I'd like to tell you a little bit about this picture. It was taken in February during the Carnival holiday weekend in a seaside town called Au Cayes on Haiti's south coast. Au Cayes has an iconic boardwalk in Gelée - where dozens of stalls offer delicious grilled seafood.
Popping colors, ocean breeze, and buttery fish and lobster - what's not to like? This was day 3 of our 5-day Haiti beach excursion, which included uncovering faraway beaches of Jeremie and dipping in the blue and sunset-purple waters of Port Salut, exploring caves, and swimming near cool waterfalls. But I digress...
My sharing this photo isn't really about the setting, or the auspicious weekend it recalls, but about the people it features: Kurt and Wilda Hildebrand (and yes that's me too; "hi, me!") Kurt and Wilda have been MCC Haiti's co-representatives since 2011, and Kurt's service with MCC Haiti goes back to 2006. This week, however, marks the end of their terms.
In the span of Kurt's 10-year and Wilda's 5-year service with MCC, my and Ted's year-and-9 month overlap with them could be seen as fairly brief and inconsequential. However, the truth remains that we are losing two key figures that have shaped so much of our service with MCC in Haiti thus far.
Kurt and Wilda have been our primary guides and interpreters of Haitian culture; they have provided much insight into community development and partner relationships in Haiti: endless stories, anecdotes, and good humor that have softened many-a-bewildering moment for us here. Their daughter, Akila, has been a joy to watch as she grows; she loves her world, and she loves to dance.
I'm starting to see that transition is a large part of serving with MCC. Service workers generally come in on a 3-year term. As people rarely start their terms at the same time, each year has the potential for some coming-and-going of team members. In our less-than-two years here, we have said good-bye to 3 service workers (after this week, 5), and two national staff. The frequency of the transitions, however, does not make them "easy," but I don't suppose transitions are ever supposed to be "easy."
Maybe transition is felt harder here because, as a service worker, your social networks are so much smaller than those you have back home. Or maybe it's just a good sign that you generally like the people you are working with. These experiences abroad are so formative, can be so challenging, that you hate to bid your fellow-journeyers farewell.
Yet, Ted and I were part of a transition when we arrived here, and we will initiate another one when we leave. C'est la vie as Haitians would say. It's hard for me to imagine the numbers of international volunteers that some of our national staff have seen come-and-go over the years.
Yet Kurt's long service with MCC Haiti is a rarity in the development field, and the appreciation felt for he and Wilda's combined dedication and passion was duly expressed at a farewell party for them today (though, they did make us curb the sentimental speeches and offerings of gratitude.)
Great things come in transitions, but the need to acknowledge and grieve the loss is there all the same.
|A beautiful portrait done by our pastor, Corrigan, at MCC's request,|
as a parting gift to the Hildebrands.
* Looking at this post title, you probably think I made some goofy spelling errors, but this is actually Haitian Creole for "transition." Read it out loud - tranzisyon - the exact way it is spelled, and you will be speaking Haiti's native tongue! (Also, you are pretty close to speaking French for the same word.)