Tim and I have been in Haiti nearly five years, yet today we are witness to something that ranks in the top five (top three?) events on the sadness scale.
It may surprise some of you, especially with so much poverty, corruption, and death, but my heart is breaking as I type this.
You see, one of our technicians is leaving to start a new life in Chile. Most people might think this is a good thing – to get out of Haiti. Those with wanderlust might even be a bit jealous. But we know that K doesn’t want to go. We know that he is scared to go. If I had a dollar for every time he came to the house just so we could sit and talk about the possibility of him going, and then the reality of him going, I could buy a ticket and go with him.
You see, K’s family decided for him that he needs to go. Normally, the oldest son would bear the responsibility of providing support to the family, but this family knows that the oldest son doesn’t have a good track record. If he went, they would likely never hear from him again.
K is a family man. As is expected in the culture, the money he earns at work benefits everyone in his family. If he is lucky enough to find a decent job in Chili, he is honorable and trustworthy enough to send money back to family in Haiti.
His leaving has been a lengthy process. I can no longer remember when he first mentioned the possibility of going, but it’s probably been close to a year. The passport took a while to secure, and when it arrived, it had a typo. Fixing it cost more time and money. Truth-be-told, I relished every obstacle because it meant him staying here longer, but his family accused him of dragging his feet and wasting valuable resources. He was kicked out of his house for a while until everything was resolved.
Eventually, everything was resolved, and now travel day is here. When this blog posts online, Tim and I will be driving him to Port-au-Prince, along with the rest of our staff.
Yes, I’m sad that K is leaving because we are losing a kind, conscientious, hard-working employee. More than that, I’m sad because I know that he doesn’t want to go. I’m sad because he is scared. I’m sad because I know that he will miss his nephew, who he treats as a son, like crazy. I’m sad that his family put him in such an undesirable position. I’m sad because he has no choice. Better said, he has no good choice. He can choose to do what his family wants or he can do what he wants. Either way, he winds up separated from his family – by distance if he chooses to put family first, or he will be ostracized for putting his own desires first. I’m sad because I know that K will have to learn some very hard life lessons as he navigates a new world. I’m sad because the chances of us ever seeing him again are slim to none.
I’m sad because so many people here think that other countries are the promised land. We can explain all day long about unemployment rates and cost of living indexes in other countries, but they mean nothing. From what we’ve heard, jobs in Chile are scarce, especially for 24-year old men who don’t speak Spanish and have no college degree.
(People won’t try a new fertilizer on their crops because the risk is too great, but they’ll spend thousands of dollars to send someone off to another country. Desperation makes people do funny things.)
I’m sad because we are seeing our other technicians say goodbye to a friend… again. We went through this last year when Jucado emigrated to Brooklyn, though that goodbye was a lot more celebratory.
I’m sad because this country seems to be OK with superficial relationships. In reality, I know it’s a survival technique. After all, goodbyes are inevitable and frequent. Why would you want to get close to someone who is just going to leave? We can handle the pain of separation from time to time, but when separation happens as often as it does here – either by travel or death – you have to find a way to cope in order to survive.
I realize that this post is kind of a downer. Normally, I would be excited for someone who gets to try something new, but this goodbye is tougher than usual because the circumstances surrounding it are tough.
In a few hours, Tim and I will accompany K to the ticket counter at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, help him get checked in, and go as far as we can with him. We will hug goodbye one last time before returning to our truck for what I suspect will be a very quiet ride home with the rest of our staff.
We know that as much as we love K, God loves him even more. Just this past Monday, K and I sat in the living room discussing the various challenges and obstacles that life had brought and will continue to bring. We spent some time reading Ephesians 6:10-18 together. After all, it’s hard to do battle without the proper equipment. Thankfully, we have the instructions and tools, even in our sadness and uncertainty.
Those of you who believe in the power of prayer, please join us in praying for this young man. He’s going to need it.