Wednesday, February 15 – Will
February 12, 2012
It’s 3:33am and I’m awake before my preemptive alarm has gone off. I’m too excited for this trip to rest. I had been up until 2:30am making sure that my laundry for the trip got into the dryer. After talking to Delores, Tony’s mother, I get up and start folding my laundry and packing for the trip. It’s a ritual of mine…packing for a trip right before I leave. I learned in college that I work well under pressure and last minute packing is one way I get to relive the old glory days. Unfortunately, I’ve never done this while recovering from the flu before and when loading things into Delores’ car, I realized I left my passport on my bed. Lucky for me, we hadn’t left yet or it would’ve been a rough morning.
Once at the airport, I ask myself a series of questions about how the trip was going to pan out. Would my recovery hinder my experience? Would I get along with the New York crew that was working with us? How will I survive in Haiti without knowing French? Would I still be able to bond with the Haitians? Whatever questions were formulating in my mind at the time were sidelined by the coverage of Whitney Houston’s death. I found out moments before it was released by CNN yesterday. I forced myself to forget about it, but since CNN is the default at airports, I had to accept the fact that it was real. Whitney Houston, also known as “The Voice,” was no longer with us. Her influence and craft is unmatched, and as a singer, the loss had the same effect on me as the passing of Michael Jackson had on entertainers. I spent the layover times in Minneapolis and Chicago singing her songs as my tribute to her memory.
After arriving in Miami, I had to refocus on the mission at hand. In less than an hour, I was about to land in the first Black nation. As a young African Americanist, there is a sense of pride regarding the colonial victories of Haiti. Haitians gave American slaves hope for freedom and ignited the passion to do just that. Before boarding the plane to Haiti, I made three phone calls. The first was to one of my friends from Macalester who’s Haitian-American. We talked about where I would be and if we could arrange for me to visit his family. The second call was to my best friend Kyera. We talked about how excited, yet jealous she was of me while flexing her maternal muscle by advising me what was safe to eat or drink. The last call I made was to my sister-in-law. I let her know where I was going, why and how long I was going to be there. After repeating the information, she told me I had mail and that she would send it to me. She inquired if I’d be home for the summer and I explained to her my plans for the summer. The call dropped and I sent her a text to say that I loved her and to send my love to the rest of the family. I have to be very cautious about how I give information to my family about my travels. I’m the only person in my family that has traveled abroad and they have been fearful of my travels since my injury during a deployment to Iraq in 2009. It seems best to alert them of my movement(s) abroad when I’m leaving, instead of weeks ahead of time, to avoid the anxiety of it all.
Getting through the airport was a madhouse. There were people everywhere trying to help carry my bags to the parking lot. Luckily, I ran into Tony while he was getting a second Haitian cell phone and we rode to our housing set up together. The ride there was very mind blowing. It felt as though I was driving through favelas in Brasil as they are portrayed in the movie, City of God. I was that I could have spent the rest of the day driving around the city. We arrive just before dinner with enough time to be introduced to rest of the Haitian Initiative crew and drop my bags on the bed. I spend dinner and about an hour after to fellowship with the crew and figure out what everyone’s role is going to be. The last few hours that I’m awake in Haiti, I lay in bed thinking about all I’ll do and see here over the next week with Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits album playing on my iPod.