We are slowly but surely settling back in from our whirlwind trip to Haiti last week. During the month of September, we somehow spent nearly as much time traveling as we did at home. My house, my work, my kids, my sleep, my email inbox, and my patience are all feeling the results of that. I am SO looking forward to a month of doing nothing. (Nothing other than raising three small children while working from home, of course).
We had such a great time in Haiti. It’s always an adventure, and this trip was no exception. Karis did really well on the long plane ride, and she was a big hit with her seatmates. Turns out, in other cultures, babies on planes are actually welcomed. And smiled at. A lot.
She was winning friends at every turn, and quite the hit in Haiti. The nannies at the orphanage were really excited to hold her, which made our time with Keanan even easier. And also, she got her very own mosquito net, which I think sort of makes her look like an appetizer:
Our reunion with Keanan was rocky at first, which we expected. He is always a little wary of us . . . a telltale sign that he is bonded to his nannies, which makes me feel reassured and sad all at the same time. It was surreal for me to see him again. He looks so much older. It was so great to hold him and kiss him in person. There is also the tension of wanting to smother him with affection, but also to hold back as to not overwhelm him. I think I might have overwhelmed him just a tad.
For the first hour or so with us, he just kind of sat very quietly in a daze. Mark finally drew him out with some soccer, and I am here to tell you: this kid can kick. He loves sports of any kind and I think he will soon be giving Jafta a run for his money. He is such a cool kid – very playful and funny. He has a great sense of humor and even though there was a language barrier, he was cracking me up with just his facial expressions.
On our second day there, we had to go sign the papers that the government is now requiring of parents, stating that we have met him and intend to adopt him. This experience was definitely quintessential Haiti. Our orphanage’s adoption coordinator, Junior, picked us up in the morning in his small jeep, and we proceeded to take the most harrowing car ride I have had in a long time. With Karis in my lap. In the front seat. I think Junior might have been smirking a little a when I repeatedly pointed out that a car was coming straight at us. Things like lanes and lights are just mere suggestions in Haiti. Be liberal with the horn, might makes right, and watch the potholes. Those are the rules to driving in Haiti.When we arrived at the courthouse we were ushered into a crowded lobby where about 20 people were standing in what felt like a 10×15 room. There were three tables, each with a person sitting behind the table. On each table sat a notebook. Behind these tables was a man typing on a typewriter from the 1950’s. And behind him were piles and piles and piles of notebooks. This room opened to another room, where about 30 people were sitting and waiting for their case to be heard in front of that judge. In the back of that room there was a huge pile of rocks, and about six dead motorcycles. There was no a/c and it was HOT. Everyone seemed very agitated and grumpy. Fortunately I had the four-month-old Princess of Smiles and Goodwill with me to lighten the mood. Except that she chose that very moment to have a minor meltdown. (If only she’s given me some indication of what she wanted):
As you can see in the photo, this is me signing my name in the official notebook of graph paper that will soon join the other piled of notebooks of words on graph paper. What happens to these notebooks is anybody’s guess. What I do know is this: I signed my name under about four paragraphs of hand-written text in Creole, and I have NO IDEA what it said. I may have just signed up to buy a timeshare in Jacmel. We shall see.On the way out, we saw about five guys sitting outside with typewriters on tables. Junior told us that these guys are there to make documents. Need a birth certificate? They can make you one. Wanna change some info on your marriage license? They can fix it. With their typwriters from 1950 . . . in plain sight of the courthouse. O-kay?
Our ride back was just as thrilling, but we got to have a very interesting discussion with Junior about adoption and the state of things in Haiti. Junior is a fascinating guy – he grew up in Haiti and had little schooling, and yet he speaks four languages and is an avid reader. He told us how difficult adoptions had become, and some very interesting conspiracy theories as to why Haiti continues to struggle as a nation. Sadly, I think his theories are right. There is so much corruption in this place, and some of it is coming from the very sources who are supposed to be protecting and serving these people. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that. *cough* *goonicef* *cough*
We got the pleasure of hanging out with another adoptive couple while we were there. Jason and Sarah are adopting Naomi who is turning three. They also have a three-year-old at home, so we will both have sets of “twins” through adoption. We celebrated their birthdays while we were there, with some cake that Sarah brought in. Mark and I carried in some scooters and trikes for all the kids, and they were a big hit.
We had a really great visit with Keanan. It was so much better than last time, when he was recovering from surgery and very out-of-sorts. I was worried that this trip would be emotional and difficult and heavy, and that I would come home angry and bitter. Surprisingly, the opposite happened. I’m not happy that Keanan is still there, but it was such a good reminder that he is happy and nurtured and loved. He still has the same nanny he has had since he was a baby, and there is a clear bond with the other boys in the house. The boys’ home is run so well, with a schedule that would probably benefit my own household. All of the kids seem
This is a picture of Renald now. Three months ago, he was brought to a medical rescue center nearly starving to death. Go look at his picture from this summer. Seriously, go look. It is devastating that any three-year-old would be so small. It is amazing to see how he is thriving now, due to the Medika Mamba (medical peanut-butter) he is being given. Meeting Renald was powerful for me, because I’ll be brutally honest (and I think I’m not alone in this): sometimes, when I see photos of children in a malnourished state, a part of me detaches a little bit. We see images on tv, on the news, on informercials, of skin-and-bones kids with flies around their faces. It is so easy to not think about that reality. To look away, or to depersonalize these children. And yet here is Renald, this kid who was clinging to life, who is now one of the most vibrant kids I have ever seen. His personality is bold, his smile is infectious, and my heart literally broke with the realization that EVERY CHILD is important. Starving kids in foreign countries are KIDS. Kids that are just as important as any of ours. So when someone like Tara Livesay decides to run a marathon (tomorrow) and raises over 50,000 to feed children just like him, it is with admiration and humility that I wonder how I can start to effect some change right now, too.