And just like that, we’re home, safe and sound and on the ground in the USA! This weekend meant a long 40 hours of travel; four different airports, four countries, three continents and a lot of airtime, all in a matter of hours! Is it good to be home? Of course it is great to see family, friends and loved ones! It’s great to sleep in your “own” bed, go to your “own” grocery store, and cook in your “own kitchen.” But every single one of us left a little piece of our hearts in Namibia. I know I left mine at St. Baranbus Primary School.
After spending two months in that beautiful country, it really became home. We had a routine, we were living everyday life, working as teachers and loving the culture. The warmth of the sun shone bright everyday, we read books, hugged children and relied on each other for everything.
Our last day at school (Thursday) was one of the hardest days of my life. As I have thought many times, there was not a single day of teaching where I got home and thought to myself, “wow! That was easy!” Each day brought new and different challenges in all forms. But Thursday was the hardest day of them all. The waterworks began at 7:00 am in the teachers meeting as we thanked them for their hospitality, donated the rest of our school supplies and left them with new books for the library (thanks to MaryBeth at BNC!). Each of our teachers stood up and gave beautiful speeches about how proud they were of us and how much they would miss us. My teacher and I formed a really incredible bond while I was in her classroom, and it was so sweet to hear her say those things.
I had 7C, my home class, for the first two periods of the day. We played games, both American and Namibian, then just hung out. We took lots of pictures, drew, did crafts and then said goodbyes. I told them how proud of I was of them and that I loved each and every one of them. I handed each of them a little card with a note for them to paste in their math journals to remember me when I left. Each of my three other classes followed suit. The day was emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting. There were many tears shed from both us and our learners. Each one of them, no matter how naughty, annoying or lovely they had been over the last two months etched themselves a place in our hearts. They were all so unique and different, each bringing something new to our classes and the school. They are unforgettable. At the end of each class, we were flooded with hugs, some kisses, many tears, and handfuls of notes and cards the kids had made for us. I think I must have packed at least 100 cards in my suitcase from kids, none of which I have been able to read yet.
When school was over, we met kids at the gate to take more pictures and say more goodbyes. One kid told me then that his Otjiherero threated to beat him because he was crying so hard during that class, as it followed mine. The tears were flowing non-stop, the ugly crying was real, and Kelsey, Amy and I decided we needed to go because it was only getting harder by the minute. When I went to the staff room to collect my belongings, a train of 6 kids followed me, each grabbing a bag, a water bottle and all the things I had with me. We were walking to BNC for our last day of tutoring and they all wanted to help carry our things there with us! (In Namibia, kids walk home and many of them walk home to an empty house, so it doesn’t matter when they get there). Well, I didn’t carry a single thing to BNC with me that day. Each of the kids followed me there where it was even harder to say goodbye. There were two boys who absolutely killed me. Hermando and Keja. They helped me set things down in my classroom and we went to the gate of the BNC for our final goodbyes. At this point, they both had tears streaming down their faces, looking longingly at me as we hugged, I cried, we hugged again, I told them I loved them and finally I had to tell them I needed to go. As I sobbed watching them walk away, they stood, hands and faces pressed up against the fence, looking at me in the BNC as they cried. I couldn’t handle it, sobbing myself, and had to walk away, knowing that I would never see these beautiful boys again.
After this horribly emotional day, I thought to myself…how will I ever be a teacher? If I have to do this every single year, and to think it was this hard after only being with these kids for 9 months. Then, I realized this… all day kids were asking us “when will you be back to teach us?” “When will we see you again?” “Are you coming back?” we would never see these kids again. We had to say goodbye forever, and even for a 10 year old, that was extremely hard to comprehend. It felt almost like we were abandoning them. We started something and didn’t finish. We wouldn’t see them walking through the halls the following year, at an assembly with their new class or after school getting picked up. We were never going to see their beautiful faces again. Knowing that this won’t be the case in the U.S. is a little bit easier, but I know this is only the beginning of how hard it will be.
The jet lag is still wreaking havoc and my suitcases are still not fully unpacked. My room that I left so nice and clean is a mess and I feel like the To Do list will never end. We go back to our U.S. classrooms on Wednesday. I am looking forward to seeing my teacher and hugging each one of my 56 little students, plus one new one! I cannot wait to see them! But every second, I miss being in Namibia. I look at the clock and think about what time it is there, how warm it would be outside (I’m really not used to the cold again), where my learners are, etc. The U.S. is home, but right now, it is still uncomfortable. I feel out of place and like I don’t belong here right now. I don’t feel like my job in Namibia is finished. There is still more to see, more to do, more culture to take in, more friends to make and more knowledge to be had. I will be back, I know. But until then, a piece of my heart will always be there.
I am so thankful to all of you for the undying love, support and encouragement. I could not have made this happen without you, and I will be forever grateful for that. This experience has changed my life, and I cannot wait to share more of my experiences with you in the coming months. Much love to all, and cheers to Namibia!
|At the BNC gate|
|Saying goodbye to the sweetest grade 5 boys: Hermando (left) and Keja (right)|
|Crying my eyes out|
|Saying goodbye to Cynthia|
|Our sweet Jacky|
|Ronelli, head of the Math Dept., with my handmade Herero doll|
|Some of the staff: Secretary (far left), Ms. Ham (Kelsey's teacher) and Cynthia.|
|7C, my home class and first group of Namibian learners|
|Some of my 5A learners|
|Class picture with 5D|
|Sweet girls of 5A: Richardine, almost Miss Valentine (left) and Alyssa (right)|
|Meunju, 7C. Another one of my hardest goodbyes.|
|Final goodbye to Cynthia|