Uncertain Plans

Posted Nov 21, 2010 by 4 Comments

Editor’s Note: This is the first article by our brand new freelance journalist, Calah Schlabach.  Calah recently returned from an incredible year-long adventure in Vietnam (you can find her blog about the trip here).

Now she is joining the World Next Door team to write about the work of Haitian Community Hospital in Petionville, Haiti from November 8 to December 24.



You wouldn’t think that going to Port-au-Prince, Haiti for a six-week long stay would be nearly as nerve-wracking as packing up my life and moving to Hanoi, Vietnam for a whole year. But even now that my mom and I are safely in Haiti, I still have to admit to some nervousness.

Now, I had never been to Vietnam before I moved there, but I pretty much knew what to expect. I knew what my job was going to be – an English editor in a foreign-language publishing house. I even knew what hours I would be working!

I knew that I would be living with a Vietnamese host family. I knew that I would be taking Vietnamese language classes. I went as part of an organized program, so a lot was spoon fed to me.

local graffiti artist paints the walls of Port-au-Prince with emotional pictures of hope.

Well, if going to Vietnam was being spoon fed, then, as my dad put it, this trip to Haiti is like taking off into an unknown jungle with bows and arrows and trying to hunt to survive.

Ok, maybe that’s a little extreme, but it’s not far from what it feels like.

Unlike my experience in Vietnam, this trip is not arranged by an organization. No one has made us an outline of what we will do each day. Even now that we are here, we don’t know yet exactly what we’ll be doing (although we do have some ideas).

So I guess you could say that the uncertainty is driving me crazy.

Growing Concern

First of all, there is the language barrier. I didn’t know a word of Vietnamese before I got to Hanoi, but I knew that I would have formal lessons and be there long enough to pick up something. Here, I have no idea how much Kreyol I can pick up in six weeks, or if I will even have much opportunity to do so. And I feel lost and ignorant not knowing any.

Another growing concern – not so much mine but that of my family at home, writing worried emails after reading the news – is that I’ll get sick. When I was in Vietnam, I had dengue fever and it was the most miserable experience of my life.

Dengue, of course, is a disease that is also prevalent here.  But the one that is making the news these days is cholera. Cholera is quite treatable and we live about a mile from a hospital, but the outbreak still adds a decided element of uncertainty.

Street walls are plastered with campaign ads for the upcoming election.

In Vietnam, the fact that the government is Socialist gives some foreigners the heebie-jeebies, but I honestly didn’t notice it very much. Here, there is the opposite complaint – the government is in shambles.

Yet the street walls are covered with campaign ads for the upcoming election, an event that gives both hope and… more uncertainty, of course! There has not been a lot of violence yet, but in a place that has a history of political upheaval, one can never be sure.


But maybe more than anything else, I am afraid that I will not be useful. In Vietnam, my job wasn’t always that exciting, but I always had plenty of work and felt needed and knowledgeable. As I anticipate being in Haiti, I’m afraid of being another foreigner who thinks they are helping but is really just in the way.

I am going to be embedding with the Haitian Community Hospital in Petionville, where we are staying. I know I will be writing about this Haitian-founded-and-run organization, but I don’t have any idea what that will look like!

But now that I have listed all the uncertainties that make me nervous, there is one thing we do have nailed down: we have a great place to stay.   This knowledge gives my nerves a break from their worrying. It’s amazing how much peace it can give to return to a familiar place and friendly people at night.

And despite the many uncertainties of our plan, there is a reason that Mom and I organized our trip the way we did. The things that make me nervous can also be viewed in a positive light.  Our lack of set plans could just as easily be called something else: flexibility.

The cholera ward at the largest tent village in Port-au-Prince.

Inconvenience Rightly Considered

From past experience, it sometimes happens that my need for certain plans can block my ability to discover God’s plans. So I guess it’s time to change my perspective.

As G.K. Chesterton once said, “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.”

So here’s to the unexpected adventure that awaits. Here’s to learning how to trust, giving up control, and trying to weather with grace the unpredictable storms that will surely come!

Enjoy this post? Get future updates sent to you for free! Join by email or RSS

About the Author: Calah Schlabach is a freelance journalist with World Next Door. She graduated from Calvin College in 2009 with a degree in English and a concentration in long-distance running, then spent a year volunteering in Hanoi, Vietnam. She doesn't know what the next turn her life will be, but is planning to make sure it includes sampling plenty of strange/delicious food!

More posts by Follow Calah on Twitter

Tags: ,


  1. Jessica said... 


    November 21st, 2010 at 8:41 am  

    I love your honesty and your open-handed posture. Way to embrace the adventure and leave that spoon-fed life behind:) I can’t wait to see what God has in store!

  2. Erika said... 


    November 21st, 2010 at 12:31 pm  

    “Haitian founded and run”… Wow. I love this!

    Calah – Can’t wait to read more from you, girl! So exciting!

  3. Jim.M said... 


    November 21st, 2010 at 3:54 pm  

    I clicked through to HCH, the photos and updates are really cool. It would be interesting to know how many patients were seen monthly pre January 2010 and now. Also what some of the financial and manpower needs are, and how these are being supplied to meet the increased demand after the quake.

  4. Calah said... 


    November 21st, 2010 at 8:54 pm  

    Thanks for your thoughtful questions, Jim! I think my next article will start to answer some of them, and I’ll talk about the others to some people who will be able to answer them much better than I could. I think you might be surprised by some of the answers.

Leave a Reply