My first Saturday in Haiti began on the rough side. I woke up, in a hot room in a hot land, and was alone. No listening for Paloma's call, no thoughts as to whether I would get a jump start on the laundry or dusting first, no needing to let the dog out. Just 5 am and nothing to do. The Haitian turbo-charged roosters not willing to let anyone fall back asleep. In all reality, my first morning in nearly 9 years where I had absolutely nothing to do, and I knew that I should be revelling in it. Instead I felt antsy and miserable.
At breakfast time a mom announced that she had already gone over to see the kids and was sent back to the Guesthouse until later, once the kids were fed, bathed and "ready." So more time to kill, in a place behind a locked gate with an armed guard and nowhere to go. Time in Haiti can move very slooowwwlly.
Finally a "reasonable" time (meaning 8:30 am) came about and we raced across the street to PAC. I could already here the kids laughing and playing from behind the wall. I felt a bit nervous, not certain how my boys would react.
As I walked up to the wrought iron door, Merisier caught sight of me and yelled, "Mama!" and ran over to me, hugely grinning. Joel followed, and my two boys were jumping up and down, yelling my name and grabbing me through the bars as I fumbled with the door. I walked in and they bowled me over, not wanting to leave my side.
As I took a seat in the indoor porch, I became aware at just how packed full of adults and children the room was. Looking around, I realized that I didn't recognize anyone except for the other adoptive mothers and their kids. "What's going on?"
It turned out that all of the children in the room were brought to the orphanage by the adults to be placed for adoption. The children were dressed to the nines: clean clothing, hair perfectly coiffed, shiny scrubbed faces. All except one little boy, who was wearing well-worn hand-me-downs and no shoes. I thought about the street outside with garbage and dead chickens, and felt distressed that in all of my donations, I didn't have a single pair of shoes that would fit him. The adults looked weary, thin, old probably well beyond their years and quietly resigned. The children were there to have their photos taken, their life histories to be taken by Marie. The orphanage is near full, so none of them were allowed to stay. Their photos are then posted on the orphanage website (www.littleangelshaiti.org). When a family commits to their adoption, the children will be fetched and brought to the orphanage to live until the adoption is complete.
At that moment I felt every emotional wall I could possibly construct go up quickly. Looking at the scared faces was absolutely painful. All the children were in groups of sibling sets, except one sweet, overwhelmed little girl in a darling pink dress (Cindy).
We went around giving the children hugs and candy. I made a very special point to tell all of them how beautiful they are and how precious they are. I have no idea if they have ever been close to a white person, but if they are typical of most of the children, the answer is no.
I played with my boys, and visited with the other parents, all while the children sit nearby. I felt sad and guilty, for being so happy and for having so much in this life. I hope that watching me smile and play with and love on my boys somehow eases their minds of being adopted, and maybe they'll then think that really nice people adopt Haitian kids.
That Saturday morning was a hard one, and the day actually got harder before it got better, but I'll get to that later. I think about these children that were at the orphanage all the time. That's just one "set" of the kids. This happens often. There are dozens of children who are waiting, just waiting, for someone to connect to their photos, to see their face and say, "There they are! That's my child(ren)!"