So this is it. The last blog entry.
Regardless of the situation, I hate saying goodbye. And also, I’m very bad at it. I’m not bad at it because it’s so difficult. I’m usually not the one to stumble away, sobbing into my hands like a little boy whose Tonka truck was stepped on. I’m bad at it because it’s easy. What I find is that while most people create a ritual of saying goodbye, exchanging heartfelt words to one another, exchange letters, embrace for long periods of time, etc., my desire is to do it as quickly and cleanly as possible- like ripping a band-aid from an open wound. Maybe it’s my stoic Germanic roots, though my imaginary therapist would probably surmise that it’s somehow connected to a childhood of instability and constantly being uprooted. After which I would pay them two-hundred fifty imaginary dollars. If I could, when I say goodbye to someone for the last time, it would amount to a good, long hug/handshake/pat on the head (student), say thanks for everything, promise to stay in touch (that both only sometimes follow through with), and then say goodbye.
But that is not the Indonesian way. And it certainly isn’t the Banjarese one.
My goodbye, a two-week long process, started with me getting up in front of the school during upacara, the Monday flag ceremony and giving a speech to the whole school, after which one of my students came up and gave a speech to me on behalf of the school. And then I was presented with gifts and many, many photos were taken. And accepting many gifts, one of which was a large, fluffy stuffed pink rabbit. After that, I was taken to lunch by the English teachers, at which I gave another speech. I spent my final full week of teaching going around to each class, giving a farewell speech and having them write in my Memory Book. Some of my favorites were:
“You’re my Teacher AT USA. You’re no hair, you make me smile.”
“Dear Mr. Chris, Don’t forget Ass, Thank You!”
“Dear Mr. Chris, You is number one. I LOVE YOU Mr. Chris! I Like it you.”
and the unforgettable…
“Dear Mr. Chris, My name is Hendy. You are handsome BUT you more handsome if you have hair in your head.”
There was clearly a theme here. Accompanying them were some fantastic illustrations, and a few disturbing portraits which unintentionally made me appear like a serial killer. On the last day at my school, I said my last goodbyes, had probably close to 40-50 photos taken of me, shook hands and was asked to be part of a few dozen selfies. And then I rode off on trusted motorbike down Jl. Soetoyo for the last time. And then silence. Even though I wouldn’t fly out for a few more days, it was almost as if with the dog-and-pony show over, there was no need to get in touch with me again and my phone remained silent. This was a strange sensation, even for someone like me who avoids long goodbyes. It something I’ve never completely understood about people I’ve met during my time here: initial friendliness followed by a lack of communication.
Fortunately, this wasn’t entirely the case. My host family took me to one of their favorite Chinese restaurants and presented me with a sasirangang (local batik design) shirt and we said our goodbyes. I went to some of places I’d frequented during the last nine months, said goodbyes and presented them with oleh-oleh (small gifts). One of the more touching moments was when I was told someone was outside my house wanting to talk to me. I opened it up and to my surprise, found my friendly coconut seller outside with her youngest son. She had asked around and figured out where I lived. After saying our final goodbyes, she sheepishly pulled out something from her pocket and handed me a ring made from Borneo Red, a valuable local stone. I felt loved, humbled and embarrassed all at the same. I hope one day to be half as generous as her.
Last night, I had my final meal with Mitch, my snarky and completely irreplaceable site mate, at Sakuro our go-to restaurant for Chinese noodles, but more importantly, forbidden ice-cold Bintangs. Today, I say goodbye to my host family and fly to Jakarta for a brief exit conference. And then I return to Brooklyn to finish grad (literally one more class left), start teaching high school history (job pending), and start a new chapter in life.
Before I do that, one last thing to say. Whether you interacted with me through this blog by furthering topics via email, left comments, or simply by being a blip on my readership stats, I wouldn’t have continued it without knowing there were people outside of my immediate environment who cared enough about what I was learning and experiencing during these last nine months in South Borneo to actually take the time to read this. Or just click on my site and scan the first few sentences (I do that a lot). So thank you- I mean it. I titled this blog Hari Demi Hari, which means Day By Day in Indonesian. And this is the last day.
Thanks for seeing it through to the end with me.