May 17, 2010

May 17, 2010 - Port au Prince, Ayiti - Sweat

A week in Port au Prince, filled with mystery and some weight. It's hard not to be affected by the energy of the place. Haitians consider Port au Prince a "hot" place, whereas my home in Kay Jakmel is a "cold" place. This is not about thermometers.

Hot is aggressive, dominant, loud, active. The sounds of traffic and construction, the buzz of people trying their best to rebuild, the thousand heavy thoughts stuck to every crushed cement block--these make the place hot.

I spend the week with friends driving me around the hills and traffic-stopped roads, to women's organizations now operating out of tents or temporary buildings or alternate locations. I go there to humbly introduce myself and hear about their work. I listen all week, mostly to things not said. The unspoken and the energy of things are what are often most important to people here.

There is so much energy in Port au Prince, it fills you and heats you up, too.

The energy of the women's organization leaders is skeptical--the kind of heavy skepticism that people sometimes put in front of hope, to protect themselves from disappointment.

The energy of the priest is peaceful and kind, as he sits with grey-black hair and kind smile in a plain room full of spirits. Sometimes he just looks at me and laughs, not saying anything.

The energy of the party above Port au Prince, in a house full of artists and musicians, is alive--at least while the drums are playing and the songs begin.

The priest gives the best advice, in the end: "Do not separate yourself. LIVE. To understand people and function at a higher level of compassion, you have to sweat. Don't be afraid to make mistakes--you have to sweat! Jesus did this--you come from a culture that knows that. Buddha also did this. You must sweat! You will make mistakes, but none so serious that they will take you off the path of what you are supposed to do. Sweat! Do you hear me? Sweat!"

Not separating myself is uncomfortable. It means people laugh at my Kreyol because I am not only speaking to friendly people. It means people reject me sometimes. It means they tell me painful stories about the neighbor they don't know how to help--the one who lost his wife, his 3 kids, his house--the one who doesn't know how to go on. It means I have to open myself up and trust boys every so often; after all, there are some cute ones. It means I have to engage, especially when I want to be alone.

That--say all the various denominations of holy people I know here--that is what I am meant to learn here. I needed a hot place to learn how to sweat. And then I can do what I came here for.

Dear friends: Please send cold water and a fan when you are able.

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