From the moment you step off of the plane, the humid Caribbean air hits you and takes your breath away.
And you KNOW that you are in Haiti.
Some things have changed -- walking onto a jet bridge to the newly built glass walkway down escalators versus the previous stairway onto the tarmac with the walk outside into the awaiting immigration officers, but it many ways it is still the same - the warm Haitian sun, the swell of humanity, the tug-of-war dance with the airport porters, the fight over baggage to find your own.
It is overwhelming to first time visitors, and even in many ways to those of us returning, but it makes me smile as I think of it because, well, this unique greeting, lets me know that I am "home."
The joy of seeing & hugging Mom & Dad as well as the relief of finding all of your luggage AND FINALLY making it through customs unscathed is only eclipsed by the elation of eventually arriving at your awaiting vehicle to make the bumpy, backroads ride through my country to my childhood house.
I look out the window as we bounce along, and while much has changed from my girlhood days -- earthquake ravaged homes still in shambles, buildings in new locations, streets restructured -- many things are still the same.
The street vendors, "marchans" selling their wares on the street corners - candy, goat, biscuits, cookies, toothbrushes, soap. You name it and they will try and sell it to you.
The masses walking to and fro, some hurried, some leisurely, all making their way to their work or home or school.
The children in uniforms that color the streets with organized beauty amidst the every day chaos. Every color that you can imagine is represented in the uniforms that you will find here in Haiti.
The men and women chatting and talking to their friends on the streets - holding hands, laughing, shouting - nothing is EVER quiet in Haiti.
In spite of everything, the way the people live their lives to the fullest hits me all over again, and I am challenged, astounded, and amazed.
And then we are home. The 3-story compound housing a church, a school, a clinic, a carpentry shop, an internet cafe, and our home at the top.
Things here are different too. The yard I once played in is filled with tarps, benches, tin roofs and wooden structures to house make shift classrooms during the long post-earthquake rebuilding process. Classrooms now are temporary storage shelters for the supplies needed to help sustain the many who lost so much in the wake of the quakes. New structures have been and continue to be built -- a depot, new apartment space for Mom & Dad to open up the old one for groups coming to help rebuild, classrooms being rebuilt, and so much more.
And yet so many things are still the same.....
....the way the school children light up at a smile or a greeting
....the way the people are happy yet again for their pastors, my parents, to be with "their" children, even if just for a visit
....the way they want to know when I am going to have children
....the way they faithfully pray for me, even now, when arriving at "pregnancy" has been so hard
....the way their faces light up with they recognize that we - my sister & I - are here
....the way they feel important when I remember Creole
....the way they praise me and tell me that I speak better than them
And 100 more things....
This is my home.
This is my homeland.
I was born here.
I was birthed here, and in more than just the natural sense.
I am WHO I am today because of this nation, this people, this world that God transplanted my family to almost 40 years ago.
And I realize that it is so funny how the circle of life moves....
....and how the more things change, the more they actually stay the same.
And I think THAT is just about PERFECT for this little missionary girl....
....all grown up....