Sunday, March 07, 2010

Haiti photos and the Super Bowl Story

Friday night I went to a photo exhibit benefiting Healing Hands for Haiti, the organization we worked with in Haiti. The photos were taken by "Dr Joel," one of the guys on our trip. He's both a photographer and an M.D., how cool is that? A few photos were also contributed by Misha Tulek, an LDS Church member from NYC that spotted our group in Haiti, and joined up and stayed with us a few days. The photography was incredible and brought back some very powerful images and feelings about Haiti for me.
It was also a lot of fun to join up with several Haiti friends and go out for a mini-reunion of sorts. One of our awesome nurses, Kim, is leaving to serve a mission for the LDS Church in Hungary next week. We wanted to get together before she left. It was fun to be with so many wonderful friends again. The communications student in me had fun watching the interpersonal communications in the group. We were all so used to being in a close physical proximity to each other, and that seems to have carried over. Personal space? Invaded! And yet, while standing so close, we're asking each other simple get to know you questions. We shared very intense emotions and experiences in Haiti, but didn't learn much about "real world" stuff. So this was a great evening of laughing, sharing memories, and actually getting to know each other. I haven't laughed or smiled so much in one evening in a long time. It really was great to spend time with Haiti friends who just get it!
*Sidenote* We had dinner at ACME Burger in SLC. I have been there before and have enjoyed the food and great service. When I called to set up the reservation for 20 they asked for a credit card. No big deal. But unfortunately we only had 10 show up. Not like we could control who didn't show, right? Well, the restaurant wasn't that busy. No line or people waiting, and plenty of empty tables. Once we were sure that our group was final, we released the extra tables from our reservation. Then when our bills came the restaurant had tacked on a $10 charge to each bill for the incomplete party of 20. I just think that is rude. And in spite of how much I used to like them, I won't be going back again.

Now for the Super Bowl in Haiti story. I've been waiting till I could get a picture of that night before I tell you the story. And now I have one, so here goes. (I stole said picture from someone's facebook page. But now I can't remember who!)

Basically it goes like this. As you have heard by now we were camped out in a soccer field with the US Army 82nd Airborne division, Golf battery. (I had to say that a lot while we were there.) We wanted to be able to thank them appropriately, but were very limited in how to thank them. They can't take gifts, money, etc. They are just the US Army doing their jobs. But someone within our group came up with a brilliant plan. It involved flying in reps from Direct TV (from Puerto Rico, I believe) into the Dominican Republic, bussed into Haiti, to set up a satellite dish for us. After all, we were in a professional sports field and had a big blank white scoreboard to use as the perfect screen. We (and by we I mean someone that wasn't me, but some awesome guys in our camp) bought American brand chips and sodas and ice (oh how we love "glace"). There were even some friendly football games between our guys and the Army guys held in the field.
When game time came, we all grabbed our sleeping mats and bug spray, and gathered round the big screen- Task Force and Army alike! We watched the Super Bowl together right there in our little field. It was truly one of the most memorable, and by far enjoyable, nights of the trip. We had a great respect for each other already. It was a really wonderful experience to get to relax side by side with them. There were a few friendly wagers placed on the game. And a bullhorn or two used to cheer on a favorite side. Oh and let's not forget Dan Merino giving our soldiers a shout out on the air!
But for me the best part of the entire night was hearing the National Anthem in a field in Haiti with US Air Force C-130's and US Navy helicopters flying overhead, while US soldiers all stood at attention, saluting the flag on the screen. It brought tears to my eyes then, and it brings tears to my eyes now. At that moment, like no other in my life, I was grateful for the US Military. Still am, and always will be.
It was a great night and a lot of fun, even if I did fall asleep more than once! (it was a very late night for all of us who were used to going to bed when the sun went down!) And hands-down the best Super Bowl viewing party ever.
It almost doesn't seem real that just a few weeks ago I was living in a tent in a soccer field in Haiti. I look at the pictures and it feels like a very vivid dream. Seeing my counterparts again made it all feel real again, and brought back the emotions I knew so well. I shared something very intense, awful, and personal with one person. For the first time we acknowledged it to each other. Just to be able to look at that person and know I'm not alone in what I felt meant so much to me. Haiti will always have a very special place in my heart, as will the volunteers I shared it with.

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