It's been almost a month now since our family headed to Houston one evening in my folks' suburban. We ate at an amazing Haitian restaurant and then landed deep in the Nigerian section of town, where apparently at least that night there were a lot of police congregating and a bunch of little muslim children preaching into microphones at a gas station. Of course we were only there because we had googled "African market near me." "Fòk nou gentan pase nan yon store African." Maybe someday we will find the perfect African store that sells all the Haitian produce plus all the very important hair products, but that night we only really found some shea butter and lalo, a Haitian green, and someone said later it didn't really even taste like home.
But our real purpose for the Houston trip was something very special, we had come to pick up Zèzè's parents and sister from the airport.
Dad in law unfortunately had another stroke a few weeks before they came, so he has been in the hospital almost ever since. He is in inpatient rehab right now. I'm so very thankful for all the nurses and the therapist that helps him walk and seems like she doesn't care too much about all the communication issues or calling me to help or using the hospital's translating system. She told me she wished she had fifty more patients like him. And when I told my dad in law that he smiled and replied with his famous line, "Tell her that love her more than she loves me." I'm thankful for all the people that have come and visited him and the youth who has sang there twice already and for our deacon's wives who only last night insisted on getting around freezer meals for us.
The first week he was in the hospital, I was checking the mailbox a bit obsessively for a letter I needed from Medicaid. And one day under the magic medicaid letter, I found an even more magical letter. Everyone knows that if you get a letter from USCIS that is an amazing occurrence. But this letter said that Zèzè's green card had been approved without even an interview. Which is nothing short of a miracle because we only sent in the paperwork in January.
So if you know anything about immigration paperwork work, you will realize that God has apparently given our family a golden ticket in that area. Zèzè has not quite been in USA for a full year, and now we have four of his siblings plus his parents here too under the Biden Humanitarian Parole Program. We are thankful for our golden ticket and we do not take it for granted.
But the day they flew to USA, I saw a picture of my mom in law saying goodbye to her best friend at the airport, and my heart felt so very heavy. Everyone was talking about our cousin that had been living with folks in law. He's a young teenage boy who lost his mom several years ago and they said he cried and wouldn't eat for a week before they left. One of my friends said, "I can't believe that we've come to the point that this seems like the best option."
We know that realistically it is the best option. Everyone that can find a sponsor for the Biden program has applied. They're all waiting in Haiti for the magic email that says they're approved to travel. I see memes about it all the time. But I asked the youth kids the other night how they actually felt when they got that email. They said they couldn't really believe it at first. It didn't seem real. They said when the plane actually took off at Port au Prince it was dead silent in there. No one was cheering. Because the city the rest of the world calls the kidnapping capital, the city deemed too dangerous to set foot inside, the country people look down on as poverty stricken and miserable, that place is home. It's where their mamas are. Their grandmas and aunties and all the other ladies that helped raise them are there. It's where they picked mangoes and herded goats and flew kites as little kids. It's where you can always find slushy coke and the best rice and beans and fried chicken in the whole world on any street corner. It's where you can sit outside in a plastic lawn chair in the evening and catch and island breeze and there will always be music playing somewhere. It's the home of the world's loudest roosters. Actually the people are pretty loud too and love to give advice. And they sure do know how to put on parties and weddings where everyone feels special.
So... who wouldn't be sad to get on a plane and leave that all behind?
Now that Zèzè has his green card, we are free to travel in and out of the USA. But these people under the Biden program cannot leave USA because they have a good possibility of being denied entry if they want to come back. And there is no real process outlined so far about how they could become permenantly legal unless they have a close family member that is a US citizen to sponsor them. We're just hoping something will open up soon.
I was telling my sister the other day how I wished everyone in the family could get that magic green card that gives you a more settled feeling and the freedom to travel. I said, "I don't want you all to be prisoners in Haiti, but I don't want you to be prisoners in USA either."
She shrugged her shoulders and laughed. That week we had been hearing how bad things were in Bon Repo and how some of the Cazeau people had to leave their homes. My friend who's renting what I still think of as my Haiti house said that they had starting coming to get her for work in an armored vehicle. She's a helicopter nurse. "I would rather be a prisoner in USA than in Haiti," said my sister. It truly is the best option.
You always hear the cute little quotes like, "To explore new oceans you have to be willing lose sight of the shore.... Growth happens outside of your comfort zone... Explore new horizons..." And all those quotes fail to mention that the place we grew up and the people who know us inside and out are important too. It's painful to sail away from the shore, or to fly away from a little Caribbean island that has such a bad reputation but that made you into who you are.
New opportunities are great. Learning new skills and building new relationships is rewarding. But being a stranger is lonely. Not being able to communicate makes you feel like you're just a child again... Dependent on everyone. There are times you long for just one day where everything is familiar again.
Tomorrow our church has designated a day of prayer for Haiti. We hear all the stories and even just the prices of food now are about enough to make anyone lose hope. People who used to do OK are losing their businesses and the ways they used to make money don't work anymore. The people who used to already be poor are being crushed. So say lots of prayers for the ones left behind. Pray that in all of this they will not feel abandoned. Pray for little miracles that they can share in church on Sunday that make everyone feel like there is hope.
And after you pray for the ones left behind, pray for the ones on the plane that day out of Port au Prince. The flights are booked out every day, so there are a lot of them. Pray that people wherever they are headed will be kind and understanding and help them start over. Pray for the many families who are separated, the dads working in Brazil or Chili to get their families out of Haiti and be reunited again. Pray for the people who are choosing the long walks and bus rides thru the central American countries and up through Mexico to plead their cause at the USA border. And even the ones who are in Dominican Republic... Just half an island away. They face a lot of racism and discrimination and most aren't actually legal to find jobs over there.
Those crazy gangsters and most of all the people in power that they answer too are trying to wreck a lot of people's lives. But we know in every situation, there is hope. And I'm proud of all the Haitians I know who are such great examples to me of courage and perseverence.
I've never posted news links on here before. But I've been wanting to share these.
Most of the news people have a love affair with Cite Soleil, a slum on the coast of Port au Prince. This YouTube channel is focused on that. I will tell you the white guy is a little much. He oozes white privelege a lot. But I LOVE the Haitian guide!!! It's like being back in those streets with my husband or one of his friends.
This podcast has a lovely name. In fact, I'm stealing it for this post title. They talk about City Soleil too but they also talk about Titanyen, where our minister in Blanchard is from and also the big CAM base that got taken over by the gangsters.
This last one is for if you're interested in history, especially if you've ever been a teacher. It sounds like a young teenage boy in about 8th grade, which warms my heart. He taught me a lot about the history of my favorite Caribbean island.
Prays that someday we can all return to the Haiti we know.