Right now everything is packed. Well, everything but my suitcases. Otherwise, all my “stuff” for lack of a more apt description is en route to Haiti, and I will follow suite 6am, October 28th. Every day, almost without fail, someone asks me if I’m ready, if I’m nervous. The respective answers are yes and no. I’ve been ready since I learned my onward assignment would be Haiti in March 2009, roughly one year before the earthquake and 18 months before the now-present cholera outbreaks.
At the time, I was serving in Eritrea, an east African country where you can walk the streets at night with a camera in one hand and a wallet in the other, and have little fear of being robbed. It’s also a country where denial prevails, similar to the scene in Paranornal Actvity 2 where a family experiences clear signs of a demonic presence in their house, but rally forth with the creed “just dont talk about it.”
One of my primary duties was to find information on prisoners of religious conscious. in other words, people arrested for worshiping the wrong God. This was an admittedly difficult task given the aforementioned just don’t talk about it atmosphere in the country. Nonetheless, within a year, I had met dozens of people who had either been arrested or harassed based on their religious beliefs. Nearly everyone knew someone who had suffered a similar fate, if not for religion then under another pretense: evading military service, suspected espionage, attempting to illegally flee the country, suspected of being a traitor to the country, the list continues.
It’s not the type of work you can adequately prepare yourself for beforehand. If someone had asked me if I was ready for Eritrea before embarking on that first assignment, I might have been the mirror image of an eager student in class, hand waving wildly in the air and a cheesy smile on my face. “YES! I’m ready!” I’d probably blurt out, only to slowly retract said hand over time and eventually slump in my chair after realizing I was in over my head.
Maybe Haiti will be the same. Maybe I am starting out with my hand waving proudly in the air, waiting to be called upon to give the right answer, to do something incredible. Maybe I am already over my head and just don’t know it yet. Given the choices, I prefer to be that eager student, to leap into the vastly changing dynamics of Haiti and embrace them. In those regards, Eritrea prepared me for Haiti, to embrace everything around me in search of answers, and to boldly be in over my head.
So, am I ready for Haiti? No… and, absurdly, yes.