my last few days were incredible. so many moments at Shanti Bhavan were incredible. my last day was my birthday and it started with the choir singing For Good and I was a goner for the rest of the day. to each of my classes (I teach every grade except 11th! I was so lucky to have the schedule I did) I read "I Like You" which I fortuitously found in the SB junior library.
it was so appropriate for me to whisper to the first graders, "you know how to be silly--that's why I like you. boy are you ever silly! I never met anybody sillier than me till I met you."
and my 10th graders completely agreed when I read to them, "when I say something funny, you laugh. I think I'm funny and you think I'm funny too."
my eyes teared at the thought of their generous hearts as I said "if you find two four-leaf clovers, you give me one"
and I bawled when I had to read, "if you go away, then I go away too. or if I stay home, you send me a postcard. you don't just say 'well see you around sometime, bye.' I like you a lot because of that. if I go away, I send you a postcard too."
I feel an emptiness I've never known before, and the children permeate my every thought. I miss Devraj and his innocent-but-guilty "Miss..." I wished you were on the plane seat next to me Devraj. I miss waking up every morning to the 6th and 7th grade boys trying to act cool, but cheering when I get assigned to go play basketball with them. I miss Pushpa and her diligent violin practice--every day she brought me a new piece to learn. I miss Reena. I keep dreaming of Reena. I wish she were here sweetly telling me about this time she misplaced her pencil or that time she heard someone singing happy birthday to you, you look like a monkey...
throughout my time and on my last few days, the children showered me with cards and gifts--some of which are friendship bracelets. on Friday morning when I departed from the Bengaluru airport, I had 13 bracelets on my wrist. I am so proud of them and promised each child to never remove them. inevitably they have been falling off, one at a time. I am down to 8. I hate that I am losing them. I hate that I am forgetting them and that they are me. but they are still there. they are still learning, still healthy, still living without me. and that thought makes me happy. I trust that things will go on dandily without me and subdue my selfish sadness and remember that they are adapting and I should too.
as for here and now, I don't really remember how to live. I'm not sure I can dress myself, shop for myself, cook for myself, go to work, go to school, drive. the basics. but I will remember that in a few days time. already I am becoming normal again. despite my initial disgust in LAX at the skimpy attire and my amazement at how nice everything is in my room, in my car, and on my macbook, I am living. I saw a movie today. so there. in no time at all I will be forced to remember how to live--just like riding a bike.
things are normal. as I previously said, too normal. I am so eerily used to the red cliffs outside my window, and driving came back to me with sheer ease. my mom's cooking is like I never left it--warm and delicious. I wish I were more culture shocked than I am.
what hasn't come so easily, though, has been my change. I forgot how to live like an American, but that I will remember. what I'm not sure I will remember so quickly is my purpose. I've forgotten why I live--why I live here. why don't I live in Balliganapalli? who said that's how it is supposed to be?
the last thing I want is to put this "experience" in my coin purse and save it for a testimony meeting or a first-day-of-school introduction. or a random blog post here and there. I know people are genuine and have sweet intentions when they say "what an experience!" or "I bet you had a great experience." I don't mean to be bitter--I know I have said the same thing to others and even about myself. but those 200 children are my family. they're not an experience. they're permanent. they're not tucked neatly into my pocket, ready to be pulled out of their compartment for an appropriate conversation. I love them every day. I will miss them every day.
the 6th grade girls have planted a garden! I caught them doing puja and sprinkling holy water over their new plants.
these two are mine. Naveen and Berkmans. as I told Naveen, one of my biggest fears is being understood. and I feel like they understand me.