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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Unpacking Haiti, One Week Later

For the first week back, things were weird. And I wrote this and never published it. And now I'm feeling a bit more settled into my normal life, so I thought I'd share.

The shock I've been experiencing isn't traumatic, or upsetting. It doesn't make me freeze up, or have flashbacks or anything like that. I'm eating well and sleeping well, and I'm feeling really great.

In fact, a few coworkers who have not gone to Haiti said "you all come back with the same glow about you."

And we definitely do. I am nothing but happy that I went to Milot and met the people I met and did the work I did.

The shock part is subtle and cultural and environmental. I want to stress how it's not difficult to deal with, only that it's part of me now that layers a new dimension onto otherwise normal situations.

I was only gone for one week. And here only one week really passed. But for me, time in Haiti was all relative. An hour could feel like a day, or an afternoon like ten minutes. I felt like I was in Haiti for much longer than I was because so many things happened in such a short time frame. I went through so many emotions and discoveries in one week that it can't have possibly only been seven days.

Now I find myself thrown back into schedules of rehearsals and dates and plans, and people are referencing things we did together only two weeks ago, and I can't believe when I'm caught up in it all, that only last week all the details of my reality were vastly different.

I was not there long enough to forget how to drive a car, or what pizza tasted like. But I also wasn't there long enough to process all the things I saw and did and felt. So coming back is a strange mix of feeling sometimes like I will never be the same, and then thinking maybe nothing's changed after all. I feel like I was plopped in and out of an alternate reality. Since nothing here is different, it's hard to imagine that I went at all sometimes. And the lines are blurred even more when I'm sleeping.

Every night since returning (and even when I nap)  I dream that when I wake up I will put on my scrubs and spray DEET on my neck and fill my water bottle from the filter and walk to the hospital. Without fail, in my dreams I am writing out to do lists, and I remember which ones need a new IV line today, and which ones have a wound dressing due. In my dreams I am eating a grapefruit with Colleen W. and we are talking about the orphans.

Then I wake up and I'm in my cozy room under my white and purple quilt, and the contrast is startling. But even more startling is the realization that although the dream wasn't real the people and places in the dream are very real. As I sing at karaoke night or read the news on my itouch on the bus they are out there somewhere else in a land of palm trees and poverty. But "somewhere else," might as well be a dreamland because even if I do get to go back to Haiti, most of those particular  people will have moved on by then. I may never see them again anyway.

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