This setting is a contradiction – or at least a contradiction of everything that you’ve grown up to know. Here is clay so red that it stains your clothes, skin and heart (so that when you go home you have a little shard that will stay with you always). Here are only onions, carrots, beets but no grass. There are few trees looming on the high hillsides off in the distance – the distance that you can only see if you climb more hillsides looming closer. Here are children so short at age ten you’d swear they were only five. Here is only concrete to build with. Here is a sky so blue you would swear the ocean was defying gravity. Here is escape: no blenders, no tv, no cars. Here is Seguin.
How does it work? It seems too impossible to get these high school and college students from Michigan to Seguin. How did all the cars disappear? Where did the tvs, the comforters on the beds, and Monday night football go? Welcome to Seguin, Haiti, where they don’t play football on Monday nights. There’s something extreme about just up and leaving your comfortable bed, room, and shower and traveling to a country where bugs pester you in your sleep and showers come in a bag. It takes a special sort of person; somebody with a big heart and maybe a slight touch of insanity. It’s the adventure that takes you there. There isn’t grass on the front lawns of every home; few homes even have a front lawn. They need what you can provide: Water. Welcome to Seguin, Haiti, where the water doesn’t flow from pipes in the ground nor does it come from a local well. In Seguin, water comes from locations four hours, over hillsides covered with the trees, in five gallon buckets on a little girl’s head. Water… Who would have ever thought that it was such a precious commodity?
It rains almost every day in Seguin. Portland’s got nothing on the town. Every cloud means rain and every rain means a chance – a chance to change to the way things work. All it takes is a group of high school and college students, some PVC piping, a few zip-ties and a fifty-five gallon barrel enhanced with a simple filtration system, and you have a new source of the world’s most precious resource. Instead of being four hours away, water is inside your door. What a change! I still feel it now, egging me on as I write. Welcome to Seguin, Haiti, where you leave a part of yourself and take a new experiences home.
I remember the sun scorching my eyes as I turned my camera towards the sky. It was a gorgeous silhouette, if I could just get under the glare. Check my exposure. Ocean in the sky. One cloud, perfectly hanging. One Haitian, dignified. Click. I still remember that moment. It imprinted itself in my mind.
The red clay is all you’ll see. Welcome to Seguin, Haiti, where the soil doesn’t fade to black. You’ll go home eventually, and your room will have the same comforter on your bed, the shower will flow warm, the TV will glow, and you’ll forget what to do. Home won’t ever be the same. You’ll look uncomprehending: Why is the TV on? Why is the shower warm? Why can’t I go back to Haiti?
Welcome home; you miss Seguin, Haiti, the land of contradiction. You’ll be back home but your heart will be so far away.