Monday, February 21, 2011

When I was Younger

"Take my hand, we'll make it I swear ..." - Jon Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi is playing in a tent next to the stadium. For real. I have a wristband for the party and I walk right past security as he is starting his set. Though time has softened the cocky beauty of youth on most of our faces, we recognize each other easily. The half of us who went to school together find this whole scene somewhat surreal. We are at a frat party - a really good frat party. The other half are too young to know these feelings, or were hired to make the place look extra pretty. At the back of the tent there are tables of free food, bars of free drinks, and did I mention, Bon Jovi?!

I have been back from Haiti for less than 48 hours and already, watched a paparazzi storm on the beach as Chloe Sevigny swam in the Atlantic, heard Vince Neil sing at a party full of playmates, swam in the National’s historic pool, and now, here I am, surrounded by friends from long ago, at a crazy party, getting ready to watch my team in the Orange Bowl. Haiti seems far away. 2010 seems far away. But they are not.

Less than 700 miles and 1.5 hour flight time from these shores, people are living in tents a fraction of the size of the one I am standing in. They are patching holes in those year old tents, afraid to move back into unsafe buildings. If they are lucky, a NEW tent will be their future.  As I drink my free beer, they struggle to find water clean enough to keep their children safe from cholera. It feels far away from this place, but it is there, in the back of my mind as I catch up with friends from long ago. It is part of me now.

I am wearing a sequined version of my team’s logo and it catches the eye of one of the younger party-goers. “Where did you get your shirt? Did you go to Stanford?”
“I got it at the bookstore and yeah, I did.”
“I went to Stanford too!” she says with slightly intoxicated enthusiasm. “Well, when I was younger I mean.” Suddenly she is serious “Like, last year.”

I smile. Inside I am laughing. I think of telling her to throttle back on the alcohol but I just keep smiling. It is an odd moment to reflect but something about the collision of my past and my present makes it impossible to avoid. At this dawn of 2011, I am struck by the 2010 that I just left behind. I had set out to learn, about medical service work, about other places, about myself. I stand here, amongst people who have known me for decades, and I love this life that I am privileged to experience.

2010 was magic. I now carry Mongolia, Belize, and Haiti with me. I have learned so much about myself and what I am capable and incapable of achieving. As I stand here, listening to Bon Jovi, I look back on 2010, smile, and think ... “when I was younger, like, last year ...”

First Day 1/1/11

All packed up and ready to go, there is a new team arriving - full of energy - and we are drained. (see photo below) Stefanie is running around making us all smile and the sun is shining. It feels like we have been here longer than one week. It seems we have known each other for longer than 7 days. It is hard to imagine not waking up to the roosters, making coffee in the pharmacy, anticipating meal delivery at 10 and 2, and escaping to the roof to breath. It is hard to imagine going back to “normal life.” We are shifting gears.
After countless group photos, we pile into the vans for the airport. We drink our way through the three hour wait . . . not much else to do at this point. 
It is a quick flight and we meet at baggage claim in Miami. Saying goodbye on the other side of customs, it is but an instant, and we have all scattered in our separate directions, to our separate lives. It is a lonely night in my big hotel room. It seems too quiet.

I miss my Haiti family.