Now and Then, Here and There

5 Jul

It’s the strangest thing: to be there one day and gone the next.

And I often think back to those final days, each one of them stretched out as if they had been swollen with tears. Those faces–not just the school children but half of Matara, it felt like.

When I picked up my last batch of photographs from Nine Hearts, the woman–who knew just a little sign language because of her deaf friend–looked offended that I was leaving. “No, you’re not leaving,” she said firmly. Beneath that was a more subtle message: “How could you even think of leaving?”

But I left anyway. It doesn’t feel fair that I can go and come (and travel across Asia while at it!) and almost everybody else can’t. I’m reminded of another blogger, Samantha, from Sri Lanka who interned at a PR agency in Colombo last summer.

The thing is, I don’t believe it’s right that I have options [to leave] and they do not. But … my not taking those options does not magically empower Sri Lankans. I wish it did, and if this was so, I would have stayed…But it wasn’t so.

Still, this feeling remains with me and troubles my last waking moments of each day–the children’s faces, their eyes and smiles. And there were so many I didn’t say good-bye to; so many I didn’t grab one last vision of. A nasty virus hit the school during my last week–there were just twenty or so students remaining in the hostel by Saturday. Everyone else had gone home, most without saying good-bye to me. Sandya, Janidha, Sanjeewa, Shirantha, Dilhani, Anuradha, Supuni, Nimasha, Ishara.

Good-byes rarely play out the way you want them to, but that’s not what troubles me today. It’s the sentiments from that Nine Hearts woman–how could I even think of leaving them? Of being there, alive, breathing one day and gone, vanished, erased the next day?

Which is why I keep repeating to myself what I’m about to tell you: I’m lucky to have worked with such a great group of people at Rohana.

But more so, I know I’m lucky to work with children who trusted me so completely from the first day. Lucky to work with children who fully understand why I had to leave them one day. And luckiest of all to work with children who trust me enough to know I will come back some day.

8 Responses to “Now and Then, Here and There”

  1. sophie allen 06. Jul, 2007 at 5:08 am #

    Yeah you will. (And i will too!!)
    Hope you are coping well with everything, and are finding delights in home things you never thought you would!
    Thank you for the postcard, i got it on graduation day which was just lovely…
    Might be climbing mount kilimanjaro in october for deafblind scotland, as a guide to the guy i told you about… all part of the job…!!!
    BIG hug, and loads of love, I KNOW the kids will be missing you like crazy, and i do too!
    Take care
    x x x x x

  2. Adamzmom 06. Jul, 2007 at 5:14 am #

    Hi Adam –
    Can’t wait to discuss this with you in person. Suffice it to say, there is no doubt that you have empowered many students. It’s something that you can’t possibly know now. Yet, I think of those children’s parents who came to a school conference for the first time and some other changes you’ve written about. Think of what some of your past educators did for you that are just part of you now.

    Many of them from pre school-12 grade ( the only ones I know) spoke more about what you did for them. That’s why they love it when former students they enjoyed come back to visit.

    The kids and adults at Rohana and in Matara also are used to teachers and volunteers coming in and out of there lives. I realize that doesn’t make it any easier. You have received mutual wonderful gifts.

    See you soon.


  3. Debbie 06. Jul, 2007 at 10:27 am #

    Hi Adam,
    Thank you for the gift you have given me, reading your blogs, stepping for a moment inside your experience so beautifully expressed and shared.
    Of course you will be missed by those you have touched, just as you will miss them and go through your own grieving process.
    You have an incredible gift of expression, Adam. I selfishly hope that I and the rest of us will get to experience more of that.
    Look forward to your return.

  4. Carrie Gellibrand 06. Jul, 2007 at 10:45 am #

    I truly hope you go back there. :) Perhaps next summer I shall join? :) Many thanks for sharing with us your wonderful experiences with the students. So awe-inspiring. I do thank you, Adam.


  5. Leah 06. Jul, 2007 at 3:44 pm #

    Having read your blogs for almost a year now, it has been impossible for me to form a mental image of what your life has been like. Instead as a reader and a best friend, I can see clearly that everything you ever did in Sri Lanka radiates the deepest essence of who you are and who you have become. I can’t wait to someday, hopefully, meet those students of yours!

  6. Peggy 07. Jul, 2007 at 4:02 pm #

    Adam I have to agree with Debbie-you have a gift for expressing and sharing. I have enjoyed reading your blog throughout the year. Everything you say about goodbye is so true. I wish for transporters as used in Star Trek, where you can simply beam aboard to/from any given spot. You did more than good with yourself and your energy in Sri Lanka–you did great!!! Love, Peggy

  7. Marilyn 08. Jul, 2007 at 5:30 am #

    Now and Then, Here and Now… It takes someones deepest thoughts to ponder that concept… I marvel at your expressive descriptions. It is because you touch the hearts of those you are with so deeply that leaving hurts.
    As always thanks for sharing your blog and giving me the opportunity to follow this journey… Home, family, and community await you and wants to know more about this fantastic experience.

  8. Karen 08. Jul, 2007 at 11:19 am #

    Thanks for sharing your experiences through your blog– I feel like I’ve traveled with you!