(Written on the day we left.)
It’s 9:35am here in Bahia and our bus to the airport leaves at 3:30. I will begin the tedious flight back to the United States at 5:55pm. I thought keeping a blog on this journey would be easy, but I have found it quite difficult. Most of this experience has been living in the present, and trying to just get through each day, which, at times, was a challenge. There were several points during this month where I seriously considered requesting to go home, because the stress was too great to handle, I was physically ill and I felt like the rewards were not going to pay off all the mountains we had to cut through.
Last Friday proved me wrong. At the end of our last day of teaching we all gathered in the auditorium at Djalma Passeo High School, so our students could say a few words. Each group was represented by 2 students of their choice. I was not aware of any of this. My roommate, Cara Darling, was the first to have her students go up. They said heart-touching things. The list went on, I was 2nd to last. I was worried that after I had seen all these speeches about the other coaches, all these heartfelt sentences, all these emotions that maybe I hadn’t connected with mine as well as everyone else. I was definitely wrong. A few times during these presentations tears welled in my eyes, only spilling over when Fiona’s student, Wagner, got on his knee and “proposed” to her. When my students were called up, I had managed to gather my wits and promise myself I would not cry. A promise quickly to be broken. They may not have done an elaborate set up like some of the coaches, there may have been no songs, or photographs. But they weren’t necessary. They used words. The words that I had taught them over the month. They reminded me of my first day meeting them. Of the songs we had sung together. They said that though mistunderstood at times, I was a blue-eyed princess. And I cried. I cried tears of joy, and sorrow. These students, they were my age. I kept forgetting that. They were my age and they felt these things. They are more than students. They are my social network. They are my friends. And they are my new Brazilian Family.
The weekend was long, and I soon forgot my sorrows of leaving after 2 trips to the beach and one to the Pelo.
Tuesday came too soon. I woke up at 7:00. An hour and a half before we even left. I took a shower and got ready, only to see it was pouring outside. How fitting. I grabbed my umbrella, my iPad and a tank top. We were to do a flash mob to “Party Rock Anthem” at 3:30 that day. Then I got in the bus to head to the most amazing school, for the very last time.
Upon arrival everything was dead, I ran into a few of my students, but there were no tears. I actually avoided them at first, because I was afraid my early-morning-lack-of-emotional-control may effect the way I interact with them. After a few glasses of water, I faced them. Cleber wanted me to look at a super cool translation book thing. It had 9 different languages, and pictures just in case you weren’t comfortable saying the words. It was radical. Next thing I know we are sitting at a table. They have paint pens and a shirt. They are writing all the things they don’t want me to forget. “Barbie Girl” “Briagadeiro” “Cleber’s Face” “The Cha-Cha Slide” “The Hokey-Pokey” “Candy” “Turtles”. Everything. All written and drawn onto a simple white shirt that said “Ebep”. It also said “The Best Coach”. There were a few tears when I realized that in only a month we had built up memories that would last, literally, a lifetime. It’s hard to imagine that sort of influence.
We went back to the auditorium, where three days prior they had brought me to tears, and there were speeches from the higher ups. They congratualated us. They asked us all to coem back to Brazil at some point. They told the students they were champions. It was quite the scene. Then came the video judging. All our groups had done a Final Video for our very own “Oscars”. There were videos about Deforestation, The Experience, Music, etc. Eight videos were chosen to be played, only four would be awarded prizes. When my group’s video was played they all squeed. We had done a video about Deforestation and the future of the environment. Asking friends, familys, people to care more for the earth. I didn’t help at all, but I was proud of all my kiddos when they got up there to take the 3rd place throphy! They were all extremely proud as well. I felt like a mommy who had done a good job teaching her babies. (:
After that there was lunch, and gift giving. Shirt signings, etc. Many of my students gave me an item from their past that meant something to them. Elaine gave me her nail polish, Marcus gave me his marble and toy turtle, Gabriel gave me a mint coin that was made in 2002, Cleber gave me a necklace, as well as some shell. Then I had other gifts as well, souvenirs, candies, dolls, stuffed animals. All these things meant so much to me, and most were given with notes. There was not a person on earth who could convince me to read the notes while my students were around, though. I knew they would make me cry. So those had to wait for the bus ride back to Express Hotel.
My group all got together at about 3:50, after our flash mob, after everything that day, to say our final goodbyes.
I’ve decided that final is the wrong word, though, because I will be back to visit them soon. (:
When I finally caught up with the day, and realized this was my last time hugging them, getting kisses on the cheek, giggling and singing with them, I started crying. Elaine was the first to embrace me, but then there was a group hug going on. I think that my heart broke when I realized how much these people meant to me. I didn’t even know them until mid-April. I didn’t even meet them in person until 30 days ago. Incredible. Once the crying was over we decided we had to end on a good note. We sang Barbie Girl together, we did the Hokey Pokey a few times, they carried me to the bus and then it was over. I boarded the bus, only to sit there for 15 minutes because David, one of the fellows, was taking his sweet time. It was rough. For some unknown reason though, while looking out the window at all the students gathered around the bus, waiting to wave us off, I decided to read my letters. My notes. Their notes. Their words. An idea that really should’ve been thought over more.
Gabriel. A student I feel that I didn’t get to know well enough wrote me the longest note. He talked about the first day, the foods I liked, and didn’t like. He talked about laughing, about the assignments. About noticing I was ill. He talked about how he wanted to say sorry for speaking in Portuguese when he “should’ve” been using English. It ripped my heart apart. The dams broke again, and tears poured. Thank god I remembered tissues.
After a long bus ride home, all I wanted to do was sleep. I was physically and emotional drained. Exhausted. But instead, I went to the mall that was convinently located across from our hotel. We got ice cream with our camera man, and he asked us how I felt. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but in between bites of my amazing chocolate ice cream, I managed to form a sentence that described my trip.
“I feel like over this month my heart grew 100 times as big because of the love, friendship and family these students gave me. Only for, in one day, my heart to be ripped out, broken into a million pieces, and then carefully stitched back together with pieces of my 10 students hearts’.”