Relationships and Volunteering

This is the truck that broke down more often than it got us where we were going.

Traveling is always stressful. Someone or something is always running late, the simplest tasks seem to become exponentially more difficult, you can’t always make sense of your environment, you get lost, you’re tired, you’re hungry and that’s just the airport on the way out of town. There is a reason why travel stories whether they are set on the highway for a road trip or across the seas to new lands and languages have a core component for the way the bond people together as friends or as lovers. My time in Haiti contains many stories. Some are mine, some belong to others, but the thread that links them all together is the one that I shared with my partner.

You may have seen us on screen together at The Upper Floor when Ned made his grand debut showing the world that nerds can be sexy as hell. There were many remarks on our chemistry together but the fact is we had only been dating briefly. At some point in November, 2009 we made a connection that was strictly designated as a casual thing. For months we upheld this standard eschewing cuddles and hand-holding and making it constantly clear that neither of us were remotely interested in a relationship.

In January 2010 when the earthquake hit Haiti I had finished up my day of street outreach in San Francisco and was enjoying a slice of pizza and a beer alone when the news popped up on the television at the bar. I didn’t even think, I knew immediately that I was going. The how’s and when’s seemed incidental. When I brought up the topic that I was going to find a way out there to do what I could he decided that it was a grand idea and that he would come along. We couldn’t be going as a “couple” but as friends who enjoyed one another’s company and genitals. Well, that was the idea in January but in between our departure date and that Bay Area winter and a spring we wound up (say “ahhhhhh….”) falling in love.

The fact of the matter is this: if you look pretty you aren't doing it right.

Some couples will think back fondly on their times together in Paris, clinking champagne glasses with a view of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. Others will caress one another talking about the gondolas in Venice. For me and Ned, romance will be defined as sitting on cinderblocks drinking Prestige beer sticky with sweat and dirt listening to the sweet sounds of shoddy speakers blaring music with the dial set to 11. There were moments of cinematic romance on beaches and hot erotic encounters during raging tropical storms, but it was the romance in the moments when I tripped and fell into trench sludge that I seem to think of first.

There is something special about someone who signs up to work hard in the hot sun, to be eaten alive by mosquitos that laugh in the face of 100% Deet, to flush shit with rain water, and to eat rice and beans at every meal but moreover keeps you smiling while you do it. Returning home after volunteering in a 3rd World Country is always difficult. When you set out on your adventure you know that you’re going to encounter a new culture and way of life. When you return, you forget to brace yourself from the shock of seeing something you thought you knew inside and out in a completely new way. You’re hit by waves of gratitude and guilt at the things you have in your life. When you’ve done that all with a partner you do have one thing that only fills you with gratitude and you can’t wait to go back and do it all again.

The way Haitians get around town. a tap-tap.

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One response to “Relationships and Volunteering

  1. Peter

    Going where one is needed and reacting intelligently to the circumstances, I think that’s kind of pretty in itself. But prettiness is seldom the point (or at least the whole point) of what you do. I admire that.

    (And, yes: “ahhhhhh…” It sure augurs well for a solid relationship.)

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