Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Time to Say Goodbye: The Last Post

For a few weeks now, I have been waiting for it to hit. “It” being reality: I am leaving. It mystified me to say I have lived in South America for 700 some days, and in my final days, I had yet to really feel like I had internalized it was drawing to a close.

Saturday my moment of realization came. The center hosted a despedida, a going away party for us. From a soccer game of Gringos vs. Ecuadorian dads to fun and games with the kids to most moving of all, a program full of dancing and singing, poems and meaningful words of praise and love from the people we have worked with all year long. “We have no money to give you proper gifts for all you have done,” explained one individual, “and so we give you all that is us through our song, dance, and word.”

At the end, we were surrounded by laughter and tears. Kids came and wrapped their little arms around our necks and legs, some cried, others said thank you. Many did their best to put into words how much they loved us and would miss us and in their innocent child like way, pleaded with us not to leave or at the very least, “nunca me olvidas.”

And it was all very moving, all very real, all very final. I’m coming home and instantly fear set in. I don’t know what home is anymore, because home in my heart is my life in Ecuador. I’m hugging people and talking to them and now wondering if this will be the last time I get to do that. What’s next for these children I have grown to love? I many never know. That’s hard. People ask when I am coming back here, and I don’t know what to tell them. Invitations are being passed out left and right to visit this family and that family one last time in their homes, and there aren’t enough days to meet all the requests.

A lot of things finally clicked Saturday afternoon. The most pressing was that I am leaving and my time is limited. Now what do I do with it? The next thing was that this transition back home will not be as easy as I had silently hoped it would be. Living in a foreign land has made me foreign and perhaps even a bit odd. A friend doing JVC explained her thoughts on her experience to me saying: I will have to reintroduce myself to everyone I once knew because they won’t know me anymore. I don’t know what awaits me when I get back, I don’t know if who I have become can sustain who society will call me to be. I’ve already faltered on this, and I haven’t yet returned home.

This much I can say: I made a decision a little over a year ago to leave a program in Chile that was not working out for me and come to Quito for a year. In the two years I have been gone, I have experienced the single handed worst year of my life and simply the most incredible year of my life. What they hold in common is the love both given and received that allow me to say I have had two life giving years of growth.

As I say my goodbyes, I reflect on that frightening decision to come here, and with much uncertainty surrounding my current status, I say without doubt or trepidation, it was the single best choice I have made since graduating college. And so, thank you Working Boys Center, thank you to the wonderful people of Ecuador, thank you to my friends and family back home, and thank you to the members of the center who, with nothing to offer but song, dance, and word that have filled my heart with a soundtrack, movie, and moving poem by which to remember this inconceivable experience where I lived amongst an incredible people. No te olivdare.

Seeing as how I leave Ecuador July 18th, this is most likely my last post. I will do a few travel specials after this, but nothing service related. I can´t guarantee I won´t pull a Brett Farve, but I´m pretty sure this is it. Thanks for taking the time to read it and God Bless!

Getting mugged at our goodbye party by some of my favorite students.


mom said...

Patrick ~ Mark and I have really enjoyed reading your blog ~ you have quite a gift with the written word! We're wishing you all the best in LA and hopefully our paths on this journey will cross again soon... Ma & Pa Schallock

Anonymous said...

Thanks you Patrick for your inspiring words and beautiful example of giving! May you always carry the poor of South America in your heart as they will always have you in theirs.
I have enjoyed your blogs.Maybe you'll put them in a book someday.
God Bless You
father pat j.universal-hannan
St.James Society,Boston,MA

La Chama said...

Porfiiiis.... No me olvides a mi tampoco....

jeff said...

Nice blog. When you are going to start writing "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books, you sorry sap. Please email and keep in touch. Jeffreydsullivan@hotmail.com

Hope you are doing well.