This posting has taken me longer than expected because I just don't know how to wrap it up - how to conclude this process. Every time I've sat down to write, more comes to mind, more faces are remembered, and I don't know who or what to delete.
So I've decide to include them all and swallow the fact that this will be a much longer, sporadic, and segmented post than what I've wanted so far.
It will be a bit like my thoughts.
: The Morning of Lasts :
Last night, after graduation, Josh and I stayed out much later than I'm used to. We ate street food, drank cheap beer, and digested the year. I didn't get to sleep till probably closer to 2am, so when my alarm went off at 4, I was a bit tired. So tired, in fact, I couldn't even read this morning. I just sat on our porch, drinking coffee, and listening to the birds. It was bliss. What I didn't know is that it was going to be my last time sitting in my favorite spot of our house. Later in the day, while at work, the chairs were taken away by their new owner.
It seems childish, but I'm really going to miss that chair on that porch. I'm going to miss Zion coming out and crawling into my lap with sleep in her eyes and her thumb in her mouth and us just sitting and listening to the hum and rhythm of the city below. I'm going to miss Josey and me sitting in the dark, drinking a beer, and talking about whatever we wanted or needed to. I'm going to miss our family dinners on the back porch.
It's such a simple spot with a simple chair, but it was my favorite, and its just strange to me that I'll never sit there again.
And the whole day was like this.
Friday mornings are typically a time where staff can share their hearts, and today, I was fortunate enough to speak one last time, and it killed me. Even afterward, when I was back in my office, I couldn't turn off the tears. Until Cody and John-Ross Jones came in. Then, as always, we laughed. And that helped.
The rest of the day was a mixture of closing accounts, writing cards, hugging students, and laughing with friends.
All year, Jacie and Sarah Day have terrorized my office. First, it was dozens of pencils stashed all over the office (even in my shoes and ties). Then fake cockroaches, followed by a giant viking boat, and now this (notice, cockroaches on the chair behind me). I loved these pranks. They always made me laugh and reminded me to not get too serious. These girls are crazy, and I will surely miss them.
Later in the day, my students brought me cake. Because they're nice kids and love to share.
: My brothers and sisters :
The students left around 12, ushering in the last minute scramble of clearing accounts, signing sign-out sheets, clearing out my office, writing cards, and all the while, try to say appropriate goodbyes.
Some of the hardest were with my Chinese brothers and sisters because I just don't know if I will see again. I want to, and will probably try to, but I just don't know, and I just don't know if they could ever understand how much they have meant to me. From helping me order good coffee, engaging in deep conversation, loving and teaching my kids, and being kind. Very kind.
They are some of the best CDIS has to offer, and I have been so blessed to call them my friends.
I will miss these people deeply.
: And the Sun goes down :
Everyone was free to go home early, but I had to stay - my office was a mess.
For dinner, Cody, Jeff, and myself went out for xaokao (I really don't know how to spell that). This was my last time with Cody, a man I've grown to respect and enjoy (he plays some mean Jody Ball and writes a pretty fantastic blog on food). He's moving to the Congo and calls Texas "home" . . . we have very little in common, but I love him. And I'll miss him. I'll see Jeff again before leaving, so his goodbye can wait.
Back at the office, I was greeted by this:
Cleaning out my office was harder than I expected. It was a finality to my time here. I've been in two different classrooms and two different offices, walked the halls of two campuses, helped graduate five classes, and have spent countless hours thinking about and pouring into this school. And now, I'm walking back and forth from my office to the trash can, throwing out binders, teaching materials, memorabilia, and a million other things.
I wiped the calendar clean, scrubbed my desk and shelves of dust and coffee stains, and found old notes from my kids.
I've loved working in the same school with them, watching them in classes, and greeting them at the gate, and it just hit me that this is also a goodbye to those opportunities, and my heart breaks a little more. Agh.
On one of my trips to the trash can, somewhere around 11:00ish, this guard stopped me in the hallway and pointed to his phone. He had written in Chinese, then had it translated to English, "Are you moving back to America?"
"Dui," I told him.
He shook his head and pointed at his heart, "bu hao." Not good.
I don't even know this guard's name, but every time we pass, we both salute one another and smile. It was yet another reminder of the importance of small things and how they truly do matter, but it also encouraged me that, even though we can't communicate all that well in a common language, kindness is always understood fully and completely. It is not limited by words or country of origin.
: Some things I probably won't see in America :
This is where it gets a bit long, and out of order, but I don't want to forget these things. Plus, it also seems a bit appropriate. I'm not only saying goodbye to the people and a country I have loved, I also have to say goodbye to some of the various nuances that make China unique, and sometime just a bit comical.
There is more, but it will have to wait. I have some thoughts brewing, the culminating kind that need time and long train rides. Which is great, because that is exactly what I'm going to do!!!
Starting tomorrow, Judah and I will be heading to Beijing to camp on the Great Wall for a night, walk the concert slabs of Tiananmen Square, and whatever else we have time for. We come back to Chengdu Friday, then fly out for San Francisco on Sunday morning.
The Last Hundred Days countdown is over, but my wife is kind and gracious and knows how to feed my soul. Thank you, Josey, for giving us seven more days.
Last Hundred Days, plus Seven . . . I had to look up the symbolism of seven, because it sounded poetic. And it is:
- the senses of a change after an accomplished cycle and of a positive renewal.
- a symbol of the perfection and the unity.
- In the traditional Chinese culture, Seven represents the combination of Yin, Yang and Five Elements (Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth). This combination is considered as “harmony” in the ideology of Confucianism. While in Chinese Taoism, it stands for Tao which has a close connection with kindness and beauty (via).
Seven days from now, we'll be on a plane, headed home. Let the countdown begin!
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