A group of students from Northwestern College are joining us in Haiti for a few weeks to help with tasks in different departments. As they spend time in country they will each take turn writing blogs to update on their experiences. Alayna Bakke is writing the first blog for the Northwestern group. She is a junior studying public relations.
Culture shock. I’ve been learning a lot about it lately but never fully experienced it. I haven’t reached culture shock to its fullest extent, but I have a feeling that this trip will definitely push the limits.
Shortly after lunch the day we arrived at Many Hands for Haiti, Christi and Djosmy (our culture guide), took us into town to the market. We learned some Creole words that would help us get our supplies such as rice, beans, oil, etc. On our drive there, we saw many women carrying carrying buckets of water on their heads and two more in their hands as they walk down the street to the market. These women sometimes walk miles and miles every day like this. From a young age, girls practice walking with small things on their head and work their way up over time. When we arrived at the market, it was filled with a bunch of vendors selling any and everything – food, clothes, toiletries, shoes, hair extensions, jewelry, etc. We stuck out like sore thumbs walking through the rows of vendors. People were trying to get our attention to buy from them. Women would stare at us and children seemed scared to come too close to us. I felt like such an outsider. How was I supposed to immerse in the culture when I couldn’t speak an ounce of their language, and they don’t have any interest in truly connecting with me? They are just trying to make money to survive let alone give some American girl any time of day. How could I earn their trust?
We had just purchased our last item: big heavy bags of rice. Christi suggested we try carrying them on our heads like the Haitian women do. My friend Jadeyn leaned over to me and said, “Let’s play a game! First one to make it to the truck with the rice on their head wins!”
We both got the bag balanced on our heads and began walking, wobbling with our arms flung out to our sides and our heads cocked to keep the bags from falling! I heard more laughter around me as I walked, but this seemed like a different from before. They were laughing with us, not at us! This small game of walking with rice on our heads at the market was the glimpse into Haitian culture that I had been looking for! We finally were able to connect with them in a shared experience. They could have definitely still been laughing at us, but I like to think they enjoyed our small attempt to immerse ourselves in their culture.
I’m still learning that God doesn’t need us to DO anything for Him. He is the Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth! He simply wants us to BE with Him. To abide with Him. When we do, the fruit will come. This is so significant in short-term missions. All we want to do on missions trip is DO. We want to make an impact and do it for Christ! But in order to make any real impact, we need to connect with our brothers and sisters by immersing ourselves into their community and culture. While going into the market the first day didn’t seem like much doing or service, it had a much greater impact than I realized.