It’s been a week since I arrived back in sunny Scotland and it’s as if nothing has changed. If it weren’t for the residual crick in my neck and emotional scars from the journey home, I would think that maybe I’ve just been in a coma for the past year and have a very creative imagination. Before I get into what it’s like being home again after so long, let me tell you about our goodbyes and the journey back. (The journey will follow in the next post, I didn’t want to overload everyone with too much to read!)
Our first official goodbye was with our Kinder classes. We were leaving Candelaria on a Friday and the last day we see them is a Wednesday. We walked in to find all of the tables in my classroom pushed to the side and all the kids bouncing around the room. We hadn’t been expecting anything special and had just planned to mark our departure by spending the whole lesson playing games. Instead the teachers kicked things off by saying a few words, thanking us for our effort and our patience, and then invited a few of the kids up to speak too. A big part of our lessons in Kinder revolve around songs so both classes got up and sang Wind the Bobbin Up and my class also sang the Colours Song – I was so proud I thought my heart might burst out of my chest! To finish we had cake and fizzy juice, as is customary at any Honduran celebration, and were presented with a little gift each of a Candelaria t-shirt.
My Kinder kids can drive me crazy sometimes but it was hard to say goodbye to them all the same. They are so adorable and for once I didn’t mind when they mounted their daily ataque (they like to swarm me at the end of class and hug me so hard that it’s not uncommon for me to have to brace myself against the wall so I don’t fall over on top of them!). I’ll miss their little faces and smiles and the fact that they only ever sing the ‘oooooooooh’ part of the Hokey Cokey. It’s weird to think that by the time I’m back (because I will be back) they’ll be proper little people in primary school.
Our next goodbye was a dinner that evening with Lety and Victor, our second host family. They had us over and we ate cena típica (a typical dinner including beans, eggs, avocado, cheese, mantequilla and tortillas) with them. They made a big deal out of giving us a present, making us stand in the middle of the room with our eyes closed and hands out. It turns out it was a hammock! I desperately wanted to take a hammock home but had convinced myself that they were too expensive, I wouldn’t use it, where would I even put a hammock? It was perfect. This wasn’t our final goodbye with Lety and Victor and the family, because we promised to come back the next day, our last day.
And then finally, the day that had been looming over us all year was here. We knew it was coming but that didn’t make it any easier. We still had classes and our timetable on Thursdays is actually my favourite because we have 4th, 5th and 6th grade who are my favourite classes. It felt like most of my day was hugs, goodbyes, gift from kind hearted kids, telling myself not to cry and choruses of ‘no se vaya!’ (don’t go!) which broke my heart.
Somehow we made it through, with almost no tears on my part, and to our goodbye lunch with the teachers. We ate soup and chicken with tortillas and listened to the headteacher say a few words. They also presented us with these beautiful wooden plaques and mirrors, handmade in Candelaria, on behalf of the teachers, students and parents.
After that, all that was left was a few of our friends and both of our families. We did the rounds to see our friends throughout the afternoon and then had a special dinner of tamales with our host family. Later in the evening we went over to Lety and Victor’s to say goodbye to them for the last time too. Again, I managed to make it through without any tears, even when little Samuel started screaming as we left.
Part of the reason for this is that it still didn’t feel real that we were leaving. I felt like we would be back in school with the kids after the weekend or we were saying goodbye to our families for a week while we went on a visa run. Because we’d been there for so long, leaving and not coming back didn’t make sense. This was my home. Why would I be leaving?
That lasted until the morning. When it was time to say goodbye to Saida and the girls, things got very real, very quickly. We promised everyone we would come back in 4 years, once we’ve graduated from uni but who knows, it may be longer before we can see them again. Daniela and Jamie are both desperate to come to the UK though so you never know!
We drove to San Pedro in a car that Victor organised for us, swinging by Tomalá to pick up Jesse and Lucy. The whole group was back together again for our last night in Honduras, minus Norome and Eva, our 8 month volunteers, who are staying another few weeks to travel.
Leaving Honduras was not easy. Even after a year, I feel like I had just settled in properly and then it was time to go. I could easily have stayed another year which made it even more frustrating that we had to leave. I wouldn’t change a single thing about this year though. The people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, the kids I’ve had the pleasure of teaching and the country that I’ve fallen in love with, I will be back. It may be in four years, it may be longer, but I will be back.