Monday, June 11th, 2012...7:46 am

Our First Day in Haiti

When looking back on my first day in Haiti, I am honestly at a loss for words. Today has been nothing like I have ever experiences and I’m sure I can speak for the majority our group on that statement. For all we saw and heard on our first day, I’m not certain were in for a truly powerful and emotionally-packed week.

It became clear to me early on that every scene and every image I was to encounter would be significant – in beauty and in destruction. It was an iconic start to our day when we were welcomed to the Port au Prince Airport by a band, perhaps hired by the airport or the government to impart a good impression to tourist before entering the crammed and hectic airport scene unfolding inside.

My first thought was how this airport must have looked during the earthquakes initial aftermath. We hasn’t seen anything. Our local guide Lionel has a huge personality, eager to educate us on the complex history of his native homeland. Jderhy, the JDC  representative in Haiti is helping us along the way in our journey. Riding in our van across this capital city, there’s an overbearing sense of culture shock; feeling as though this all may be a figment of my imagination or a scene in a movie about African blood diamonds or some obscure documentary  I may have come across while flipping channels on the TV. The sight of UN vehicles casually riding past impoverished neighborhoods is somewhat disturbing, conjuring up questions from the group to Lionel about government corruption and drug wars.

We encounter a torn nation, saddled with serious challenges but at the same time seemingly hopefully to overcome them and become stronger. We visit a clinic that is run by JDC’s partner in Haiti, Afya. There people paralyzed or severely injured by destruction are finding new ways to continue living in hope with state of the art prosthetics and intensive rehabilitation. Seeing the work some of these organization do for people who would otherwise be ignored is nothing short of inspirational.

And there’s a deep respect found when driving through the streets of Port Au Prince. The entrepreneurial spirit of every single Haitian at the side of the road, selling shoes or electronics or artwork to get by says something profound about these people.

At the end of the day we pass the government palace. The image of it in ruins post earth quake epitomizes the image of a paralyzed government crumbling down the beautiful fortress that is their very country. Though, the buck doesn’t stop at the states failures alone, there is a plethora of tangled history in many aspects of the society as well.

But, for all there is to say about the failures and challenges, I cannot ignore the overwhelming feeling of opportunity for the Haitian people. Through the next few days, I pray I can help build on those feelings and help envision a better future for some of these incredibly brave and fascinating people.

– Josh

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