Haiti: Day 13

Written on July 12, 2018

No conversations are started amongst our team this morning. People wake up, finish packing, and load the bus – in silence.

Silence during Adam’s prayer for our travels.

Silence during the bus ride to the airport.

Silence as boarding passes are printed.

Silence as bags are weighed and checked.

I was somewhat holding my breath during all of  these processes. I had a little bit of faith that we’d be leaving without interruption today, but I more felt like I shouldn’t get my hopes up again. I don’t feel relief yet as we get to the security line. We got to the airport appropriately early for our flight that departs around 10am, but the security line doesn’t open until 8am. There’s already a decent crowd gathering by the time we’re standing in it at 7:30am.

I leave the line at one point to use the restroom.  The walls and floors in the restroom are concrete. There are no mirrors over the sinks. There are “doors” on the stalls, but they don’t securely shut. There’s no toilet paper, paper towels, or soap. As I use the restroom, I remember that Martha had me pack some of my own toilet paper in my backpack just in case we ran into a situation like this. I’m thankful for that now.

In time, we make it through the securtity line. Still haven’t taken my first true breath of the morning. We get to our gate and designated waiting area. There are two small breakfast stands on an upstairs balcony type of space near our gate. There are options for coffee and breakfast sandwiches. I’m wary to order anything too unfamiliar, so I decide upon a bagel and a bottled water.

I’m in disbelief to be on a plane, once seated. I keep waiting for the aircraft to spontaneously combust or for the captain to come over the intercom and announce that this isn’t a real plane or that we have to make an emergency unload for a number of reasons.

I sit between a girl, leaning against the window, who seems to be treaveling alone and a guy, next to the aisle, who is obviously traveling with about half of the people on this flight. Those people, from what my eavesdropping can gather, are all part of a mission group as well, and were also “stuck” in Haiti a few extra days. As I continue to listen, I hear them commenting on the news reports from their hometown. They feel just as negatively about what they’ve seen or read as we do, and that makes me feel less guilty for my bad emotions.

Sitting in between two people you don’t know isn’t exactly the funnest way to travel. Ultimately, I’m just thankful to be in the air. The middle seat is just not a comfortable seat to be in, ever. It’s hard to happily exist in this spot. There’s not a good place to rest my head or arms. It’s a good thing I’m too anxious to try to sleep anyways.

My eyes get foggy walking through the jet bridge in Miami, and I suddenly have the urge to run. I didn’t realize how anticipant I’d been to get back on familiar ground.

We have about two and a half hours to get through immigration and customs, so I figure we’ll have more than enough time to find lunch before our connecting flight to Indianapolis.

Unfortunately, after going to the bathroom and walking onward, we see that there must be at least a thousand people in the immigration line. It takes 80 minutes to get through it. We have to re-go through security because of the largeness of Miami’s airport and because we came from another country. We are practically running to get to our gate in time. Food gets dropped from the priority list.

We make it to our gate just in time to hear the announcement over the speaker that our departure time has been pushed back roughly thirty minutes due to sighting of lighting near the runway. We’re relieved, so that we can find some food, but also now more on edge because we just want to be home so badly waiting another thirty minutes seems unbearable.

Martha and I split a small pizza from Pizza Hut. I dig a few makeup products from my baggage and slip off to the restroom to dazzle myself up a bit because I know some people will be waiting for us when we land in Indianapolis.

I don’t remember getting on the plane bound for Indy. I may have been experiencing shock. I couldn’t fathom finally being on our last leg of this venture. I do remember taking my first unhindered breath of the day sometime during the flight, and I think I just stared out the window the rest of the time.

I’m one of those rule-breakers who never turns my phone on airplane mode while flying, and every now and then I’ll have magical service while in the air. Today was one of those magical times. I received a text from my father-in-law warning that two news stations were waiting outside our terminal as we’d be getting off the plane. This sent me spiraling. I did not want a big scene at the airport. I do not want big scenes ever. I’d asked my own mother and husband to specifically not be at the airport when we arrived, in hopes of avoiding my own emotional response to returning home.

Landing was an intense ordeal. If I came close to crying at all, it was when the fasten seatbelts sign went off and we could officially get off the plane. Martha certainly didn’t hold it together.

We walk all the way through the terminal before recognizing some faces and seeing the news crews waiting to greet us. I hate to say that the first thing I remember seeing back in Indiana was the cameraman turning his camera on and arranging it to properly view us. I wish I could’ve been watching nearly anything else. Martha and I go in for a group hug from Randy. I think he’s glad to be holding the two of us. I’m trying to ignore the news people only feet from us. Someone asks if we’d like to interview, and we decline.

I’ve always been a person stuck in my head, as I remained in Haiti, and now that I’m back, it already feels that I’m more inward than ever. I can’t see two feet in front of me. I stare, unfocused on anything, out a window by myself on the bus ride back to Seymour. Driving past the tall buildings in Indianapolis is surreal. It’d only been two weeks since I’ve last seen these same buildings, but it might as well have been a lifetime. Culture shock. It’s hard to believe Indianapolis and Port-Au-Prince are two cities on the same planet.

Ethan and his brother Aaron are waiting for us on the back porch when we get home. I don’t eventfully jump into Ethan’s arms or burst into tears at the sight of him. We just approach each other with smiles and calmly embrace. I’m thankful for our consistency and his ability to understand what I need from him.

The five of us sit on the patio chairs outside and attempt to catch up, but nothing that any of us have done in the last two weeks has anything in common, so it’s hard to converse. We compensate for the silence by coming up with a dinner plan. We head to Chili’s: one of Seymour’s only sit-down restaurants. The guys do put in a good effort to ask us question about the trip and what we learned. It’s just that we’ve only been back in the country for a few hours and it’s impossible to lay out the facts of what we experienced right here in a corner booth at Chili’s. I don’t know how to be in this restaurant. As relieved as I am to be home, Seymour seems bland and empty, and I feel unsatisfied. It’s strange to me how quickly I changed back into short-shorts and a tank top and out of my long skirt and shoulder covering shirt. It’s odd that I’m eating a plate full of cuisine I picked precisely for myself rather than accepting a platter of miscellaneous food that was available to the people cooking for me. I think surely this can’t be how I’m supposed to feel after a mission trip. I desperately have the need to understand the purpose of what the past thirteen days meant in accordance with my life.

But I believe the process of understanding what happened has only just begun.

Liv – Authentically

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