This post is also available in: Kreyol
This is the first installment of the story a young Haitian woman’s move to the United States, and her decision to move back home to Haiti. This story and series will be continued as a blog at wongolotounen.blogspot.com (Twitter: @wongolotounen).
Peyi Blan An Pa Pou mwen
Peyi blan an pa pou mwen, m ap tounen nan peyi m.
“The USA will never be home. I’m going back to my country.” My mother repeated this regularly ever since we first moved here (or should I say, ever since we came and did not go back, like we had originally planned) from Haiti to the States. She would say it to us, my brother and me, when she had to wake up early to go to a job that she hated (she worked as a CNA). She would repeat it when she got home late because the bus was running late, and she had to stand in the cold, especially since, as she put it, “nan peyi m mwen gen 3 machinn k ap manje pousyè ap tann mwen. Back at home, I have 3 cars collecting dust, waiting for me.” She would even mutter it at night right before dozing off during one of her prayers, or after reading more news about police brutality.
Over the years, our responses to my mom’s desire to go back to Haiti have ranged from strong opposition, to reluctance, to acceptance, to indifference. She said it so often, we never had to take it seriously. The initial opposition was due to the fact that we had so recently lost our father. My brother and I could not fathom the idea of her being so far. But we started to reluctantly accept the possibility when we realized how miserable the States really made her, and how happy she always seemed to be after a stay in the Motherland. Haiti made her happy, and by forcing her to stay, we were making her miserable. So the next time she came with a plan of moving back and running her businesses herself, we agreed, we supported. Eventually, she did go back. She stayed for a whole month, but then returned claiming she missed us too much. Things were too different, and life in Haiti without my dad was too hard to handle.
As I mentioned earlier, the move here was not our original plan. My parents and I came for what we believed would be a couple of weeks at most. My father was sick and needed medical care that his doctor suggested he get abroad. Being the typical daddy’s girl, I refused to stay home without my folks. So, in the middle of the school year, my mom spoke to soeur Marie-Rose, the then-principal at College Saint-Louis de Bourdon, and agreed on a school plan of some sort of what I was to study to stay on track and not be left behind when we came back. But we never came back. The first issue we encountered was the lack of health insurance. We could either dish out thousands, paying out of pocket for everything, or get proper support papers that would enable my father to get Medicare. The longer, cheaper route was taken. What was expected to be a month long trip began to drag on.
The next thing I knew, I was attending school in America. The culture shock was overwhelming, but I tried to take it like a champ. My mom and dad had enough to worry about. The extrovert that I once was gave place to the worst type of introvert ever. I became the type that hid behind books, and I refused to make any new friends because, after all, this was only temporary. I already had my friends that I would IM with practically every day after school. My dad’s illness became somewhat stable, and the doctors could not find any reason to have the surgery. So we decided it was time to go back home. I was ecstatic! Finally!
The very night we decided to finally go back to Haiti, my dad got a nosebleed and was rushed to the hospital. The same type of nosebleed he got so often when we were in Haiti. The same alarming nose bleed that led to the discovery of a tumor in his brain. The same nosebleed that had stopped as soon as we got to New York. Yes, that nosebleed was back. THAT nosebleed made us cancel our trip back home. That nosebleed got my father operated on at Kings County hospital, the same hospital where he would die less than a week after what the doctors called a “successful operation.”
These are all the things I lay in bed thinking about six years after our so called move to America, after finishing high school, getting a college degree and gathering years of professional experience. Thinking about what I had accomplished despite my forced move and my dislike of peyi blan an I finally made the decision that had been lurking in the back of my mind for years. I finally admitted it to myself, and unlike my mom, I really meant it: Peyi blan an pa pou mwen, map tounen nan peyi m!