This morning is our final morning in Nepal. We’re leaving this afternoon for a week in India before making the long journey home. I'm sitting writing this in our favorite coffee shop, Himalayan Java, with Anna and our new friend, Katie, drinking the most delicious frozen lemonade.
Yesterday was our last day at the monastery and orphanage. It was absolutely devastating.
It's remarkable how quickly I bonded with so many of the children and adults here. I know that being sad means that this was a worthwhile adventure, one where I became emotionally invested in people and they became invested in me. That alone makes it a beautiful experience. But that still doesn’t take away from the pain we felt yesterday.
|Monks of all ages playing American football|
First of all, we went to the monastery yesterday morning. It started out really happy, as we gave the boys a foam football. They were ecstatic. We taught a final session with our intermediate students, but ended up skipping class for the youngest monks and playing instead. They were squealing, happy and beyond delighted to be outside playing in the sun. I was filled up with so much joy watching them - and I even played a bit myself, believe it or not. Anna snapped some photos, believing it was the only time that I will ever be seen playing football. Ever.
|My football-ballet hybrid|
The other happy thing that happened was getting a tour of parts of the monastery from the Tibetan teacher (Tenzin) that we hadn't seen yet. We got to visit the upper level of the monastery (which I'm fairly certain is private) where the monks conduct their morning and evening prayers. It was beautiful - like a smaller version of the big ceremonial room where the puja was held. Tenzin also unlocked a gate and showed us a beautiful, grassy garden where the little monks currently play soccer on Saturdays and which will eventually be home to an expanded monastery. And finally, he unlocked another gate and led us onto the property of a giant neighboring house, which I had noticed several times and have wondered who lived there.
The house has a gorgeous garden with a swing, lime tree, and colorful flowers. He took us inside the house, which is three stories, has marble floors, multiple bedrooms, western-style bathrooms, and a rooftop deck with breathtaking views of the monastery, mountains, and Kathmandu Valley. Tenzin told us that the house was formerly owned by a couple, but the monastery bought the home when the couple moved away. So it is basically an empty, unoccupied monastery guest house. He offered it to us and said that we are welcome to stay in this amazing place if we ever return. Yet another reason to come back to Nepal.
But of course, when our tour ended, we knew we were nearing the time to say our goodbyes.
Before we even got emotional saying goodbye, we had to take a few minutes to regain our composure after a little monk handed us a letter that one of our older students, Lodoe, had left for us. We said our goodbyes to Lodoe yesterday, but he left us the sweetest note to wish us well and thank us again because he was not there today to do it in person. The envelope says "Miss Farrah and Anna. Small my Letter." Here's what the letter said:
|Lodoe and me|
"My Dear Miss Farrah and Anna, Thanks you very much you two come Lhundrop Choling Monastery. We all so English conversation practice. Many thanks for your teaching English. We all so very happy you two coming this monastery. I would you two very happy will go back your home. Today I am not here but I wishes, Miss Farrah and Anna, your life is very happiness and God bless you with further success in everyday life. Lodoe."
I know his English is broken, but his message was clearly received and the effort it must have taken him to write such a thoughtful, lovely letter was not lost on us. I'm so fortunate to have met such a sweet young man.
Saying goodbye to the little monks was tough, as expected. Just like the day before, each of the little monks lined up when it was time for us to leave and blessed us with prayer shawls. Anna and I were both crying as these tiny little boys gave us these beautiful gifts to send us off. It was lovely to feel valued, but still emotional saying goodbye. The good thing was that all of the baby monks were smiling and waving us farewell as we left the gates.
|Receiving a blessing from 9-year-old Migyur|
|Anna and I receiving prayer shawls from our little monks|
|Sherab, 12, sending us off|
|I love the smirk on little Sanga's face|
|Our final photo with the little monks of Lhundrop Choling Gumba|
The orphanage was a different story. When we got there, we realized only 10 of the 20 children were there, as several were at a school function and wouldn't be home until very late. So, we already knew that we wouldn't get to say goodbye to half of them. Fortunately, little Bibek and Rajip were there. And Rajip got dressed up in a little polo shirt! Melt.
Anna and I took two huge bags of gifts that we brought from home and had been saving, but we asked Sarita to distribute them slowly because the kids would run through everything in one day given the chance. Most of the gifts were stored away for later, but we did pull out 10 cups of Play-doh and gave one to each kid. We spent a couple of hours laughing and playing, which was so great.
We also wrote a note on the whiteboard for them. We used easy language so that all of the kids, even the youngest, could read it. It said, "We love you and we will miss you! Your friends from America, Anna and Farrah." We wanted to make sure that they had a reminder this weekend that they are loved.
Half way through the afternoon, while Anna was reading a book to eight of the kids, I was sitting off to the side talking to two of them, including Bibek and a little girl. The little girl asked if it was our last day, and I told her yes and that I was very sad. She told me she was also sad, so I told her not to worry because she would forget her sadness by the weekend and feel happy again. Bibek responded by telling me that he would not forget his sadness and would not forget me. It totally made me tear up, but I tried to hold it together.
Another little boy, Diwash, who I think is only 5 years old, turned around from his seat in the story book circle and saw that I was sad. He stood up, came over to me, put his arm around me, and rested his head on my shoulder to comfort me. I almost lost it. But I still held it together at that point.
Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. When Anna and I finally said that it was time for us to go, the kids reacted in a way far beyond what I was expecting or for which I was prepared. All 10 of them swarmed us and started sobbing. It was so sudden and loud that we thought for a minute that they were pretending. And then we realized as they hugged us tightly and buried their faces into us that our shirts were becoming wet with their tears.
These children were inconsolable, which was harder for me than I ever imagined. I hated seeing them so sad. I sat down on the ground and several of the kids sat on or next to me and clung to me with everything they had. Several did the same to Anna, and two were so desperately sad that they just laid of the floor and cried, including Rajip.
At that point, I didn't even bother pretending to be strong for these kids. I was sobbing with them. I was so crushed that I didn't have much chance of hiding it anyway, but I felt they deserved to see that I was sad because I love them.
Sarita, the woman who runs the orphanage, stood in the corner watching and crying. After this went on for several minutes, she pulled the children off of us and told them to line up so we could say goodbye one at a time.
One at a time I went down the line, squatted down to look them in the eye, and hugged each sobbing child goodbye. Each one wrapped their arms around my neck and hugged me and cried on my shoulder. I hugged them back tightly and then made each one look at me as I assured them that I love them, I am proud of them, that I would think about them often, and that we would still be friends no matter how far apart we live. Finding the composure to comfort each one took more inner resources than I knew I had.
|Bharat in a happy moment showing off his Play-doh girl|
Little Bharat, the sweet boy my friends Roxi and Francios will be sponsoring for school, was one of the two crying on the floor. This whole month he has been shy and cautious, but he showed that we really did get through to him. He was so upset that I practically had to pick him up off the floor and help to hold him up because his legs couldn't support him. He cried and cried and could barely muster a nod of acknowledgement when I told him I loved him.
Rajip and Bibek were two of the hardest. Baby Rajip was the other one laying of the floor. He is a quiet little boy who rarely speaks, so having him wrap his arms around my neck and tell me that he'll miss me was so painful. In addition to telling him that I love him and will miss him, I told him that I am so happy that he will get to go to school - to which he smiled and nodded (while still crying, of course). I'm glad he can look forward to school.
And what can I possibly say about Bibek? When I hugged him tightly, he hugged me back and wouldn't let go. Even as I tried to pull away slightly to talk to him, he kept hanging on, so I held him until he was ready. Seeing his sad little face hurt so much. He was begging me not go. This happened twice with him.
After Anna and I had said our final goodbyes and were about to leave, Bibek, who was still crying, called me over and asked to give me one more hug. When I knelt down to hug him, he whispered through his tears in my ear, "I'm sorry that I am brown. Please don't leave me here. Please take me with you." There are no words to describe what that did to me.
As Anna and I left the home and walked away, we could still hear the children wailing from down the street. We cried all the way home. To say that my heart is broken would be completely inadequate. Like I said, I realize that all of this sadness is a reflection of the fact that I love them and they love me, too, which is a wonderful thing. But that doesn't keep me from feeling heartbroken today.
It was so much more painful than I could have ever expected. I wasn't even planning to write about it because it is so upsetting, but I wrote to Gene last night and shared this with him and then decided that it really is deserving of being shared here, too.
Now we have one last adventure - India. I'll continue to blog and share our stories on the last leg of our journey.
I have loved living here for the past month and am so glad that we had the courage to try something so foreign and unknown. It was more rewarding than any blog post will ever capture.
Namaste, Nepal! Until next time!
|The four boys who will go off to school next year - Dipak, Bharat, Diwash, and Rajip. Good news - the fifth little boy has a sponsor!|
|Rajip - whom you all know about by now|
|Brothers Roman and Sabien|
|Bibek and Bharat writing their names with Play-doh|
|Baby Soni making a break for it. Hurry! Leave your inhibitions and pants behind!!|
|I love you, too!|