All Roads Seem to Lead to Haiti

Rubble in Leogane

I knew as soon as I stepped out of the airport into the wave of appalling heat combined with the familiar stench of burning trash that I wasn’t going to be able to get Haiti out of my system on this trip. That was my goal – to visit for a short time, do a bit of volunteering with All Hands (the organisation I’ve worked with here on two other occasions) and hopefully put Haiti behind me and look forward to all of the amazing places I want to visit in Africa.

But it’s had the opposite effect. Not only have I been completely sucked back into the wonders of Haiti, I can also feel myself slowly being sucked back into chasing disasters around. I was chatting with the communications guy for All Hands and he mentioned they’d be hiring a communications/blogging type to liaise with him when he heads back to the US and suggested I consider it. I was immediately torn, even though I know how much I love being in Rwanda. Then I checked to see about volunteering with them in Japan, but it looks like there’s a huge waiting list which is sort of a relief because I’m sure I’d be making plans to go.

It’s slightly disconcerting because I really feel like I want to stay in one place and have a semi ‘normal’ existence… at least for a few more months! Rwanda doesn’t speak to me in quite the same way as Haiti, but I do love it a lot and it’s a lot more feasible a place to think about living in the long term. This project in Haiti should be coming to a close at the end of the year. So, while I’m almost 100% that I’ll head back to Rwanda and have a nice, quiet-ish life there for the next little while, it has thrown some familiar questions back in my face about what I really want. I wish I could be in about three places at once! Is that so much to ask?

But back to reality. I’m in Leogane and have been sledge hammering and shoveling rubble for the past couple of days. It feels so good to be physically active again after 3 weeks of eating crap in the UK and NYC and I’m loving the uncomfortable heat and sweat. There’s something so satisfying about being filthy and completely exhausted after a day of work and I love it.

I’m also making some pretty good leaps in my attempt to learn French. I’ve picked up the Michel Thomas tapes and they’re actually pretty amazing. Plus I have a lot of local Haitian friends who are here from Gonaives (where I volunteered in 2008/09) and plenty of new friends who are keep to chat. I find the French spoken here pretty easy to understand so here’s hoping I can improve a bit while I’m here.

And above all else, it’s been great to see some old friends. My Haitian friend Djemson is now working for All Hands in a fairly senior role which is so good to see. He’s a great guy and this paying role is something he deserves and he’s doing a great job. Some of my other friends are here as volunteers and it’s been really cool to see them taking on leadership roles and to see how much they’ve matured. Then there’s the occasional international volunteer kicking around who I’ve been lucky to get to catch up with.

So I’m on day two and it’s been just as good as I remembered it. I am, however, still very much looking forward to getting back ‘home’ to Rwanda. I’ve missed my friends there and I think I even miss the routine of life there. I like it and while I’m having a great time here, I suspect that by the end of this 6.5 week trip, I’ll be anxious to get back to Kigali. I’m already looking forward to my own bed… especially since my current bed is a super thin mattress on a piece of plywood with (gasp!) no pillow!

Ok time for bed. Every single bone in my body is screaming at me.

About Kirsty