Friday, February 25, 2011

a taste of goodbye

This post was written on February 24.

In my last post I mentioned the upcoming 10th grade sendoff, which took place yesterday (Wednesday). The majority of the program was song/dance performances that were participated in/enjoyed by the entire school. At the end of the day, however, was the 10th grade social, which was exclusively for the 10th graders and teachers. A couple of the 10th graders gave speeches to their peers, and some teachers spoke, as well.

Then, the candlelight ceremony. Suja Teacher, the headmistress, lit a candle, which was used to light candles that had been distributed to all of the girls. The teachers then formed a line, and the girls, candle in hand, walked past each teacher, saying goodbye.

The atmosphere was bittersweet and emotionally charged; the majority of the girls were crying, and many of the teachers, too. The emotions were contagious as I could all-too-easily remember what it was like to be in those girls’ shoes, most recently, graduating college, and five years ago, graduating high school. To say goodbye to formative and inspiring teachers; to part ways with the friends who have been an integral part of a distinct and wonderful phase of one’s life.

On even more immediate level, I couldn’t help but think about my own departure from Buchanan, next Tuesday. I’m going to my summer YAV placement, the Mandiram Society, which includes a hospital, an old age home, and an orphanage. While I’m excited about moving to Mandiram for a variety of reasons, enniku vishamam aane (I’m sad), too. It’s not so much about leaving Buchanan—I’ll be back in June, when the new school year begins, after all. It’s more so because of the people who won’t be here when I come back. While I haven’t had a whole lot of interaction with the 10th grade class, there are a handful of them who I have gotten to know and who I will miss dearly.

First and foremost is Jinta, who has been like a little sister to me. She’s the one who I can ask any question, whether cultural in nature, or simply having to do with the daily goings-on of Buchanan, without fear of sounding silly or otherwise. She has been my fashion advisor, my translator, my co-conspirator, and my friend from day one. Like the rest of the 10th grade students, she’ll be starting at a new school in June.

In addition to the 10th grade class, there are a few other individuals who I won’t be seeing after summer vacation:

Aleena: Although Jinta was certainly my friend from day one, Aleena, 10 years old, was my friend from minute one. Like Jinta, Aleena boards at the hostel. She is gregarious, spontaneous, and a drama queen in the best sense of the phrase. She has been a faithful Zumba attendee, a voracious reader of any book of mine that she can get her hands on, and someone who I am always happy to see. She has also been a huge blessing to me in that she speaks better English than probably anyone at Buchanan, and while that might sound selfish, sometimes it’s just nice to hear someone ramble on in your own language…even if it’s about how boys have cooties and how she’s never going to get married. I have a feeling she’ll change her mind one day ;) After March, Aleena and her family are leaving Kerala permanently and moving to north India. Mainly what I’m wondering is: who else is going to walk around campus and sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with me??

The 2nd year TTC students: As the Teacher Training Course (TTC) program is only a 2-year program, the appropriately-titled ‘second years’ are approaching their final weeks on Buchanan’s campus. These girls are my roommates. They played a HUGE role in my successful assimilation to life at Buchanan, and have been a true community of love, friendship, support, and laughter for me. I remember like it was yesterday when Hari and Renju showed up at my door at 7AM to teach me how to do laundry by hand. The countless times that Ancy and Merlin have patiently dressed me in a saree, a feat that I am still unable to master on my own. The day that Sruthy, attempting to explain to me some of the nuances of the Muslim faith, accidently called a mosque a mosquito, earning her the nickname of ‘mosquito’ ever since. Jinsha’s beautiful singing at prayer time; Leethu’s comical antics. The day-to-day memories I have with all of these girls are indelible.

As much as I’m so sad knowing that I will probably never see Jinta, Aleena, or the 2nd year TTC students again…I’m so excited for them. I’m excited for Jinta to go on to higher secondary school; to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. To learn by experience, as I told the rest of the 10th graders at their candlelight ceremony, that the best is yet to come. I’m excited for Aleena because I know that her spunk and charm are going to take her so far in life—I would love more than anything to know what she’s doing in ten years. Twenty-year-old Aleena is pretty hard for me to imagine at this point…maybe by then she will be reconsidering the cootie-status of boys. And I’m excited for the TTC second years, because I know that they will all be fantastic teachers. They are each so spirited, unique, and gifted; they have brought me so much joy, and I know they will continue to do that for others.

The finality of goodbye is just hard. And it’s definitely quite final when none of them are very internet-literate and they don’t use email. But, as the title of this post suggests, this is really only a taste of goodbye. The real goodbye will come in July when it’s me who’s leaving, and not just for the summer. On the bright side, there’s a lot to look forward to between now and then, and after, of course. Most importantly, I have four days left with Jinta, Aleena, and the 2nd years…and you know what? We’re gonna make the best of them!

"Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift—that’s why it’s called the present." -Unknown

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