Every time I go away or travel I tell myself I’m going to step back from technology and disconnect a bit, but then I get where I’m going and I just want to write about it. That’s actually a good thing I think, because it allows me to get things down while they’re still fresh in my mind and I’ve got somewhere I can look back to. That, and everyone can keep up with me!
First off, let me just say this – there are friends in life that are the real kind. The kind where you can literally go without seeing them, and not talking much for, oh, let’s say five and a half years, because you both live overseas and you tell yourselves that’s hard, etc, BUT when you see their face and can talk to their face it’s like you just talked yesterday. Carmen and I are living proof of that. The last time I saw her sweet face was when she came to visit us in Haiti in October of 2009. We’ve emailed here and there, and literally Skyped for the first time two days ago. (Aside: neither of us have figured out why we didn’t do that more over the years…) Last night we were up until 2:30 am (same time zone, so wow about that for this grandma who is usually in bed by 9:30 pm…) and we bypassed a lot and went to the deep and hard and catching up stuff. There is a reason this girl was one of my bridesmaids, and last night was a reminder.
One of the things that Chris and I are realizing we struggle with as we live in Haiti longer, is that loss of identity, and yet a gather of identity. Maybe a change of identity??? When you live in another culture for long enough, you start to have parts of it that become part of you. You see things and talk differently and view things differently. Those are all good things. The hard part is that over time you can start to feel like you don’t really “fit” anywhere. When we go home, we’re surrounded by people that love us and care about what we’re doing and those are wonderful things. We look forward to it and need it. The hard part is that no matter how much people try or they’ve visited, there will be aspects of our lives that they will not be able to connect with, and we’ll struggle to communicate them because they’re so ingrained in us. We feel less like we “fit” in what has always been home. In Haiti, we are fully aware that we will never fully “fit” there, either. We will always be seen as foreigners, no matter how long we’re there and how fluent we’ve become and no matter what relationships we build.
All in all, a person who lives like we do starts to feel like they have multiple personalities and that maybe they don’t quite “fit” anywhere. That’s not a terrible thing, it’s just a challenging dynamic. As I was landing in Lima last night and anticipating a giant hug from Carmen, I realized that I was going to be spending an entire week with someone who not only “gets” me as a person, but someone who also “gets” the concept of not quite fitting anywhere, and yet feeling deep ties to multiple places. I mentioned it last night and Carmen said, “Exactly! In Peru, I’m too white and not Peruvian enough. In the US I’m too dark, and not American enough.” Exactly.
I realized that having someone that gets that means that I can relax in a different way. She understands the urge to speak a language that the other person might not understand, which has happened a lot already, by the way. I keep wanting to use Creole while everyone speaks Spanish or English. We were laughing last night because I said something and realized that she wouldn’t know that word and she keeps having to catch herself because I probably won’t understand. We’re a funny pair :)
Anyway, that in mind, I’m so happy and excited and blessed to be here! It truly feels like a vacation, something I really needed right now.
Now, onto the trip itself…
Chris dropped me off at the airport and check in and immigration went speedy once I got to the counter. I was excited to see some good improvements at the airport, things like not having to go through security to get in the door, and a new gift shop in the check in area. People always ask about progress, and when you’re in it all the time you realize that what they’re looking for are the big things, like new construction and what not, and what you look for are the little things like something working better or faster, or a nice change here and there. So, good on you Haiti!
When I booked my ticket with my advantage miles they booked me in coach, which gave me “priority access”. Um, not traveling with kids and priority access – yes please! Seriously, it was bliss to be able to pack only my own stuff in my bags, and to get everything for a week away into a carry on and still have room left over. And to board and not worry about someone needing a snack or kicking off their shoes or not wanting to wear their seat belt… You get the idea.
When Carmen came to see us she kept saying that there were things that felt like Peru. FYI – the best place to start seeing the culture you’re going into, is in the airport boarding lounge. Carmen and I had a good laugh last night when I told her, “So then they started to get ready to board…” And everyone went flocking and they had to keep telling them to back up, and again, and again and no one listens. I always want to yell, “You all paid for a ticket, you’re going to get on the plane!!” she said laughing. And she could imagine how hard it was for me when I was trying to keep a straight face while watching all of it, because have you seen Haitians get ready to board a flight??? It felt like home in it’s own funny way.
For those of you reading this that are traveling into Miami from an international destination any time soon can I just say this – Immigration KIOSKS!!!! For US and Canadian citizens they now have these fabulous little kiosks where you use a touch screen to answer a bunch of questions, you insert your passport, and it takes a picture of your face, then prints a receipt. Then you take the receipt and go to a desk where an immigration officer compares the receipt with your passport and your face and stamps everything. It literally took me two minutes to go through. And, by the way, for you Canadians reading this, just in case you didn’t know – when you fly into the US from an international destination you’re allowed to go in the US Citizens line rather than waiting forever in the International lines.
Lima is HUGE. Carmen said the population is about 13 million. It was fun to drive and see things like Burger King and McDonald’s. Carmen is in the city so we’ll be taking public transit and getting taxi’s most of the time that we’re here. She lives with her aunt and grandfather, and for me it’s so fun to get to meet her family after hearing about these people for years. Her grandfather is 89 and hard of hearing, and her aunt Lucy just apologized for having to yell at him because he didn’t hear her the first time. I told her it was fine, that my husband doesn’t respond to me half the time either :) I love seeing people that look like Carmen and her dad and to see more of what makes her who she is, and I know that it’s such a rare gift to be in their home and see their Peru, not the touristy version.
The best part of being here is just being together and like I said to her in the wee hours of the morning, getting to talk to her face. This morning has been a lazy morning where I drank an entire french press of coffee, by myself, and got to talk to Chris on our phones over Skype. Seriously?!? Technology is fabulous. He can just give me a quick call if I’m where I have a wi-fi connection.
Okay, time for breakfast! Then, it’s off to hit town. I think I might be getting a hair cut, which I’m really excited about. And then some wandering and shopping. Tomorrow I think Carmen’s family’s housekeeper, who is also a good friend, is taking me yarn shopping!!! :) She’s a knitter and crocheter so she knows all the good places to go.