Day 8: Eye luhv zhu

Another hot day today, not much breeze tonight, so the itty bitty mosquitos are out! We’ve been here 8 days and only put on our Deet repellant 3 times, in the evening when we go down for dinner…but tonight is the first night we even saw more than one mosquito at a time…praying we have no bites – so far we are bite free! 🙂

This morning was an early morning! We got up at 5:30am and met our driver/translator team at the front entrance at 6:30 to head to the United States Embassy here in Port-au-Prince. The dress code for the Embassy is “church clothes” so everyone heading into the embassy is dressed in their best – including us – I had to pack a long skirt and close-toed shoes, and Kris had to wear slacks and a button up shirt. We’ve been living in tshirts/tanks and shorts, so it was weird to have to put on something different! It was a short 15 minute or so drive, but once we pulled up to the front, the lines were already winding in a crowded snake away from the building. Apparently we didn’t get the memo to show up at 5:15am for your 7am appointment. LOL (not really). The translator waited in line with us for about 30 minutes, but once he confirmed we were in the right spot he headed back to the car to wait with the driver until we were finished. He prepared us for a 2-3 hour process once we were inside. We had to wait in the heat outside in a sea of people for about an hour, then were ushered through the check in line, and in through their security. We had to “check” our phones with security before we could enter the building as no phones are allowed in the building at all. Once we were herded to our waiting area for a USCIS (US immigration) officer, we waited probably an hour and a half to get called to the window. After handing over all our paperwork and documentation, we were asked to sit another 90 minutes or so until they called us up again for “interview questions” Seriously, it was SO long, and so many people waiting, (and we were the only white people in the room, so pretty much like the “mommy look at the pink zebra!” concept haha, luckily we make easy friends with the people here, as we are friendly and know a little bit of creole, enough to greet them in a proper way and make friends with the kids), we got to the point where we began to wonder if we were really in the right spot! I had horrendous visions of 5pm closing time coming around and us still being there waiting! haha

Eventually we were able to finish and leave, (thank the Lord no issues, they gave us our form and sent us on our merry way…after 3.5 hours!), and we headed back to the hotel to change into our regular clothes and grab our stuff for the day. We stopped at the grocery again for cases of water and some pastries from the case as we had missed breakfast at the hotel due to our early morning. We pretty much ate heaven in a paper sack from that pastry counter! They have this thing in Haiti, it is called “Pate” but they pronounce it “pah-TEE” and it. is. pure. heaven. A flaky pastry puff crust that leaves tissue-thin flakes hanging off your chin, and filled with chicken and spices or beef (béf) or cheeses, I have to learn how to make it. It was incredible! We brought one for W and he shared it with another friend, they bough thought it was delicious! 🙂

When we got to the creche, the nanny had just left to go walk to pick up the kids from school so we waited about 20 minutes until we saw them walking on the road, then ran down to meet them. W walked up hand-in-hand with his partner, saw us and grinned, waving, then arms up to get hugs and carried up to the big house. Today the nanny put him in a batman tshirt and avengers swim trunks…LOL he thought he was hot stuff – he likes avengers 🙂 Iron man is his favorite, he says. I don’t think they really know much about avengers, but recognize the characters from wall stickers they have on their walls from visiting friends and family.

Today, we played baseball, (again), doled out stickers and cookies, and gave W his first taste of Nestle strawberry milk that we found stashed in the Stop n’ Go refrigerated section…I’m pretty sure he almost died! LOL we told him it was pink milk (lét, rose), and upon first sip, his eyes got huge and he immediately looked up at us, and grinned! After a few chugs of sugary goodness, he promptly handed it to his little friend to share the wealth. That’s one thing they learn quickly here – it seems to be one or the other – you either hoard and fight off others to keep as much to yourself as possible, or you generously share everything like community property, it is very interesting. There isn’t really a happy medium!

We had a short bit of alone time again today (it is extremely difficult to get any kind of peace and quiet there – there really seems to be no place that kids cannot get to, unless we are literally locked inside the car with the A/C running. There are always kiddos trying to come join the fun and see what’s going on – so bonding alone is definitely difficult. Today we asked him if he would like to read books, do a puzzle, or draw and he said he would like to draw. First he drew a big car, then started drawing a fish, which then quickly morphed into an underwater scene with daddy’s input, complete with W and daddy drawing huge fish with lots of teeth! LOL we pointed out things in the water that we drew, and he told us what they were in Creole and wrote out the words for each in cursive! He has fantastic cursive as well! Whoever is teaching these kids is amazing, because I think he’s only been in school less than a year!

  
You know, something Kris and I were talking about today – the orphanage experience can feel sugar coated at times, its euphoric, its a novelty like being in an exotic world. Anyone with a compassionate heart would be on cloud 9 with 87 3-year olds wanting to dogpile and be picked up and get piggy back rides and 20 some-odd 7 year olds playing around you with their sing-song voices in a foreign tongue. You get to do fun stuff like sit around and make beaded necklaces for hours or dole out dime-sized stickers all over faces and hands, earlobes and sweaty necks (and armpits…not sure what the draw was there, but I did sticker quite a few armpits today). But the reality is that the entire place is like lord of the flies most of the time. The director has done an amazing thing with this creche, and the nannies and other staff do a fantastic job keeping everyone fed, and I only see a handful without pants on every day, and those are usually sent right back inside to go grab what they forgot! The kids have food, clothing, a bed to sleep on, and a safe home behind a huge heavy metal gate that is protected out in the country. But its not ideal in the least. There’s less than 10 nannies at once for all the kids, and the kids are largely on their own to entertain themselves from ages 3-18+ they roam and run wherever. Bits and pieces of garbage and castoffs like empty toothpaste tubes and dry pen casings, contact lens containers and broken balloon shreds become playthings. Toys they do have are quickly played with and destroyed from so many hands, playing and fighting over, or hoarded or simply tossed off a balcony to the waiting mouths of the goats! There are kid-brawls over stolen sidewalk chalk, and meltdowns constantly for unknown causes. I’ve pulled everything from stickers to balloon fragments to shredded, sharp plastic forks out of little mouths. They look at me like i’m crazy – because the truth is – in their world…

I AM crazy. I’m the weird one. I’m the one that packs in wipes by the costco load and wipes their hands and faces (which they love because it cools them down, so in a matter of seconds its a frenzied “mama w!” Mama w! Lo-rah! Lo-rah! Meh sa! meh sa!” and 43 hands thrust in my face asking for wipes). I don’t fill up random plastic cups and old bottles from the big water tank in the yard (like they do), instead I bring silly blue bottles with stickers on them and lids, and when its gone, I don’t throw the bottle in the yard, (like they think I should) I put it in the “trash” bag in my backpack. I’m crazy because I walk into the big house patting kids on the head saying “bonjou!” and “bonswa!” and greeting them all by name with a smile each morning, instead of handwashing mango stained tshirts and black-bean-smeared onesies and doling out rice and beans. I’m crazy because I come and I love, simple as that, coming into a dark space (like literally, dark, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a light on!) and brightening it with laughter and giggles, telling girls they are “bél” (beautiful) and boys they are “tré byen” (very sweet) and “bon travay” (good job!). I’m crazy because I laugh about the goats eating blocks and plastic rings in the yard, and scream at bees and tell the dogs and goats “bonjou” every morning as well. (I’m pretty sure the dog got its first petting of its life by Kris the other day…)

  

Their world is normal, and me in it is just plain old weird to them – albeit refreshing and fun and crazy and snack-filled and spoiled – but I’m the backwards odd-man-out in this world, and quite honestly I’m starting to think that might be okay sometimes. Its not ideal, but they are safer than they would be elsewhere in this city, they have people looking out for them, they get food and water, they have “zanmi” (friends) by their sides every day, even if they steal handfuls of rice off your plate when you’re not looking and scribble all over your cherished coloring page and chuck your toothpaste tube off the balcony where it gets munched by a “ti kabrit” (baby goat). It isn’t MY home, but it is theirs for now, until they get to go home to their waiting families who have moved heaven and earth to finally hold them stateside.

    

Today we stood in his world, in the sweaty, fly-swarmed first floor, tiled hallway and gave him hugs goodbye – just for the day. And as he wrapped his arms around my neck I snuffled my nose into his neck and said softly “Na ‘we demen” (see you tomorrow), “I love you”, to which he softly replied “Eye luhv zhu”. As i heart those words for the first time, my mama’s eyes glazed over in quiet tears and I handed him over to daddy to get hugs and “eye luhv zhu’s” from his daddy. I thanked God yet again for bringing this little one to our family, and for bringing us to this moment. Even in a different world, where everyday we are the pink zebra on display, we are happy to share his normal, to breathe this thick air, to play, to laugh and giggle, to hold sweaty hands and wipe first-time strawberry milk mustaches off little brown lips, to document first words, silly moments, and trace fingertips with neon pens, draw man-eating fish and lick nutella off fingers…because we know that he is ours. Forever.

  
Until tomorrow…

Laura

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