Not Another Goodbye
Sometimes, your WorldTeach year is so great that you have to do it again. Katie Scott, WorldTeach China volunteer, decided to return for a second year as you’ll read below.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
Please, not another goodbye. I can’t take it.
It’s been a very goodbye-y couple of years.
The last several weeks in my college town I was crying every other day saying bye to everyone, sometimes, I’m ashamed to say even avoiding them.
And here I am again saying goodbye every day as I wrap up the last of my classes.
I’m pretty in tune with my emotions and when I feel that wave of nostalgia or sadness I jump into it.
This leads to wet eyes and a heavy heart.
I am dreading saying goodbye to my co-workers and my school. I love working in the office, I love Helen, Amber, Grace and Mr. Wu, Z and Jaelyn and Andy and He Xin Yi. The list goes on.
Recently scrolling down facebook I saw a post from WorldTeach’s official page. Someone in the Namibia program wrote that the hardest part of leaving was the dread of not knowing when you’ll ever come back or see those faces again.
Luckily, I know when I’m coming back and it is within a few short months.
But I will be coming back to a completely different place in many ways. I won’t be a WorldTeacher, so many of my fellow volunteers have moved on, and begun their next step in the states and my students are a 2-hour bus trip away. It’s not the same.
The weekend before last was End of Service, which is the last conference WorldTeach holds to help volunteers come to terms with their end of service as well as how to acclimate back to life in America.
I got there bright and early and got to spend my Saturday in a room with my friends and peers, discussing everything from the everyday minutia of tax forms to advice for next years volunteers, to broader topics such as reverse culture shock.
The conference went by very smoothly, without a hitch and without me crying.
The real goodbye-ing happened after the conference. We all went out to dinner together at “the Mao” our dinner hot spot. We laughed and ate a ton of really good Hunan food. That’s where the goodbyes started, Suzanne had to leave early, Andres had a morning train back, and Jamie had to go, so I hugged them and watched them walk out the front door. These were people with whom I’d shared this adventure and I was unsure of when or if I’d ever see them again and feeling powerless against all of the change. There they walked and there I stood and there was nothing to be done.
But soon we were back in motion. My tutor and our WT Chinese teacher Julie scooped a few others and me up in her car and we all went to Mega together. It was very sweet of her to drive us. Weirdly enough when we got to Mega (a favorite sports bar of ours) there was already a big event going on. A huge group of Chinese people were there celebrating, as we later found out the group was there because someone was going to propose. So we all sat on the fringes watching a new beginning for some as we were in the midst of our last hurrah. I chose to see it as poetic.
The night went into full swing. Soon it was just WorldTeachers left in the bar and Lawrence (the owner our friend) let us choose the music, so we were all dancing and singing and reminiscing and for a few of us going through random bursts of crying and fear about the next unknown.
I myself fell victim to some intense emotions about leaving as we all walked out the door to go our separate ways. I was just standing outside of this place we loved watching different groups of my friends talking to one another, laughing, sharing jokes and I was deeply moved and upset at the thought of leaving them, which resulted in lots of tears. Tears then prompted hugs, which then made other people cry. It was a mess, though not an unwelcome one.
The bus ride back after that weekend was one of the strangest for me. I couldn’t process how I was feeling. I was very sad to say goodbye, happy to have completed my requirements, feeling closure and yet going back for another week of teaching and packing, excited to travel to Europe this summer and see my family, really sad that coming back to China won’t mean coming back to this same group of friends. All in one bus ride people, plus I was listening to the Temper Trap. Didn’t exactly help.
And now I’m sitting downstairs in the room with the internet, because my site mate Frank has already left and packed up his router. I left the office today knowing that I wouldn’t be back as a Junior 1 teacher again. I’ve become so accustomed to the office, it’s sounds, and now it’s over. I’m sad but I am also ready to move on to the next step, as gut-wrenching as it can be. As distressed as it makes me, I love change and the constant move. Tomorrow morning I will close the front door to Qingzhuhu and walk out into the yard. I will see my bamboo plant still growing tall, hear the cluck of chickens and possibly firecrackers and I will have to walk away and leave it behind, to remain in my heart if no longer in my life.
I’m dreading the last of the goodbyes, yet still grateful to have had the chance to make them at all.
Goodbye, Qingzhuhu. Wo ai ni.