Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Four Weeks Later

Today it has been four weeks since the earthquake. Someone (and I can't now remember who, or find where I read this) wrote that Haitians now talk about "Tuesday," without saying the date or the month, and everyone knows exactly which Tuesday they mean. That was the day the world changed.

I see a few signs that I am starting to be more normal. I read a book. (Just one in a month - clearly I'm not all the way there yet!) I can talk about other things for brief periods, and laugh. I'm sleeping pretty well.

I hear that Port-au-Prince is becoming more normal too, if you discount the facts that a million people are homeless and the city is in ruins. People were selling vegetables on the street the day after the earthquake, and now outdoor markets are functional, though prices are much higher than before. People are up and about, sweeping and cleaning up, adjusting to the world as it is now.

Apparently a lot more people are now reading my blog than before. I don't know that for sure because I don't know how to check my stats and don't think I really want to learn how. I have mixed feelings about my larger readership, since while I always wanted people to read what I wrote, I would feel embarrassed when someone I knew told me they had read my blog and spend a lot of time wondering if I had written something that might offend them. But if you are a new reader, I'm glad you are here. I keep writing because I think maybe in some small way I can keep Haiti in people's minds. Maybe there is someone out there who can't really identify with a Haitian family living in a tent city but who can identify with me, an American woman, a teacher, a thoroughly ordinary person now made into a refugee.

The earthquake has definitely changed the way I write. At first I couldn't write properly at all, and the emails I sent the first couple of days after the internet came back up look like they were written by someone else. There is almost no punctuation and the capitalization is iffy. I couldn't sit still or focus long enough to write a decent sentence, and it crossed my mind to wonder if that is what it feels like to have ADD. If so, I am much more sympathetic to my students with it than I was before. No wonder their punctuation needs work!

Now I find that my filters are not what they used to be. I rarely used to write about personal things - I didn't even say where I lived. Now I am spilling my guts regularly, and I wonder if I will regret it. It might be kind of like what happens when you stay up way too late in college with someone you hardly know and share all your secrets, and then the next time you see the person you can hardly make eye contact. I don't know. I can't help it. My emotions are much nearer to the surface than usual. For the first few days after the quake, every time I saw someone I recognized I would burst into tears and fling my arms around the person. (Well, not every time - I mostly managed to restrain myself on the street, though I did tell people how glad I was to see them. But I think some of the school employees were a bit startled by how affectionate I was all of a sudden!)

I have two conflicting emotions all the time. One is grief, sadness, pain; I think constantly of the suffering of people in Haiti. The other is joy to be alive; I always thought I knew that I could die at any moment, and I thought I was living as someone who recognized that. But now I know it in a new way. We survived. It could so easily have been otherwise. It was otherwise for some people we loved.

There's a balance to be found there, between mourning for the people and places and normal life that is lost and reveling in the life we still have. I am still trying to find it and I think Haiti is, too.

1 comment:

Janet said...

I hope you keep posting about what's really going on. You're right, it keeps Haiti before us. And it helps those of us who know you (and are too curmudgeonly for facebook) to feel a little more connected.