Friday, March 15, 2013

Pocket Full of Memories

We all have to learn this at some point.

This choking, crushing state of mind we call goodbye.

I don’t like it.

I never have.

But it’s reality. All too often, I’m afraid.

I came walking up the driveway after this morning’s activities, and saw my 6th grader, Mu Wa Wa, come running down, packed backpack strapped to her little frame. “Goodbye Teacher!”

I told her goodbye, gave her a big hug, and then kept walking while Sharon hugged her as well. But my throat got tight.

First official goodbye down.

I was sitting on the porch, watching as Brenda’s car loaded up. She would take students up north a little ways and drop them off to cross the river into Burma. I leaned a little, and the car started to move out. From the front seat, two eyes caught mine, a smile lit her face, and Eh K’Mwee Paw waved a frantic goodbye. I waved. Again, choking sensation.

Second goodbye down.

How much more of this can I take?

I was washing dishes in the kitchen with Tha Tha Aye, and she looked up at me. “Tharamoo Heidi, you go America Sunday?”

I nodded, and my seventh grader made a face, a very sad face. She said something in Karen.

“She wants to know if you’ll come back to visit if you can.” Hannah wiped off the table.

“I want to, yes, but I do not know…” My voice trailed off. Because I don’t know.

Mu Nu Nu stood near me on the porch and said, “Teacher Heidi, you go America on Sunday?”

“Yes, I do.”

She said something in Karen.

“She doesn’t want you to go,” Hannah said while she pounded my neck.

I pointed at my head, looking at Mu Nu Nu. “Cha. Pado.” In other words, I have a bad headache.

Mu Nu Nu made a face of sympathy and then rattled off some more Karen.

Hannah laughed. “She says since your neck hurts, you’ll have to stay until next week.”

I laughed. “Don’t think the airline would refund an $800 ticket just for that.”

The point remains.

I’m leaving.

And these kids don’t want me to leave.

And I’m hurting at the thought of leaving, that’s for sure.

I don’t know how I’ll live through the emotional trauma of leaving, really.

Exaggerationist, maybe.

But then, you aren’t here. And you haven’t been here for the last 7 months.

And you aren’t having to say goodbye.

Not to these kids, at least. And not in quite the same way.

Add to that the stress of travelling across the world alone for the first time in my life, and you’ve got a very emotionally overwrought, stressed out 19 year old.

It’s happy.
It’s sad.
It’s exciting.
It’s scary.
It’s tiring.
It’s traumatizing.
It’s new and strange and different.

One human shouldn’t have to go through every color of the emotion spectrum in the space of a few days.

But it happens.

And the magic word to make it reality is goodbye.

But, for now, enough.

I have a day left.

And a pocket full of memories.

Pictures at graduation.... Saw Kho Noe on the left, and Saw Pa Noe on the right.

He's asked me over and over for a picture of just the two of us, and told me he wanted to take it on graduation day. He disappeared for awhile, and I wondered if he forgot...but then, there he came. I'm glad he did. I'm gonna miss this guy.

Naw Da Blet...

Thara Blet Jaw and Tharamoo Wa Nay Paw and their son, Jonathan.

Thay Thay Khai... One of the baptized students, who made the decision in the face of opposition, I believe. The things students will go through just to be baptized is incredible. I'm not sure of who it was, but a different girl student, some time ago, was baptized and went home. Her father was so angry he started swinging the machete around in the house, chopping things to pieces and yelling at her that if she came in the house, he would kill her. You just don't know what a student will go through to show God their loyalty and love... it's humbling.

Saw Eh Soe... Oh, this boy! When I'd put up vocab lists on the board and have them all come up and write in the words by the numbers, he would choose ONE number, be it 5 or 13, and wait until I said that number. I caught on, poor fellow, and after that it was hopeless. He'd be rocking back and forth in his seat, saying, "Ten! Ten! Ten!" and I'd be going down the list all normal, get to ten, and he'd be on his feet and I'd say, "Eleven!" And he would sit back down, laughing and giving me that "Saw Eh Soe is amused" look. This guy also just got baptized... Oh, precious moments and memories...

Our "family" singing a special song at graduation, in the background, and a villager watching Anna with my camera in the foreground.

"Our family" with Saw Eh Soe and Thay Thay Khai.

All the teachers got called up front, invested with creatively made leis, and given school photos...

The KNU Education leader, who spoke in both Karen AND English (he translated for himself).

 We had graduation over in front of the dilapidated, but still useable, vocational building.

Anna, Kay Gee, and Hannah...

That's my boy...

This picture here sums up grade 7. No other words needed.

Mu Nu Nu on the left, Buh Suh Paw on the right. Both 8th graders.

The local gunman...I mean, woman.

Waiting for the ceremony to start...

Me and Buh Suh Paw

Maw Saw Way on the right, and Maw Soe Thay on the left. Maw Soe Thay was my naughty seventh grader. OOH! that boy. I'd tell them to close their books, and they all would do so. I'd turn my back, be asking about various words and whatnot while I wrote on the board, and one voice is coming through strong over every other voice. I turn around, and there's Maw Soe Thay, book open. I point at him with a look of shock. "Is your book closed, young man?" His eyes get wide with innocence, and quick as a wink, the book flaps shut. Nice try. His book ended up on the chalkboard rim alot. And yet, he got 98% on his English exam.... Naughty boy... but I'll miss it.

There are two kinds of people around here... Those that pose for the camera...

...And those that run from it.

Thara EhGuhNyaw and Tharamoo EhDoSay, and Peh Pae Wa.

Packing almost complete, Christmas light still glowing... Only two more nights to sleep here, and then gone. 

Saw Yo Shu, another sixth grader. He is a smart young man, but oh! what a pill! He loves to tease people, and does, mostly the girls, I think. He surprised me last week, too, when Saw Eh Soe and Heh Nay Saw Moo and some girls were trying to raise one eyebrow like I do... and then here sits Saw Yo Shu, doing one eyebrow and then the other and then the other...Back and forth and back and forth! He does that to me every time he sees me now... Well, or did. I think he already left. Funny guy.

Jabez and a mango at our picnic on Thursday.

There's a smile on the face, but the eyes are giving me that LOOK...again...

Naw Mah Chee... We had to run her in to the hospital last week to get something checked, and on the way back, she leaned over and fell asleep on my shoulder. She now smiles at me all the time, whereas before we didn't even interact at all. What wonders such a simple thing can do...

In line for food... and there was alot of it...

Fact #1: You have not fully experienced Thailand until you have ridden on the outside of a moving vehicle for an extended amount of time.
Fact #2: You have not lived until you've eaten a  Thailand mango.

I plunked myself down next to Tee Nay Too. "You hungry?" he asks me.
"Yes. Very hungry. Are you?"
"No. I no hungry." He grins.
"Seriously?" I shook my head. Sounds impossible, but hey. Whatever floats your boat.
Then Landon plunks himself down on the other side of Tee Nay Too. "You hungry?" Landon asks him.
"Yes, I very hungry." Tee Nay Too replies.
A stifled shriek follows, a loud peal of laughter, and the blast of camera shutter for revenge. "You tell me you no hungry!"
"I lie, Teacher." Big grin. You know he wasn't being malicious: just himself. And you forgive him in an instant. 

Bringing the food from the kitchen...

This looks like a wheelbarrow race gone wrong, but really, the one boy was just standing on his head and the other one walked up and grabbed him.

Kay Jaw. This is one happy boy. Lately he's been really depressed because of pressure to leave the school and go find work. Actually, he wasn't planning on coming back...until an anonymous person decided to sponsor students to work to earn money at the school, if they were being pressured by family and didn't want to leave. Kay Jaw's coming back next year...and you can see the happiness in his face.

Abigail... Every time she sees me now, she drops her mouth open and eyes pop out wide. I think it's because I did that to her every time I saw her for so long. I call her, "Monkey!" Once, I picked her up, held her up above my head and looked at her face and said "You monkey!" and she got this big grin, touched my face, and said, "Mama!" No, no... Not mama. MONKEY. I'll miss this little girl... reminds me of the little sister I'm going home to see.

Eh Jaw Jaw, a seventh grader. 

Playing games together like this was crazy... 200+ people, trying to play cat and mouse? Or better yet, CHAIN TAG? Have mercy... It's chaos in all it's colors. But loads of fun. 

Cats chasing the mice...

 Maw Jo Nigh, who apparently thought my camera was hillarious. I came into 7th grade one day, and Maw Jo Nigh was sitting on the girl's side of the room, at one of their tables. Okay, so he's really supposed to be on the other side, but what do you do? I didn't say anything. Later, I was having them talk through a conversation, the boys doing one part, and the girls doing the other: and wonder of wonders, Maw Jo Nigh is saying the girl's part, with the girls! I had to pause all of class. Looked straight at him and asked, "Are you a girl?" The whole class erupted in laughter, and he quit talking with the girls. A couple minutes later, he moved back across the aisle and stood with the boys. I shook my head. "No, you started out class over there: go sit there!" I pointed to his seat on the girls' side. Again, laughter: and he obeyed me with a little bit of a shocked and sheepish look. Haven't had any trouble from him ever since.... Just alot of fun.

BIG circle to play Cat and Mouse...

Group of kids, waiting to play.

Eh Do Paw, who thinks I'm a tree. When we were at the river that day, I had at least 3 little girls hanging off me almost the entire time. After most everyone else left, I had 6 of them. They climb on you, they pull on you, they got tangled up in my skirt and squealed and laughed and sputtered and chattered away, the only discernible words being, "Teacher! Teacher!" Oh, for another more...

The two on the outside are Sharon's students, don't know their names. But the little character in the green shirt is Saw Ku Shee, who always insisted that his English exam would be "No fine!" and always passed. 

Kay Gee and her reckless charioteer.

 Me Me Lay.

Same expression as Me Me Lay...wonder if they're related.

 Think hard, Landon...real hard... Boy, I'm so thankful for this guy. I would've been totally unprepared for my own little brother if I hadn't been in the process of being reconditioned for it since December.Thanks, Landon. And I mean that.


  1. I hurt reading this. Maybe because I still hurt from coming home...
    For Christ's sake never forget what you've loved there, Heidi. Fly safe.

    1. Must be something about this pain that makes us missionaries one, even if we've never met...
      For the sake of all involved, I'll never be able to. Thank you much, Sean. God's been good.

  2. I don't know you personally but I can understand your feelings. Eight months ago I said goodbye to my place, my people, my kids and my experiences back in Wat Preah Yesu, Cambodia. I cried all 5 days before my departure day, and I thought I would never been able to remember them and look at pictures without crying again. I've never been so sad to say goodbye and cried so much (and I've said many goodbyes!!) in my life!!But God is in control. He, better than anyone, knows our hurt when we leave this children of God behind.
    And it's so awesome that you had this experience so young! It'll go with you wherever you go, and the impact you made in the lives of those children will be seen completely when we get to Heaven!!

    Trust in God's ways. He will guide you. Even as you travel, you will see His hand protecting you all the way. Do not be afraid!

    1. Thank you so much for your encouragement! Yes, God is in control, and He's been blessing me already. Some months ago, even, I couldn'tve done this... It's become a grand adventure, instead. His ways know no limits, and no bounds. And praise Him for that. :)

  3. Praying for you Heidi. Lord willing, may you make it back here someday... there's so much need. God bless you in your travels...

    1. Thank you, Schane. By His grace, I'll be back... I've seen the need, been apart of filling it, for even a short time. I couldn't stay away if I had the chance to go back... Not when I've had an entire school of precious children and teachers begging me to come back.
      God bless YOU as you stay and continue working... He's been good to me thus far: Korea with no hassle. Praying for you, my friend.
      Oh, and tell Tee Nay Too I said hello when you get a chance... Gonna miss that boy...