By Hal Eisenberg
February 21, 2014
I awoke prior to sunrise this morning with an excitement that was two fold. Almost as if I have split personality, the town bell symbolized it was time to begin our long journey home, but my enthusiasm wanted me to run up the hill to the school that impacted my life so deeply just a day earlier. I wanted a taste of Paradis Des Indianes one more time, as I knew I would be back, but did not know how long it would take. Talk about confusion. Wednesday I wanted to be home so bad. Yesterday changed my life and today I have apprehension about leaving here. I feel like a transformation of my soul has taken place. I knew I had to plunge forward, return to the states in order to do the work I do best, and build our global vision from that vantage point, but for some strange reason, I feel like I am leaving a piece of my altered heart behind. Patricia at From Here to Haiti is such a dear soul. She stated that when her husband left on Wednesday she felt her heart break, but now her heart was breaking even more because Kishner and I were leaving as well. Patricia stayed behind to finish business and was confident she would get on the plane in Jeremie. We would reconnect in the capital to take Delta back together. I felt a bit guilty leaving her in Les Abricots, but I knew she was in good hands and safe. She is tremendously admired wherever she goes in Haiti and seems to be in high demand. She is living her passion and doing incredible work. If Windows of Opportunity was not my passion, I would go work for her! As we drove back to the school at approximately 7am, I had a knot in my stomach with my conflicted feelings. I confuse myself sometimes with the way I over-analyze everything – some say it is my downfall as a Virgo. I think I am just caught up in the life changing moments the universe gifted me with yesterday. Either that, or I am just insane. Lol. Truth is when things seem right, I question if they are to good to be true. All the puzzle pieces are laid out in front of me and it is my job to figure out how to put them together. I know I am leaving here with so many answers in my heart but with a puzzle that still needs to be completed. We spent the morning at Paradis. Kishner went to film the students, and I spent some time with the interns learning more about the multiple schools throughout the mountains. I worked with one class that was not scheduled and saw a moment of bullying as one kid was picking on another kid in line. Well, you know me! All I could see was a teachable empowering moment and how my sticks n’ stones curriculum can be implemented here. I also learned they are in need of HIV education. One of the interns Marie was telling me that I must come to the school in the mountains that has 150 kids and how none of them even have shoes to wear. She feels they will really respond to my leadership approach. Another intern Nicholas was showing me how he uses donated computer parts to piece together a workable computer to teach the kids how to spell, speak Creole, and English. He showed me one computer that was pieces of a laptop wired to pieces of a monitor and console. He was quite resourceful and I was very impressed. He stated the Internet was horribly slow there and difficult to get on. I wish I could bring them hi speed Internet so I could communicate more easily with the school and the students. Part of me wondered if I would ever see them again but part of me knows I obviously will. Things like this do not happen by accident and the impact we had must be followed up on. I could not help but think of some of the potential sponsors I reached out to who would not give us support or Haiti support based on their own stereotypes, and wondered if they would have a change of heart seeing what goes on here and the impact we have already had. I hate to sound like a broken record, but we are really onto something big here at Windows of Opportunity. Locally and globally – we are all one and connected. I truly wish I had the support of some of those who turned their back on me and did not believe in me, and I hope to attract new sponsors and funders who support our vision and work… “Stay in the moment, Hal,” I said to myself and focused on soaking it all in. There was discussion of me returning in April and if funding allows it I will be there, but there is a part of me that knows the revamping of Windows of Opportunity is going to face severe challenges when I return. I am not sure how to fit Haiti in to the bigger picture yet, but I know it fits somehow. However, Windows of Opportunity needs my leadership at the helm and fully engaged, fully focused, and steering the ship with no distractions. If I choose this, there will be sacrifices and no time for much else, and I know this to be extremely true with all my heart. There is a twinge in my soul with that reality, but despite the changes I must accept, I would love to squeeze in a return venture here for a few days. I walked around the school grounds one last time, talked to more kids, and finished up my conversations with the staff. I promise to work on my French before I come back. Until the universe let’s us meet again… and do not forget you are welcome to NYC anytime. As we drove away, I insanely felt the same feeling I felt Wednesday. Homesick. However, this time I knew it was not for the United States. I fell in love with Haiti. The rest of the day is hard to explain and my conflicted thoughts consumed me and what I was able to truly take in. The journey back to the capital was treacherous and long. We piled back in a truck with the scientists that we met, and the driver was hallucinating that he was in the Indianapolis 500. Now that may sound great to someone who is in a rush to get out of a country but if you can picture this: the bumpy roads, the twists and turns through the mountains, no guard rails, long drops off the mountain side that look like something out of The Fast and Furious before the car explodes… well, then it become a bit less exciting. Not to mention, here I am an American who feels completely safe with Kishner, who is from Haiti and speaks the language, but when I look over at him and I hear him muttering under his breath in fear “Oh my God” – – then I knew I was in trouble!!!! Later on when we got to Cayes, the half way point to the capital Port Au Prince, we joked about it. I think it was easier to joke then because we made it and we were alive. What we saw on this road was unreal. We saw bulls running toward the car; roads being blocked off for dynamite blasting, our hair and body full of dust, and tremendous amounts of poverty. We were filming away and taking pictures. We will put up the pictures online as soon as I get through posting the last 3 blogs this week. Once we got to Cayes three or four hours later, I wanted to take everyone out to lunch to thank them for their hospitality. I didn’t have money on me so we walked into a bank and asked the rifle holding security guard if they had an ATM. He said yes, and pointed to a desk. What is normally a 2-minute transaction in the states literally became a loan process. It took us about 30 minutes to withdraw $250 from my account. Paperwork, several signatures later, and standing on the teller line, we finally were given the money. It was something like $11,000 Gourdes, and I guess that was seen as “big money” as I heard someone at one of the establishments refer to a $50 bill. The thoughts on what I take for granted was resonating with me on a high vibration level. This thought stayed with me on our walk back to the restaurant and throughout lunch. I felt it deeply and was present to the lessons happening within me. My eyes were open and I was soaking it all in. We switched cars into Kishner’s brothers’ truck and all I can say is thank god for his brother. Such a nice human being that drove the 6 or 7 hours to meet us and take us back to the capital. He was going to get us out of Haiti before Canaval and the universe seems to continue working in our favor. We realized today was Kishner’s birthday too, and I made sure we all wished him a happy birthday. I am sure it was not how he wanted to spend it, but then again, he loved the drive through all the towns and his country. I could tell he was reminiscing his childhood and really loving the moment he was in. Though this trip was treacherous and rough so far, I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to see most of Haiti that wasn’t planned in our itinerary. The drive was about 10 hours in total from when we left Les Abricots, and for you locals it’s the same as driving to Toronto from NYC. We went through numerous towns, with tons of culture and sites and I learned about them all. I realized once again, that Patricia, Kishner, and Manuel (Kishner’s brother) were amazing tour guides and passionate about sharing with me. There were a few things that stood out at me on this part of the road trip. First of all, the roads got smoother and I was so thankful for that. Bumpy in some parts, but I was relishing in the fact that I could finally get somewhat comfortable. Of course, you would think that would be the end of it and we would have a smooth ride… Absolutely not! Something had to go wrong to add to the travel adventures of the week. All of a sudden we lost the muffler to Manuel’s truck and his tire was almost flat. As he pulled to the side of the road and rolled down his window, he was asking the locals in Creole where the nearest auto shop was. He was told down the road so we drove a bit further, and we pulled up to a hut like corner with no garage. Manuel explained about the muffler and the next thing I know the worker throws down a plastic matt, slides himself under the car with a small torch and some wire hangers, and welds the muffler together. Here I was thinking we were going to be stuck for hours and not make it to our plane, but the muffler was literally fixed in 15 minutes flat for a charge of $15. Can you imagine? That would have taken hours in New York and been a few hundred at least! While we were waiting the 15 minutes, I got to see the drums being set up nearby for a voodoo ceremony. There are so many stereotypes around voodoo in Haiti and from what I understand it is not what we think. I am looking forward to seeing Marie’s film on this. She had to work hard to be trusted and brought into that community, so it will be interesting to see what truth is discovered. That is in alignment completely with the vision of our film as well, and I think the approach I am going to take with future film projects. I want to capture the true story behind what people see so that we can break the stereotypes on all levels of society. We stopped somewhere to get some kind of homemade fudge (I forget the name of it but it was really good) and I asked Kishner why some of the stores had such long names. He actually pointed out one particular store that had a long name and he said the name of the store was “Groceries.” I didn’t get it at first and he explained that Haiti is such a spiritual country that they actually put a proverb or saying like “Praise the Lord” first in the store sign, followed by the name of the store. This is their idea of having God and faith in all their endeavors. There is spirituality and faith all around here. It’s on the storefronts, walking the streets, in the ceremonies and celebrations, at the schools, and much more. It’s a constant vibration of keeping the faith. What’s not to love about Haiti? Several hours later, in much darkness, we finally pulled into the city-like vibe of Port Au Prince. I have to admit I was exhausted but elated to know we were a step closer to home. I got a thorough tour of the capital through the eyes of Kishner and his brother, which was a delight. I saw their version of Times Square, their soccer field, and much more. We couldn’t find a hotel at first but finally did. The hotel had Wi-Fi and a comfortable bed, and I could not help but feel like God was giving me a gift for enduring this road trip. I got online and quickly saw I had a ridiculous amount of Facebook messages and emails. I decided to not get sucked back in right away to social media and just put up a status to let everyone know I loved them. We went out to dinner for Kishner’s birthday to a chicken place and we sat, talked, reminisced, joked, and had a great time. Now I lay here, downloading today’s footage, ready to get the day started tomorrow, pick up Patricia at the airport, and finally head home. I am missing Les Abricots still but I am anxious to get to New York and see everyone, as well as go full force with the future of Windows of Opportunity. Hopefully this will be smooth, but I won’t feel comfortable until I am on that plane!