feel like all anyone hears about places like Haiti is how bad/poor/broken down they are. I get tired of that and I don’t want to get stuck in that loop because I think and know that Haiti is so much more than that. It’s confusing and multi-layered and anything but one thing. I think that’s why I end up writing about the fun and interesting things we do, because I want people to see those things in Haiti, not just that most of the country is living in unlivable conditions. I think the other big part of it is that one of the major things that I’ve learned while living here is that Haiti isn’t the exception to how people live in the world, North America is. When I was living in Canada it was easy for me to think that most of the world lived like I did, and that Haiti was this poor, devastated country in desperate need of help. Haiti is a poor, desperate country in need of help, but so are most countries in the world. Sure, many have something going for them and have areas where they’re thriving, but the standard of living for most people on this planet is much lower than we experience in North America. I think I stopped feeling sorry for Haitians and started to love their resilience, and I started feeling sorry for North Americans and our boxed in lives where we don’t like to let the outside penetrate us.

North Americans like to be safe. That’s one thing that really stood out to me this visit home. Maybe it was because Chris and I are starting a family and thinking about our home and life here and trying to make good changes to make life safe for baby. Things like having a car seat and making sure we have a vehicle to strap it into. Someone asked me if I was going to baby proof our house. I laughed. How do you baby proof a cement walled, tiled floored, multi-level with wide doorway house? Baby gates won’t work. We would spend a fortune on padding walls. My cupboards have curtains over them, not doors. Nope, not much baby proofing will happen here. We’ll probably do something about the electrical sockets, but other than that our kids will have to learn what “No!” means, just like we did. Safety is such a crazy thing. We can try to protect ourselves as much as possible, but you can’t protect yourself from everything. Think about it. How many warranties, insurances, safety devices etc do you have/own? How often do you think about personal safety? Living here has taught me that there are very few things that I can really do to be safe. Most of it actually lies in God’s hands and I just need to trust him. Some days I’m totally cool about everything. Other days I get weird freak out moments. Like Chris might be gone all day and I’m fine, then some crazy part of my brain thinks, “I hope he’s not dead. If something happened what would I do???” Then it goes on from there. Then the phone rings or he pulls in the driveway. Same with flying. Most of the time I’m totally cool with it, but occasionally, usually once during each trip to or from here, I get this weird sinking feeling while the plane is starting to take off and I wonder if we’re going to blow up. Crazy, I know. But, I didn’t promise you this was going to be a sane post.

North America is the land of plenty. So plenty. What isn’t at our finger tips there? Troy and I were talking about things that we used to stock up on before, as opposed now. I remember my first trip in 2005 when I was moving here. Man, my parents living room looked like Walmart threw up. I had shampoo for six months, big bottles of everything, and a year supply of most stuff. At that time though, I needed it. Things weren’t all that safe and it was hard to get around. After I arrived the first time I went to Port au Prince was to catch my flight out at Christmas. 3 months. By that time I was starting to get sick of the same shampoo and I realized that I wasn’t as cut off as I thought I was. This trip in the only personal item that I stocked up on was deodorant. I bought two. And it’s just because I don’t like smelling like baby powder. No offense to anyone who does. Just not my thing. I realized with the not stocking up thing that I feel way more settled here and life is getting much more maneuverable than it was two years ago. I don’t feel all that cut off from things. I don’t feel like we’re doing without. In fact, I feel pretty blessed and I feel like we have plenty.

One thing that Chris and I often encounter when we talk to people is, “Wow, you guys are so amazing! I could never do that.” It gets old after a while. We’re not amazing. We’re not super heroes. We’re just two ordinary people doing what God told us to do. Chris gets so tired of people saying they couldn’t do it that his general response is, “Yes, you could do it. You just don’t want to.” Blunt, I know. But in a lot of cases I think it’s true. I know it’s true. I couldn’t do it for two years before I realized that it wasn’t that I couldn’t, it was that I was afraid to. I remember the moment where I stopped being afraid and gave God the reigns very clearly. I was here in country at the time and I knew God was going to talk to me very specifically about moving here at some point during that visit. It would either be yes or no. The conversation in my head while we were driving back from the beach went something like this…

It really is beautiful here.
And I’m happy.
But, I’m afraid.
Okay, fear aside, what would stop me from coming?
Nothing.
Fear is a pretty lame reason not to do something.
And, I’m going to have bad days wherever I am, the scenery will just be different.
Okay, I guess I’m moving to Haiti.

And then there was an incredible amount of peace. None of it made sense then, but it does now. I stepped out, took a risk, realized it wasn’t really all that scary when all was said and done. Now I’m married, expecting our first child and am happy. So yes, I think a lot of people can do it if they really let themselves go there, but it takes a lot of stepping outside yourself to do it, and a lot of trust that God has a way better idea about what he’s doing with your life than you do. I guess they call that trust. And faith.

Sometimes being a missionary makes me realize what it must be like to be a prostitute. No joke! I really think that. It’s kind of exhausting actually. We spend so much of our time at home, and some of it here, just talking to people about what we do. It’s like a constant sales pitch. I feel like a broken record sometimes. Same thing over and over. And each time we’re keeping in the back of our minds that this is the first time that this person is hearing this, that they could be a potential supporter of us or the mission. It’s like this process of selling yourself and what you’re doing hoping that whoever it is that’s expressed some interest will want to buy into it. See, just like being a prostitute. I have to be honest, it’s an important thing, those meet and greets, but it’s the thing we least look forward to when we go on holidays. It still feels like we’re working, and we’ve started to realize that very few people get to know Chris and Leslie beyond, “These two live in a Haiti and run a clean water project, aren’t they amazing!” A lot of people don’t really know much about us as people. They just know what we do. They don’t know that we’re actually pretty silly. We like to watch shows like Myth Busters and Lost. Chris likes beer and used to brew his own. I love to cook and do creative things. I’m the one that builds things, Chris is the one that tinkers with engines. I used to be really organized and packed a lot in my brain, now I have a hard time remembering what I was supposed to remember. Chris never remembers anything and is learning to write things down as my brain remembers less because I can’t remind him about everything he forgets anymore. When we go on vacation we don’t want to be using our rest time to be working and promoting the mission, but we know that’s really important too so we do it, but we’re selective about it. We’re selective because we’ve started getting a sense for who is serious about what we’re doing and who’s just being polite.

North America has so many choices. Too many I think. We decided, like I’ve shared already, to do all of our Christmas shopping online this past Christmas. I’m soooo glad we did. When we arrived at Chris’ parents house we spent the first hour unpacking boxes and organizing things. Christmas presents in one pile, baby stuff in another, mission stuff in another and personal in another. The day after we got there I borrowed a car and went to the mall on my own for a few hours to buy stocking stuffers and hack through the list of baby stuff that we still needed. I must have spent about 2 hours in Target. I’ll admit it, it was fun to walk around the store and just look at things and see how organized the shelves were. When it came time to pick stuff out I found myself in sticker shock on some things, like clothes, and just having a hard time deciding with others. Like receiving blankets. I went back and forth between two aisles for about 5 minutes comparing prices, prettiness etc, then finally just decided on the ones I liked most that were reasonably priced. You should have seen me when it came time to go upstairs to the second level of the store. I had a cart full of stuff and wondered if I should just leave it parked somewhere, then come back for it. As I was getting on the escalator I realized they have a cart escalator! Um hello! Genius! Yes, I’ve been out of the first world for a while.

When I go back to North America I feel like a grub. Not because I look like one, but because I feel like one. North Americans for the most part are very appearance oriented. In Haiti everyone tells me I’m beautiful just as I am. No makeup, my hair is never done. So much so that the two things that I forgot to pack were my hair dryer (um, might want that in the winter) and curling iron. Chris doesn’t like it when I wear a lot of make up, which is kind of nice. I haven’t dyed my hair in almost two years and I have a bit of a grey streak that you can see in the right light. My clothes have a tendency to look worn, because they are. They’re also hand washed and never get all the soap rinsed out of them. I was starting to realize that I did need to get some more versatile clothes even for Haiti. Chris and I both find that when we go into Port for a night we often don’t have much that’s not work clothing to wear. This time I made some deliberate clothing purchases that will be versatile for life on the base, getting a bit dressed up and for going home to visit. The key is to wash them myself until the washer comes so that they don’t get stretched out of shape and worn looking. It should only be a couple weeks so I’m good with that. I realized I feel better about myself when I don’t look like a grub, so this year I’m aiming for that. Just as good self care. I mean, I can look cute in cargo shorts and tank tops, but maybe I’ll put on the nicer tank top and some mascara.

I realized that living here leaves me feeling really out of touch with the first world, and that it’s harder to have conversations with people back there. I don’t know what movies are new and hip. I don’t know what’s in style. I don’t know who’s doing what. I don’t stay up to date on the news all that often because it all seems to sound the same after a while and less exciting when you live in a country with a jagged political history. I realized that sometimes I just have a hard time caring about what people are talking about. Maybe because so much of it can be surface conversation, and what I miss most with being here is heart to heart conversation. I want to know how people feel because that’s where I connect to them, not over what Paris Hilton is up to. Don’t get me wrong, I had some good visiting time, I just sometimes feel out of the loop in conversations because I have no clue about the most up to date bits of culture. And you know what, I like that. I like it because instead of focusing my attention on staying up to date with those things I get to hang out with my husband and do things that are good for my soul, like sew and be creative. I love being able to go to a movie or out for food with Chris, just because I don’t have to prep it all, but lets face it, I make a pretty good meal and it’s much cheaper to stay home than go out. So yeah, the whole conversation thing is weird for me right now because I just don’t know what to talk to people, especially women about right now. Maybe once the baby comes along I’ll have more common ground. We can talk about spit up and poop and whose baby is doing what and be all competitive about that :)

I should go get some work done. That’s another thing that I love about here and not there. Chris and I have a work day, but it’s a loose work day because there’s always stuff to do around here. I LOVE that I can spend time blogging and that it’s an outlet for me, but that it also adds another spin to the mission because so many people are reading this thing and finding out that we’re just two ordinary people living life here instead of there. I LOVE that I can throw chicken in the microwave to defrost for dinner, then go back to writing updates or newsletters or answering email. I LOVE that both Chris and I will be work at home, stay at home parents. Our kids are going to have such a gift in that and our family is going to have that special twist to it as well. We’ll both get to be there for all the big moments and still be ministering to and working with people. I LOVE that there’s always something for me to shake my head about here and that we’ve kind of gotten into the groove of life where plans get thrown out the window and changed more than they are ever consistent.

Someone once asked me about all the things that I don’t blog about because of how people might receive it. I think this is one of those dump posts where some of it got loosed. If any of it offends, I know that’s your stuff and not mine. I hope that some of it makes you think. Then maybe I won’t be the only one awake at 3 am. I like to share the love. Just think of all the amazing things that will be running through my head when I have to be up for feedings! If I can just master feeding and blogging at the same time…

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This entry was posted in thinking out loud, this is haiti by Leslie. Bookmark the permalink.

About Leslie

I'm Leslie. Wife. Mother. Missionary. In the day to day my husband and I are responsible for running Clean Water for Haiti, a humanitarian mission that builds and distributes water filters to Haitian families. Living in Haiti full time provides lots of stories, and as I tell my husband, our grandkids probably won't believe most of them. Maybe writing them down will give me some credibility.

6 thoughts on “First World = Processed…Things

  1. I was so glad to read the whole post. Every word of it made a lot of sense to me! I was also glad to see that I am not the only one up at 3 am thinking of blogging :)I appreciate all you have said and how you can relay it to us. You may be normal people but you are amazingly fun normal people!ange

  2. Leslie, Thanks so much for this. As Troy’s sister-in-law, it helped me to be reminded again of why they are there and not here. I mean, I get it, but then sometimes I just don’t. It helps me to stalk their friends a little to get a wider perspective of Haiti, and when I read posts of yours like this, I understand why you are their friends, too. I’m so happy for them to have you guys in their lives down there, because unlike all of their well-meaning and loving friends and family here, you really do get it. Best baby wishes to you :)Laura

  3. Great post, I hope it beings readers to more understanding of the unusual position you find yourself in every time you return. I try to remember just as you do that it is a listeners first time hearing about the mission. I usually start to choke if I mention the kids and try to not let that happen. One time a person came to me and told me not to be too efficient at controlling my passion for the people. That when that comes through it brings the reality of the situation to life. I think he is right because it is just a natural thing that happens depending on the topic I am speaking about. Usually when I am talking about why the people need clean water it is deep in me that I could never do a neat sterile, delivery, nor would I want to. You do have a special burden, being considered super humans of some sort. I like Chris’s response, it is straight on real.Again a great post for anyone who wants to see the reality of a few aspects of the life you allowed God to choose for you.Blessings my friendBarb J :)

  4. Well I for one can’t wait to read your middle-of-the-night musings once the little lady arrives :)I so resonate with SO many things that you wrote (and I’m just a short-term Haiti rat)…feeling like a prostitute, hating being called “amazing” and hearing people say “I could never do that,” how North Americans like to be safe (whatever that means).I’m sitting here in MN, getting ready to leave for Haiti in less than 8 hours and I’m very ready to get back…more than anything I’m ready to be in a place with fewer choices and less “busyness” and all that. Definitely hoping we get to spend some time together this winter/spring now that the Livesays are starting to trickle back! Hopefully see you soon!

  5. I absolutely enjoyed your musings in this blog. Your comment,” Haiti isn’t the exception to how people live in the world, North America is.” is spot on. Not only am I in North America, but I was born and reared in Southern California. YIKES! My epiphany on this subject came before I ever went to Haiti when I met and married my husband, who is from Central America. My in-laws’ ability to build a home, provide food, and clean water ;-), and bring up five children, using their own resources and skill has always been a source of amazement to me.I’ve always felt I got a bargain with my man because he functions perfectly in my world, but if the Big One ever hits, he knows how to survive in the jungle-heh, heh.And yeah, we play it too safe here. My mom never baby-proofed anything. She just expected us to learn how to navigate our little world. We, in turn, never baby-proofed our home (neither did my sibs), and none of our kids got hurt. Human beings are resilient and geared to learn how to survive. Your little one will do fine without all the ridiculous constraints we put on their development. She will thrive and be smarter and more independent than the poor kids we are handicapping here in the first world. Revel in your limits there–that is the real freedom.Candis

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