It’s time for one last blog post from Australia.
Last week, like all of the ones that preceded it, was a total blur. It was a bittersweet week, a week that simultaneously dragged on with the knowledge of imminent good-byes, and moved at the speed of light, hurtling toward the departure of my students. Monday began, bright and hot, with our “Magical Mystery Tour”, a final day-trip around the area. We went to a couple of shops (back to CoffeeWorks in Mareeba, to the Tolga Wood Works), and most importantly, to Granite Gorge. In the wet season, I imagine that Granite Gorge is full of swimmers in a cool, quickly flowing creek. In our current drought, however, the gorge is stagnant. Our students found great enjoyment in playing in the Australian water one last time, however, and explored the area as a whole. It’s one of the only places that still has rock wallabies, which are critically endangered. Our students got to hand feed them (which I have a lot of controversial feelings about), and they were very enthusiastic about it. The entire area is very dry, but incredibly picturesque, and I loved getting to take pictures there.Tuesday and Wednesday were a mess of student activities; talking about returning to the States, re-orientation, some happy-goody feelings encounters and activities, and lots of energy. The students gracefully played along with all of our activities, and spent lots of time staying up with each other, trading music, watching movies, and occupying each other’s space. They grew to be an incredibly close bunch (not that I predicted anything but that), and it was both wonderful and heartbreaking to watch them interact as a family.
On Wednesday night, Iris, our cook, pulled out all the stops and made an incredible Australian barbeque for the students and the staff. This included crocodile and kangaroo shish kabobs, burgers, and veggie burgers, all of which was incredible. It was lots of fun to see the students react to new food flavors, and was gratifying and fulfilling to eat a final meal together. Wednesday night involved a lot of sugar consumption, movie watching, quiet time, and music making. Our students were incredibly musical, and quiet singing and guitar music filled the centre until 2:00 in the morning. And, finally, it was time to say goodbye.
It was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to these students; they were an easy group of people to love, people who are open and loving, and cared very deeply about each other and everything that was going on around them. It was easy for me to care about them, and to laugh and live with them for three months. This time, though, unlike the last time I felt this way, I was much more on the outside. When I was a student, it was easy to imagine that I might see my fellow students again, that we might arrange a reunion. It was easy to share in all of the moments together, and to relive those when we said goodbye. My love for these people isn’t any less deep than it was for my fellow students in Mexico, but it is different, because I was removed. I likely won’t see them again, which is hard to say, and harder to live with. I might not keep in contact with them, as much as I care about them. And I can’t as easily share in their love and laughter, because it was unique to them, to their fellows, and I was an outsider to that. It’s wonderful for them, but sad for me.
So, among many tears and hugs, I said goodbye to them. They have changed me, and I definitely believe it’s for the better. I will miss them tremendously, and I would like to think that I might stay in touch with some of them; that’s what I hope, at least. We sent them off into the darkness, into their new world, into a life that they have drastically changed. And then, we waited until the second group (the group Ashley and I drove) had to leave. We all dozed, curled up together in the common room, and then slowly awakened to a quiet drizzle and a lot of luggage. Our trip down into Cairns went well, and I said goodbye to the second group with no less of a heavy heart, but with the knowledge that they would be safe, and that the time for tears was done.
Since their departure, the centre has been a ghost of its former self. I sometimes think that I’m hearing one of my students singing, or another one laughing, and obviously, I don’t. It’s been quiet, and while there has been cleaning to do, or organization to work on, it’s been very quiet and slow-moving here. Ashley and I slowly dragged out the packing process, simply so we’d have something to do each day. I wanted so desperately to be going when the students did, but we had things to do still, so here we were.
And now, it’s almost time for us to leave. Nikki, our financial coordinator, has offered to have us stay with her and then to drive us to Cairns, so we are off for a short time to stay elsewhere before we depart. And tomorrow, the time travel begins!