For my last reflection of Haiti I have to talk about the stars. On the roof of the guest house at night we would sit amidst the rebar and concrete slabs and stare up at the consuming darkness that is the sky in Haiti. There was no light pollution and the only sounds we could hear were the sounds of people singing and listening to music beyond the entrance to the orphanage.
The stars shine brighter in Haiti. Without all of the lights from earth, the lights from the sky are so much clearer. Laying on our backs, staring up each night we would search for the constellations we recognized and come up empty. After several nights of trying to pick out “the big dipper” or “orion” we abandoned the pursuit and started making up our own constellations.
The first one I saw, hovering over the boy’s village in the distance, was the distinct shape of a kite. Four stars, perfectly aligned in a diamond, only lacking a tail fluttering in the wind. The second was a question mark. The question mark was suspended over the entrance to Espwa.
How appropriate: a question mark and a kite.
To me the question mark reinforces the questions we all dealt with in Haiti as time and again the older kids would ask us, “Why are you here?” When someone asks you that question and you’re not expecting it, it’s a lot harder to answer. Why were we there? Did we think we could help because they needed it? Did we want to learn from them? Did we think we could change anything? Did we want to?
For me, it was a combination of learning from the kids and making friends. To be honest, going to Haiti seemed like fun. And after one student asked us the standard question, “Why are you here?” and we said, “We want to learn from you.” We were taken aback when he responded, jovially, “We’re fine. Things are good here, but we’re still happy to see you.”
The question mark is appropriate because there was almost no certainty about what we were doing, why we were there, and whether it would even matter.
The kite to me will always represent hope. Suspended over the boy’s village, the kite represents the hope that Espwa (literally hope in Creole) gives to these kids and the hope that I saw for them while I was there. Maybe it’s naive of me to think there is hope for them, but from what I saw—those kids are smart. They’re smart and they’re determined. And even though their definition of success may look different from ours I don’t doubt that many of them will be happy in their lives.
And of course, when I think of kites the famous story of the blind child flying a kite comes to mind. When an old man approached the child and asked why she flew the kite because she couldn’t see it soar in the sky or see the tail flap in the wind, she responded, “I can feel a tug. I can feel the wind pull the kite up. And even though I can’t see it, I know it’s there.”
To me the kite will always represent hope.
So, how appropriate, that the question mark and the kite were the two constellations that appeared to us each night over the roof of the guest house in Espwa. And although it was too dark to take a picture, that image will never leave my mind.