I’m not one to throw a bunch of parties for myself, but I’m not one to go quietly either. These past two weeks have been extremely emotional as well as extremely beautiful with all of the different goodbyes. As I mentioned previously, the first goodbyes were all-day activities with teachers and students. Besides that, Patrick and I had a going-away lunch at our favorite BBQ place in Pana. To our delight, we had 15 fellow volunteers show up to celebrate with us. They even surprised us with a cake and cards! I loved how everyone has adopted the Guatemalan tradition of “giving words.” Everyone went around the table and said how proud they were of us and what we’ve been able to accomplish in our services or how we’ve inspired them. I am definitely not one of the more social volunteers, so to have this admiration expressed from my peers was really heartening.
To celebrate with my family, we had two dinners- one that they made for me, and one that I made for them. They made me burritos and pupusas- a traditional Salvadoran food that my host mom makes on special occasions. When I cooked for them a couple of days later, Sara came over to help me make lasagna from scratch. They surprised me by also making tamales- a traditional Guatemalan food made for special occasions. Normally, the whole family is never home at once because they have obligations in different places. It was really special that on this final Saturday, my whole family made the effort to be there. We exchanged gifts and “palabras” as well. We even toasted with champagne!
My whole fam!
Sara and Marta making tortillas
The hardest goodbyes by far were my students and friends. I entered each of the seven classrooms and said goodbye to all 200+ kids. Sometimes you don’t realize whose lives you’ve touched until some 11 and 12-year-old girls are hugging you around the waist, crying, and telling you how much they’re going to miss you. My Espacio Amigable girls as well as my Zumba ladies all cried and begged me not to go.
Last zumba class
The person I am going to miss the most is Luis- he started off as my Kaqchikel tutor but quickly became my best friend. We’ve been inseparable, and now, well… we’re separated. It’s hard… but that’s life, right? I’ve always had a hard time with change. I hate leaving, but I love arriving new places. Even though it hurts- I am leaving friends and family and loved ones- I am grateful for the opportunity to have entered the hearts and homes of these people, and I know that we will always care for each other and remember each other with fondness.
Today, September 3rd, is my last day in Guatemala. It is a monumental day- President Otto Perez Molina has lost his presidential immunity of prosecution and the Attorney General has ordered the issue for his arrest. Woo! I digress. 🙂
When I came here 27 months ago, I wanted to fully commit. I wanted to not go home, but to rather make here my new home. I can absolutely say that I did that. I’ve spent two Thanksgivings, two Christmases, two 15 de septiembres, two Semana Santas and a bunch of other holidays here. I’ve completed two school years, coached two dance teams, and taught two years of Zumba. I’ve held three camps and four parents workshops. I’ve made genuine cross-cultural friendships that will last forever. I am so blessed to have been placed here, and to have had the opportunity to explore the cultural and natural richness of this beautiful country.
I’m sad, but I am proud. The experience and skills I have gained here will take me far, but I know I will be back again to visit someday.
I don’t cry because we’ve been separated by distance, and for a matter of years. Why? Because for as long as we share the same sky and breathe the same air, we’re still together.”
Donna Lynn Hope