Sunday, May 31, 2009

Coming to a close...

When I arrived here nearly two years ago, it seemed like 27 months of service would be an eternity. Those 27 months, however, are already nearly over. Time has just flown by.

I'm almost done with my second year of teaching. Things are winding down quickly. There are only two weeks left in the school year (really only one week of real classes). After that, I probably won't see many of my students again. I've been trying to prepare them, as well as my colleagues and friends for my inevitable departure, but I was never good at goodbyes.

While I'm certainly looking forward to going home, at the same time it'll be hard to leave behind the people that have become such a part of my life for the last two years. Knowing the end is near, some of my colleagues have mentioned how much they'll miss me once I'm gone. On one hand, such sentiments are extremely touching, and it's quite validating to know that they want me to stay. However, on the flip side, knowing this doesn't make the idea of leaving any easier. I'm going to miss them just as much.

One of my 10th grade classes honored me last week with a surprise: they all showed up to class. They're rarely all present. They knew it was going to be our last meeting. They're one of the classes that I've had the opportunity to teach both years. At the beginning of last year they were one of my toughest classes. However, after the rough start, they soon became one of my favorites. It seems they've come to enjoy working with me as well. At our last class together they showed their appreciation by giving me a 'Romania' souvenir clock and a Lugoj coffee mug. It warmed my heart that they thought so much as to give me going-away presents. In fact, it confirmed for me that I am actually doing some good stuff here.

Last week I also had the last meeting of my English Club-- a weekly after-school gathering at one of Lugoj's vocational schools. Being a vocational school, the English program is not as strong as at other high schools in town. Moreover, many of the kids come from troubled home situations. Some have to work part time to support their families and don't have much time for studies. Others may even live alone, their parents working abroad. Taking all this into account, I really appreciate the fact that a steady, albeit small group of determined students took time every week to come. Our last meeting was rather touching. I asked the kids to reflect upon our two years together and talk about their most memorable experiences. They came up with some great stuff, remembering things that I'd forgotten, or things that had impacted them in ways I wasn't even aware of. At the end of the meeting I gave each of the kids a personal compliment, identifying one thing about their personality that impressed me. They were clearly touched that I was able to find strengths in each of them (I'm not sure they often hear compliments). As we left, the kids came up to me and each gave me a hug. These are high-schoolers mind you, and many of them are known as 'misfits' or troublemakers. However, it was clear that I'd connected with them somehow. I was moved by their show of affection, and deeply stirred to know that my efforts had had an impact. I think in the end, the club evolved into more than just a place to practice English; it became a sort of safe haven. During our time together, we got to know each other pretty well. The kids taught me some things about what it's like to be a teenager in Romania. But more than that, I think the kids learned some good things about themselves, discovering qualities that perhaps they didn't even know they possessed.

Needless to say, these last months of service have been somewhat bitter-sweet. Some of my fellow-volunteers (and close friends) are already starting to return home. Time seems to be accelerating, and with each passing day I realize I have less and less time to do all the things I want to do before I leave. Additionally, I frequently have moments when I think, 'wow, this is probably the last time I'll have the chance to do this,' or 'I may never see this person again.' My official close of service is 31 August, three months from now. So, until then, I'm going to try to cherish all these 'last moments.'


amalia said...

Mike, congratulations for your work in Lugoj, for your enthusiam, and for your blog. It is a real joy to read it.

Gary said...

I know this time must be bitter sweet for you, but I sure can't wait to see my brother again! Hopefully, you can make it out to AZ shortly after your return.