This trip is coming to an end scarily fast. The almost now 4 weeks that have passed have been busy. Between working, making new friends and attempting to absorb the culture of another country that is so close to the US yet so different time feels absurd. One of the conclusions that I reached is that the length of time that we spend here doing work is too short. A month and a half is far too short a period to try to take in a new language, culture, and truly live by its rhythm. After even further reflection I’ve asked myself when this point would come for me. Certainly with different people the time spent before absorbing and being completely comfortable with a culture is going to be different. With me personally naturally being introverted, and putting myself out there being uncomfortable, though I do try to do it as much as I can, I believe that an outgoing type of person, as some are on this trip, could feel right at home in Haiti at a much faster rate than I, a person who loves all the new experiences and people that comes with it. Even past that I think the only way to truly know you have gotten to the point of full culture absorption is to not feel like an outsider visiting anymore, but someone returning home.
Thinking about those parameters I give myself a solid two years before I think I would be completely comfortable in Haiti, not to say being comfortable or uncomfortable with the culture of a country is a good thing, I’m fairly certain there are many people in the US who have lived there their entire lives and still don’t feel comfortable with the culture. Now this two year mark was placed in my mind before I started examining a second part of belonging, the local population accepting you as their own. Now I think with the population that I work with and interact with most of the fact that I am white can be overcome by working and proving myself to be an at least ok guy, but to the general populace the color of my skin will always be a bar from belonging. This even feels right to me because of the mixed history in Haiti and their interactions with white people, or even more exactly Americans, but this makes my estimate on belonging much harder.
Does belonging mean that you feel comfortable at home, or does it mean the other people at home feel comfortable with you?
I’m not exactly sure of that yet, but hell, so far by now I feel at home with I’m surrounded with CFFL agronomists and fellow Sewanee interns, and that’s enough for now to lay down at night satisfied.