It was time to pack my bags. As Roseline played contentedly on the bed, I began to sort through the contents of my suitcase. Claudine stopped what she was doing and watched me as I began to gather my belongings for the return home. For a moment, her face was questioning and then, I saw understanding dawn there. A moment of resistance. Sadness, and then… resignation. She brought with her from the orphanage a gallon sized zip-loc bag with a few of the small toys I had sent her periodically since we accepted her referral. She gathered it and began to stuff it with the toys, crayons, and books I had brought with me. She stuffed it and stuffed it until at last it broke. Gently, I went to her with a new bag and helped transfer the items. When she finished packing, she instinctively began the process of detaching herself from me. She became dismissive and withdrawn. She began wiping away my kisses and refusing my hugs. I understood. She was protecting her heart. I however, was powerless to protect mine. It was irrevocably bound to hers, swept away by a mother-love Divinely given.
We slept, and arose early the next morning to prepare for my departure. Breakfast was a sollemn, silent affair and soon afterwards it was time to begin saying goodbye. When the driver arrived, I gathered Roseline into my arms and began the descent downstairs to return her to her house mother. All of the women stopped to watch me as I put Roseline down and then knelt before my baby. So tiny. So frail.
“Good bye Roseline.” I said. “I love you and I will be back. I promise.”
I kissed her one last time and walked towards the stairs. She did not run away to play with her friends. She did not rush into the arms of her house mother. She just stood there at the bottom of the stairs, her eyes following me all the way up. Her expression seemed to say, “Hey. Where are you going? I kind of like you after all.”
Claudine stood at the top of the stairs waiting for me. I said good bye to the guest house staff and we joined our bags in the Land Rover. The driver gave me a note from the orphanage director that said the driver and I would drop Claudine off at the orphanage on the way to the airport. We made our way to the outskirts of the city and turned onto the smaller dirt road that led to the orphanage. I could see the large white building my daughter called “home” in the distance. There were no walls here enclosing the homes as in the city but a closed gate barred the road. A man waited there and when he recognized the vehicle, scrambled to open the gate. We turned up the bumpy, dirt driveway as chickens scurried across the road. To our left was some type of a water source. It was a pipe in the middle of the lower portion of the property with a scanty tin roof and partial walls. A woman stood there bathing. We made our way on up the hill and parked in front of the building.
As soon as I opened the door, Claudine grabbed her bag and ran up the stairs, leaving me to follow her. I called to her but she ignored me. I reached the top of the stairs just behind her and found they were barred with a short iron gate. A group of house mothers stood there chatting and called out to Claudine in greeting when they saw her. One of them came and opened the gate. We entered an large, open room full of children who were running and playing. Immediately, I was surrounded by a large group of them, each wanting my attention, each wanting to be held. Claudine however, dismissed me completely and was soon surrounded by a group of her friends as she proudly displayed her new toys.
The horn blared outside, signaling that it was time to go to the airport. I went to Claudine and kissed her head in an attempt to tell her goodbye but she was far more interested in showing off her treasures. I sighed and turned towards the gate, telling the house mothers good-bye as I went.
My heart was saddened but peaceful on the ride to the airport. Most of the time, I kept my head down, reading my instructions on surviving the Port-Au-Prince airport and reviewing my itinerary. When I looked up, we were in downtown Port-Au-Prince.
Tap Taps are the “public transportation” of PAP. They are privately owned pickups that have been rigged with a tin roof over the bed and painted in bright Carribean colors. The owners use these vehicles to drive large loads of people from place to place for a fee. When the person reaches their destination he bangs on the side of the truck to signal the driver to stop, which is why they are called “Tap Taps”. Another characteristic of Tap Taps is that they often have some type of saying painted on the front of roof.
As I raised my eyes, and we met the first of the three, and painted across the front (in English!) was the word, “Patience” . Then a second Tap Tap followed directly behind the first and across the front of it (in English) were the words, “I love you Mama”. After the second Tap Tap came the final one of the three and across the front of it were the words, “Mesi Jeziz” (Thank you, Jesus.)
The driver looked at me quizzically as I softly laughed in wonder as I was overcome with the tenderness and compassion of God. He sent me the message he knew my wounded heart needed to hear in a very Haitian way – on the roof of Tap Taps.
When I was finally settled in the American Airlines waiting room of the PAP International Airport, I pulled my journal from my bag and penned the following words:
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Praise the God of all comfort!
Praise Jehovah Shalom! (God our Peace)
Praise Jehovah Jireh! (The God Who Provides)
Praise Jehovah Raphi! (The God Who Heals)
Praise the God of the Tap Taps…………….”
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