By and large the people who carve out a piece of their life to work in Haiti are interesting folk. There are new missionaries every time I return to Mirlitone and, aside from the over-zealous, I enjoy them. Occasionally someone’s spark is so bright I hope we can continue our connection beyond Haiti. This trip, a delightful pair of young graduate students, David and Cassandra, has enhanced my time here while contributing to our construction at MoHI.
David and Cassandra each came to Mission of Hope after the earthquake. Cassandra, from Alberta, Canada, came with a special contingent of World Racers doing emergency service, while David was a member of one of the many groups from Akron. At our first night’s dinner I get the impression that serendipity aligned their schedules for this trip, but as I observe them around the work site and in subsequent evenings it seems even to my clueless eyes that their rendezvous here is not pure chance.
One day we walk home together. David is a PhD candidate at Duke, developing a fluorescence sensor that can detect changing levels of metals in living cells, research that could impact how we diagnose or treat Alzheimer’s, since many patients with the disease have disproportionately high levels of copper and iron in their brains. The geek in me is fascinated by how and why metals move among cells in our body; the humanist in me considers this a very odd conversation to have walking along Highway 2 on market day, where the flies buzzing around the dead fish pose a much more imminent health hazard than degenerative brain disease.
By the time we duck off the main road and into the jungly drainage channel, Cassandra talks about her graduate studies in social work, which leads us all to share our amazement at the Gengal’s unique and generous mode of expressing grief. I learn that Cassandra studies at University of North Carolina, so I piece together that they travel in several overlapping circles. Along our walk we discuss the relative merits of Obamacare, Canada’s single payer system, globalization, and the satisfaction of pure research versus focused application. Worthy dinner party conversation back in Cambridge, with the added perk that when we arrive at Mirlitone we all take a cool swim in the Bay of Gonave, which is much more soothing than any dip in the Charles River. I eat dinner late, and as I watch the sun set a pair of silhouettes merges on the sand bar where the river meets the sea.
Today I want to know the scoop, so of course I ask Renee who explains that David and Cassandra are dating and that she chose UNC, in part, to be near him. The news warms me; they are such a nice couple; yet it also makes me realize how properly evangelicals court. David and Cassandra are so chaste in their romance only the auroreal glow raging beyond their control announces to the world these two are in love.
Tonight is their last dinner here, and as I come to the chaconne, last again, I hear shrieks of delight. David proposed to Cassandra, on his knee, along the beach in front of Mirlitone, where they first met.
I wish the couple years of health and happiness, a hearty family and long and satisfying contributions to our world. Anyone who ever doubts that good things can come out of Haiti need only meet these two lovely souls who came together over thousands of miles because they cared about faraway earthquake victims. Haiti did a shake, rattle and roll, and so did their hearts.