Today I woke up at my usual 5:00am, headed out to Gaira where I spent the morning at my school, and around noon I caught the bus back into town (after a minor setback due to a protest closing the road into Santa Marta). It is a routine I have been through countless times before, but this time it was different, because today was the last time I will ever do it.
My teachers and students have known for a few months that this day was coming and about a week ago people started saying “Katy no te vayas!” every time I walked out of a room. All week I have been walking into little surprise despedidas with my classes. I taught my regular classes today and spent lots of time playing with the kids, giving lots of besitos, talking to my teachers, and taking pictures. It was a day full of alegria, which is exactly what I have come to expect from people in the happiest country in the world.
In the last period we all gathered and the teachers gave speeches thanking me for the work I have done and reminding me that I am always welcome in their homes whenever I want to come visit. They prayed for my safe journey home and also threw in a prayer that I hurry up and get married and have lots of children 😛 They said I am a part of their family and that they past two years have been a blessing. When it was my turn to speak all I could do is tell them that I will never be able to put into words how much my time with them has meant to me and how much I appreciate the hard work they have put into improving their English program, sharing their culture with me, and welcoming me into their lives.
As I walked out of my school for the last time today, I felt the tears welling up. The whole school piled out into the front yard and the fences were lined with students and teachers waving and shouting their goodbyes. I am sure you could hear the shouts of “No te vayas!” and the entire student body chanting “Te queremos, Katy, te queremos!” for miles. One of my favorite second grade students managed to escape and came running up to me. She looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said, “You don’t have to be sad, because you will always have us in your heart, just like we will keep you in ours forever.” I gathered her up in my arms and gave her one last kiss before handing her off to a teacher. I waved and turned to walk away as tears streamed down my face.
I have spent the majority of my time these past two years within those walls. It is the place where I experienced my greatest successes and most devastating failures. It is the place where I proudly stood by watching my teachers grow professionally and students progress academically. It is a place where the lessons I learned outnumbered the lessons I taught. It is a place that contains people I love, many of whom I may never see again. It is a place full of memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
I will work in many schools throughout my future as an educator, with hundreds of students and teachers, but none will leave an impression on my heart like that left by IED Simon Bolivar de Gaira. It wasn’t always easy, but it was all worth it.
Until next time….paz y amor.