3 December 2013, Tuesday
“You’ll know I’ll always love you.
You’ll know I’ll always care.
And no matter how far I may go,
In my thoughts,
You’ll always be there.” – Dreamgirls
Well, my bags are packed and I’m ready to go. I’ve said goodbye to my colleagues, kids, friends, and host family in Okahandja. All that is left is the final paperwork, closing my bank account, last trip to medical to make sure I’m healthy enough to come home, and final interviews. Yesterday I exchanged some of my Namibian dollars for a 100 USD. When they handed me the note, I questioned whether it was real. The USD was almost bluish in color and hand a blue stripe down the middle. One the back it also had a goofy looking 100 printed very big. As I questioned whether I had been given fake USD, I realized that I don’t remember ever having a 100 dollar bill before, so I really have nothing to compare it to…
Anyway, let me say just a few words about my last few days in Namibia. The Thursday before I left, the school threw me a going away party in combination with two teachers who are getting married over the holiday. It was a really nice party especially considering the feelings expressed by my principal the week before that were apparently shared by other members of the staff. One of the other teachers made me a traditional Damara dress to wear for the occasion. The principal gave me a coffee mug with the school logo on it and a canvas bag with Namibia embroidered on it. The whole school chipped in and gave me N$1200 cash. The principal gave a speech about me which he printed, signed, and stamped with the school stamp, an interesting gesture. Then one of my favorite teachers, a grade on teachers, stood up to thank me and give me her gifts. She was crying before she even started talking, and then so was I. She gave me a huge wooden carving of Africa, a bracelet, a t-shirt for me and one for my mom and even a small present for my grandma who sent over a couple plastic animals. But the best part was her speech. She talked about how she used to beat the children in her class, but one day when I was in there, I saw her stick and she told me she used it so the kids could point to words while they read. Sometimes though, the stick would tear the paper. I told her I had just the thing, and I found a pointer that had a big plastic finger on one end that someone (cough, Nancy) sent in a package at the beginning of my service. She loved it. She said from that point on she didn’t hit her learners any more. She also thanked me and my family for all the animals they sent for her and to me for coming to read with her learners. She is such a wonderful woman and I was so sad to say goodbye to her. There were quite a few colleagues I wanted to say goodbye to, so as not to hurt any feelings, I wrote a little Christmas card to each one of my 40 colleagues.
Saying goodbye to my learners was much harder. The last two days of school, there were no exams to write and teachers were just working on calculating final grades, so many of the learners didn’t come to school. The last day of school I had promised to give away my bike to one learner who came to school for the whole day. I started the day by writing down all their names and putting them in a bucket if they came to school. A group of learners then accompanied me around the whole school as I handed out my cards. My learners also received cards a couple days before. I spent about a month writing out 163 Christmas cards to each one of my learners. I anxiously waited for a package to come in the mail which had a picture of each one of them and a class picture for each learner, but in two years, that package was the only one not to show up. I had even printed out a couple hundred random pictures from the past 2 years that I was going to give to the learners. Unfortunately, I had told them about these pictures coming, so every day they asked me about the pictures. When it never showed up, I compromised by taking all the pictures I had of my family and friends (think several hundred) and letting them choose which ones of those they wanted. They enjoyed picking through my pictures and asking who was who, but they really wanted the pictures of themselves and of me. At 10am on that last day, I chose a name from the bucket and gave my bike to Anna Johannes. Then I drew a second name for the large pictures from last year that were hanging in my class all year. That went to Tobias from 7B. From there, I’m not quite sure what happened. A teacher called me away for something, and when I went back to my class, most of the learners were gone. A few were left waiting to say their goodbyes, but as I was hugging them and we were exchanging “I love yous” one of the other teachers walked in wanting his grades. I explained I didn’t have them, but he hung around my door snickering as I hugged the last few kids and they told me they loved me and I told them the same and how much I will miss them. If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. I think I’ve been imagining saying goodbye to Namibia for a year or more now and no goodbyes went the way I imagined. But, I’m ok with it.
My last day in Otjiwarongo, my former neighbor Betty threw me a going away braai at her new house. That was a lot of fun because a few of the newest volunteers were there and they got to meet Betty and see how amazing she is. Hopefully they will continue to keep in touch with her. One of my teacher friends was also at the braai with his fiancé and a bunch of other Namibians. It was a big affair. The food was fantastic and the weather was actually cool. The hardest part was the end of the evening when I finally had to say goodbye to Betty and the kids. I gave them an album with a bunch of pictures of us in it and a nice letter telling them how much they all mean to me. It was a tearful goodbye and I know I’m going to miss them so much.
The next morning, my transport actually arrived early. I left at 7:40 am, but thankfully there were a few new volunteers staying at my house to help with my gigantic bags and to see me off. It was a pretty hurried goodbye to the place I called home for the last two years as the driver wanted to get on the road. The volunteers replacing me who I’ve lived with the past several weeks weren’t even awake yet to see me off, so I felt kind of like I was just sneaking away.
I spent the weekend with my original host family in Okahandja, saying goodbye to Mama Alta, Caleb and Esme. It was a really nice weekend with a lot of people in and out of the house. Her place feels so much like home to me. Many of the neighborhood children I met two years ago came to say goodbye. Mama Alta’s brother, sister-in-law, and two sons came and stayed from Saturday to Sunday. Mama Alta cooked a huge meal on Sunday and throughout the weekend kept telling me how much she was going to miss me and how I’m just such a kind and respectful person and that’s why we got along so well. On Monday morning my ride picked me up at 5:40 am, so Mama Alta and I shared a teary goodbye in the dark while Esme, Caleb, and Cornea were still asleep inside. That was by far the most difficult goodbye of the week.
Now I’m just chilling in the capital and waiting for Thursday. Of course there’s still a lot to do around here with having to close out my service. And there are some other volunteers around to hang out with and go out for some good food, even though most of my plans when I get back home involve foods I want to eat that I haven’t had for more than two years.
My next, and possibly last, blog post will be from America. And on that note, I leave you with some goodbyes from my learners.
Click here to see Vanessa’s farewell speech
Click here to see Ujama’s farewell speech