Saturday, November 28, 2009

Namaste Nepal.....

So the final days of my time in Nepal came and went. Before I knew it I was attending my "Farewell Ceremony" at the school dressed in Traditional Newari clothing and literally covered in flowers.

Let me back up a little bit, back to the beginning of my last day at school (Thursday). Jodi (the new Volunteer at the school) and I arrived at the school slightly late due to traffic. I had been told the day before that I should bring my Sari to school because they wanted to see me in it. I had my bag packed full of Sari, and gifts for the children, as well as two cameras to capture my last time with the kids. The painting, I am happy to say, was finished just in time, and the kids and I started the day by putting the school back together and putting desks back in each classroom. It was a BIG job since there were many dirty benches which I encouraged the kids to wash before putting them back. Everyone helped out, from the youngest student bringing water to each class, to the Teachers putting together their new and clean office. There was an energy in the air of excitement and happiness. I could tell by the rush of students racing between rooms that they were excited to see their beautiful new blue and white walled classrooms. I got many "Thank Yous", mostly from the older students because they noticed and appreciated the change the most. Little did I know that the greatest Thank You of all was yet to come.

After much work of cleaning and arranging, I was herded into Class One by a local Newari woman and was told, basically, to take off my clothes. My friend Emily (another Volunteer) had told me of her experience with a similar situation, and she basically passed on the knowledge that Nepali people enjoy dressing Western people up in Traditional costumes. So with this in mind I did as I was told and let them dress me in a Newari Sari. It was very beautiful with many layers of fabric wound around me. When I was finished being dressed the children flooded into the classroom to see what I looked like. Most of them, especially the little ones, looked at me as though they didn't recognize me, and many of them clapped their hands and laughed at what they saw. At this point the women started doing my make-up, which made me look somewhat like a clown.

Jodi, who was my Hero that day for taking video and pictures, took many of my outfit before I was placed on a "stage" in front of all the students. There were 3 men I had never met before who were also on the "stage" sitting with me. They were members of the organization SEFU which runs the school, as well as the Chairman of the school and some other man. We were all sitting there with the children sitting on benches in front of us watching in awe of what was going to happen. Since I looked like a clown I am sure they expected me to start performing some strange act or something, instead I sat quietly as they began speaking in Nepali. One of the male teachers was the MC of sorts, who introduced each of the men sitting to my right and asked them to speak. All of them spoke in Nepali so naturally I did not understand the majority of it (I learned some Nepali while I was there but not lots), luckily Bibek (Nepali orientation leader) was there to translate. All of them thanked me very much for the time that I had dedicated to the school and the work that I had done while I was here. Once they had all spoken, one of the Class 5 students got up and spoke on behalf of the students, saying Thank you and telling me that they learned lots of English while I was there. Then there came flowers. The headmaster beckoned the students to present me with the garlands of marigolds that they had made at home. I kept back tears as almost each student lined up in front of me to present me with a garland by placing it around my neck. From the oldest student to my 5 year old students, each one had a garland to give me. I was astounded by all of these flowers that now sat like a mane around my neck. Then I was asked to give a speech, so I stood in front of my students and held strong while telling all of them that I would miss them with all of my heart and that I wanted them to remember that their education was the most important thing in their lives. I thanked them for welcoming me into their school and community and making me feel at home.

As is tradition in Nepali culture, whenever there is a celebration there is a meal, so all of the Teachers and guests went to Class One to eat. I lingered outside the class to spend some more time saying goodbye to some of the students. I could hardly eat while being so emotionally wound up, but I managed to eat my last traditional Nepali meal of beaten rice, cauliflower with curry, and beans. It was delicious.

I was hoping that when the eating was over I would be able to see the kids one last time, and I got worried when I could barely hear screaming or playing outside. We went to the yard to finish the meal with Tea and then came the tears. Surprisingly they were not from me, yet, but from a girl named Kalpana from Class Four. She was bawling to say the least and she ran from the field when she saw me and gave me a huge hug. I couldn't hold in my tears any longer once I saw her, and apparently 4 others were crying because I was leaving as well. I think this moment (excuse me while I be cheesy) is the moment I realized what a whirlwind this trip has been for me, and my students. During my time at the school, getting the painting ready and teaching everyday, I never really realized that it would end. And at that moment I realized that I would not be going back to school the next day, or the day after that, or ever again, and I started to cry harder because I didn't want to leave my students, who I had built such a relationship with. Nepali people do not tend to hug each other, but I could not resist hugging each student again as well as the Teachers. Even some of the older Teachers were crying a little, to my surprise.
I said goodbye one last time and waved to the kids and I walked away from the school. Bibek took me home on his motorcycle even though I was still wearing my full costume. I spent the rest of the ride home crying knowing that I would likely never see my students or Teachers again. And then I pulled myself together and went home showing everyone all the gifts I had received and the ceremony they threw in my honor.

I am currently in Seoul, Korea at a hostel awaiting Doug's arrival. I arrived yesterday night and spent the night in a very futuristic and cool Korean hotel. Today was exciting and fun as I learned how to ride the Metro by myself, and took the whole day exploring the city. I am spending about a week and a half with Doug in Busan before I head home. This place is so different from Nepal it is hard to get my mind around everything. I will really miss Nepal, there is no place like it and, I didn't think it would happen, but in two months it became like a home for me.

1 comment:

  1. Now you've gone and made me cry. How wonderful for you to have had such an increible experience . I am not at all surprised that your students and fellow teachers were so sad to see you go. Liz, once again you have touched many hearts. We can't wait to see you when you get home.