The trouble with saying goodbye

Yes, there were tears today. Lots.

(This post is a couple of days late because we were on safari)

We knew today was going to be hard. You can’t spend six weeks at a school developing¬† relationships with students and teachers alike, and not be sad.

And when you see how little they have and yet how resilient they are, you can’t help but wonder whether they’ll be alright. We’ll they make it in the end? Will they break the cycle of poverty?

We will never know because we likely won’t be able to see them again.

I’m going to miss being called “mama” by everyone. And “teacha.” I’m going to miss the students’ daily greeting in a slightly off-cadence, collective chant when I enter the classroom:

Students: Good morning teacha!
Me: Good morning class. How are you?
Students: I’m fine teacha thank you andi how are you? (Tanzanians stick “i” on the end of everything from sentensi to deski to nexti)
Me: I’m fine, thank you! Please be seated.
Students: Thank you teacha!

The day started with greetings from Anna, the Head Teacher, who gifted us with African shirts. I don’t know how she did it, but everyone’s fit!

We were gifted with African shirts

Posing with some of our students and Emmy from Holland, who became our third daughter for six weeks

We then went into the Grade Two, Three and Four classes to hand out pens and pencils to all the students. When these things run out, there are no replacements. We would often see students running from one class to another to borrow a pen or pencil from a sibling or friend. We decided to leave behind a couple of boxes.

Sophie hands out pencils to the class

Sophie hands out pencils to the class

When we were handing out the gifts, I saw sadness on the students’ faces as I explained that today was our last day. They sang us a song to say goodbye:

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye to you all. We are very sorry that you are going away. We will never see you again.  When you are away, please remember us. We are very sorry that you are going away.

That was when I started crying. Right about when my favourite teacher grabbed my arm and sang the song directly to me.

I managed to get into each class and sing some final songs with the kids. Alice the Camel and the Hokey Pokey are favourites. I love “Esta” sung in Kiswinglish with all the kids “shaking their body” while singing about cleaning their car because they are to big too take the bus.

Not that any of them has a car. One kid even asked me what my glasses were for today!

Claire plays clapping games with the kids

Claire plays clapping games with the kids

We have learned so much from the school and the teachers. Kids are kids. And just because you have nothing doesn’t mean you don’t have hope, compassion and laughter. You still go on living your daily life like everyone else.

I hope we’ve managed to raise the self-esteem of the kids and improve their English just a little bit. The kids loved it when I put surprise messages in exercises about KYGN having the nicest students, or using the kids’ names in examples on the board.

But we will definitely miss these people. From the cook in the cover photo who I helped get to Nairobi to visit her sick daughter, to the young teachers just 21 years old. Everyone at that school is so special, and will never be forgotten!

5 Comments on “The trouble with saying goodbye

  1. Remarkable part of your journey and story Heather. Let’s hope that some of them will, as you say, make it…..break the cycle. I’m pretty sure some of them will never, ever forget you and your family, as you will always remember them.

    Thank you once again for sharing your adventures, your thoughts and feelings, even when it pinches.

    Gord and Joyce
    (And Gnarls and Eddie)

  2. Heather, Another lovely story and heartbreaking for you all saying goodbye! The experience will stay with you forever and ever! Great pictures WOW!

  3. Thank you Heather, another wonderful blog, I felt for you as you had to say goodbye. As Darlene said, it’s an experience that you will remember forever.

  4. I just finished reading this and I have tears in my eyes. What an amazing experience for you & your family. I know how hard it is to say goodbye, I experienced the same thing when I traveled to Cameroon. I think about the people I met there all the time. It’s an experience that stays with you forever. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  5. Oh wow, Heather! This really touched me. It made me cry… even before the part where you wrote you started to cry. What great experience!

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