The time has come.
My six week stint in Nepal was coming to an end. It was going to be mighty hard to say goodbye to this school. Just as I was starting to get a lot of the names down too.
My last day at the school was on Wednesday, but I told them I would pop by Thursday morning during the morning assembly to say goodbye. Upon arrival to the school, I was graciously bombarded with flowers from random kids from random grades.
“When will you come back to our school?” they would say. That was the question that I couldn’t give a good answer to.
“I’m not sure…” I responded. “But I’ll try my best to comeback soon!”
That was the truth. I felt an attachment to the students at the school and even to my host family that I would love to comeback and see them again one day. The only thing that would hold me back is time. There are way too many other countries just waiting for a visit but with places I’ve found the time to return to, namely South Africa and Vietnam, it definitely is a possibility.
During morning assembly, I noticed every single student held a flower in their hand. Some more than others. A few had made a bouquet of flowers while some have made flower necklaces. By the way, it’s customary to give flowers as a blessing and as a gift here.
I stood up near the front by a few of the teachers while the usual assembly routine went on. Afterwards, Principal Aatma took the microphone and let the students know that I was leaving today and that now would be a special farewell ceremony.
He called upon Sarmila, the English teacher I was paired up with most of the time, to say a few words since she was the teacher who knew me best. She said a lot of great things and then called upon a student to say a few words. Swastika, a girl from grade 9, came up and said some more great things. She spoke for the classes saying that I introduced them to a lot of new ideas, educational games, support for the educational tour, the volleyball tournament, and of course the fantastic farewell party I threw for them recently. She also mentioned how the students liked that I joked with them all the time which made them laugh and felt relaxed whenever I entered a classroom. Hearing all these things was assuring.
I made a lasting positive impact.
I was asked to say something to all the students in which I gladly did. Remembering back to the really great public speaking lessons I taught to grade 9, I made sure to set a great example. To sum it up, I spoke about how my expectations here were surpassed, how great the students here were, thanking the staff for trusting me so much on my own with the classes, and advice for their futures.
Next, as I stood up front, Aatma presented me with a award of recognition which was like a teaching certificate. He put some red tikka powder on my face in which the other teachers follow suit.
The red tikka is a sign of being blessed. The students lined up and one by one, each gave me a flower and in return I gave each a candy I had bought. Prior to this, Aatma let me know that it’s customary to give out sweets to students for farewells like these, so I made sure to load up on the sweets!
As it became the older classes turn to give me a flower, some put a flower wreath around my neck or gave me a scarf. I had a smile on my face the whole time and said a million thank you’s that day, but other than that I was as silent as a statue. I was actually feeling pretty sad. Each of the older students I’ve come to know, came up to me and blessed me with a red tikka mark and told me they were really going to miss me. It really took me back, which I wasn’t expecting. I had the teaching down to a science here. I knew which subjects were the most important, I knew how to command the attention of a class, and I put my own spin on certain subjects in which the students thoroughly enjoyed. I felt 100 percent comfortable without a main teacher present and actually preferred to have a class on my own. I enjoyed this school more than I realized.
Grade 9 presented me with a separate gift. They framed a class photo we all took together and told me to keep it forever. I will!
A couple of the girls handed me an envelope but asked me not to open it until I left the village. As the students filed back into their classes, I put all the flowers into a bag and went to the office to retrieve my luggage. What am I going to do with all these flowers?
On my last walk through the school grounds, I popped my head into each class and gave one last wave. Everyone responded well. I specifically went into Aakash’s class and he got up from his seat and ran up to me and gave me a hug. Same with Amish in his class. I gave him a high five and told him to be good. My host family kids felt like my own kids at certain times and I was going to miss them the most. What were they going to do without my iPad? I had to leave quick before things got really sad, but before I did, I said one last goodbye to my host parents Aatma and Mina. They have been superb. I was really going to miss Mina and her dal bhat. After six weeks of eating dal bhat every morning and night, I never got tired of it because it was so delicious!
As I took my last steps out, Zahra accompanied me. The plan was to hike down the mountain and then catch a cab to Lakeside. I was decorated in gold and white scarves and had red all over my face. I had a bag full of flowers and my travel bags in tow. That was that. Halfway down the mountain, we came to a lone tree that peered over beyond the mountains edge. I took all the flowers, sprinkled the petals around the base and hung up the flower wreaths on the branch. It’s the best thing I could think to do with them. And once I did that, I felt like that was the proper send off I needed before I exited Nepal.
Poor Zahra. She’s the only volunteer remaining in the village with no new volunteers arriving anytime soon. The holiday season is approaching which means the volunteer season will be slow. She’ll be able to manage though and I’m sure the Thapa kids will keep her busy.
The plan was to stay in Simrik overnight and that morning, take a bus to Kathmandu. The next morning I had a series of flights scheduled out of the country and into my next main destination. When I arrived at the bus station to Kathmandu, I joined up with Natacha, Alexis, Billy, Mats, and two other volunteers. I had no idea these guys were going to be here! It was great company to have on the exhausting 7-hour journey to Kathmandu. We also unexpectedly ran into Tim who was on the back of a motorbike in Kathmandu!
Nepal, you were a tremendous experience and have been one of the most awesomely challenging countries I have been to yet.
Guatemala, you’re next!