Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Real Reason I'm So Afraid to Leave

May is graduation season. People worldwide are graduating from Kindergarten, from high school, from college. No matter what level of schooling a person is leaving behind, it's always a highly emotional time. There's nerves, there's sadness, there's excitement, there's elation. During this season of graduation, someone had posted an article titled "The Real Reason You're So Afraid to Graduate"  which really resonated with me in the current season of MY life. Not only in terms of leaving Ashland two years ago, but also in terms of leaving Honduras in a couple of weeks.

I've been obsessing over how hard it is to say good-bye to everyone in Honduras. But it's also hard to say good-bye to this stage of my life. Honduras will always exist, my friends will always be part of my life, I will have my memories forever. But no matter how soon or how often I return to Honduras, it will never be the same as when I leave. I will never be able to recreate the life that I've been living these past two years.

That's a hard pill to swallow. That's a harsh reality to accept.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Graduates, especially college graduates, everywhere are feeling the same way.

As the article says: "What you weren’t prepared for was this unshakable feeling that you don’t belong anywhere. At some point in the past four years, while you were busy giggling from exhaustion as you and your best friends ordered pizza to the library at 2am, this place became your home. Not just because you live here, but because every corner of campus has a different memory attached to it. Because you don’t have to look at the menus of your favorite breakfast spots to know you’re going to get the waffles, because oh my God, the waffles. Because you know which cafeteria lady won’t charge you for guacamole. But mostly because the people here –the faces you see every day– make you feel absolutely at peace. And you’re just now realizing that when you cross that graduation stage, you’re not just leaving your home. It ceases to exist. The people you know are leaving. Your friends. Your roommates. The acquaintances you are stoked to see at the bar. The exes you’re constantly looking over your shoulder in fear of. The familiar faces of random people on the way to class. Everyone who made this place home. They won’t be here anymore. The storefronts will change. New restaurants will open. New buildings will go up. And a fresh new batch of students will arrive. Your home is constantly changing. You can never go back to it, just as it was. Your friends will move to different places. Some will move back home. Some will move to new and exciting cities. Some will be just an hour away. Some will be a flight away. Some will be close enough for regular happy hours and nights out. But you know for certain that it will never be the same. You’ll never all live in the same place again. For the rest of your life, you’ll have to travel further than across the hall to see the people you call family. You’ll have get togethers, and brunches, and weekend getaways, but you can never go back “home.” And that leaves you feeling…kind of homeless. You know it will get better. You know you’ll eventually be happy in your new life. You’ll have close friendships and relationships. You’ll get that dream job. And you’ll fall in love. And even though it seems impossible, you know you’ll find a new home some day. But that doesn’t make it better. That almost makes it worse. It scares you. It scares you, because you’ll miss your life so much it hurts. But mostly, it scares you that someday you might not miss it any more at all. There's nothing anyone can say to make that feeling go away. And it’s okay to be sad. It feels truly unfair –cruel, even– that you were given the most amazing experience of your life, just to have it taken all away. I know it’s hard. I know it hurts, but remember this: you are one of the lucky ones. You were lucky enough to have something in your life that was wonderful enough to make it this difficult to leave it behind."

Those last couple paragraphs hit the closet to home for me. Because the idea of not being this in love with Honduras one day terrifies me. The idea of loving something more than I love Honduras right now is devastating to me.

And throughout all of my crying, I've said "Why would God let me come here and meet such wonderful people and make such wonderful friends, if I just have to say good-bye to them!?" at least fifty times.

But when it comes down to it, I am one of the lucky ones. I was blessed with this opportunity, these kids, these friends, this adventurous life in a beautiful country. And it's so hard to say good-bye to the life that I've been living, but thank goodness I have something so amazing to say good-bye to.

I truly am one of the lucky ones.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

See You When I See You

Let's don't say goodbye; I hate the way it sounds. So if you don't mind, let's just say for now, "See you when I see you, another place,some other time." If I ever get down your way or you're ever up around mine, we'll laugh about the old days and catch up on the new. Yeah see you when I see you and I hope it's some day soon.

The end of the school year this year looks so very different than the end of the school year last year. Last year the end of the school year was filled with hugs and smiles, promises to "see you in six weeks!" and plans to meet each other at the beach. Cleaning my classroom meant organizing things the way I wanted to find them when I returned and writing plans meant figuring out what I wanted to teach this school year.

This year the end of the school year has been filled with tear stained faces and choked up goodbyes, hugs that say "I love you more than I know how to put into words" and whispers of "I'll never forget you." Cleaning my classroom means handing my things over to person that I've never met and writing plans means handing over my babies to a person I've never met.

Up until Friday no one at the school had seen me cry; I'd become very good at holding it in until I could sob in my own bed. But then Friday hit and I had to say goodbye to my students. All of a sudden all of my students and the entire staff at the school has seen me sob. Not just a few tears rolling down my cheeks, but full blown sobbing. 

Saying goodbye to my munchkins was hard. Harder than I could have ever expected. The day passed as it normally would with nothing out of the ordinary except hugs that lasted a little longer and a slightly higher than normal number of "I love you"s exchanged. I even made it through saying goodbye and hugging each and every one of my Grade Twos without tears or a lump in my throat. Grade One and I were another story. Our tears started almost instantly and did not stop for a loooooong time. 

Have you ever seen a puppy wandering around like it's lost with a sad, forlorn look upon it's face? That's what I looked like after school on Friday. I would walk a couple of steps, hug a child, and cry. Walk a couple of more steps, hug a different child, and cry some more. And repeat. For thirty minutes before I finally shut myself in the house and cried on the couch. 

Made it three days without tears, which, during this season of my life, is pretty impressive. But then I woke up this morning ALREADY CRYING. And the tears continued while I cleaned my classroom. While I met with parents. While I organized materials that will be used by a teacher who isn't me in a classroom that won't be mine anymore. And though they stopped for a little while, they continued again the moment that Cristian walked out of our house for the last time.

I thought that saying goodbye to my students was hard, but saying goodbye to my best friend was even harder. While I know that all the changes taking place are exciting and necessary for all of us, I still resist them with everything inside of me. I'm happy here. With my life exactly the way it is. And I don't want it to change. 

Logically, I know that it has to. Emotionally, I'm holding on to this life with two hands.

I never knew that I wanted a Honduran brother, I never knew that I needed another best friend. In Cristian I found both of these things. And saying goodbye, or, rather, see you when I see you, was a lot harder than I ever could have imagined.

So the tears continued. They continued as I wrote recuperation exams and they continued throughout our all staff luncheon. They continued until I walked into the library and was greeted by two of my student running at me for a hug and yelling "Meeees Kay-leeeen!" 

I know that I have been beyond blessed here in Honduras. I've made incredible friends, I've taught amazing students. But having all of these life-changing experiences and knowing all of these wonderful people makes goodbyes that much harder. It would be easy to say adios to a place that I don't have any connection to. Here I am, though, in a country that I have completely fallen in love with and with people who mean the world to me. Saying goodbye to them might actually kill me. 

While I'm excited for the adventures that lie ahead, I much prefer the end of last year to the end of this year. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I'm Torn And It's Tearing Me Apart

Being a teacher is hard. Hard. Difficult. Difícil.

I'm not talking about the content. I'm really awesome at adjectives and my rendition of the alphabet is on point. I can properly punctuate a sentence with the best of them. But I am in charge of shaping young minds. Young minds that are going to grow into doctors, teachers, lawyers, professionals.

And they've been given to ME.

The content lessons are easy. Pinterest has lots of activities to make learning blends memorable or games to aide in letter sound acquisition. The character building, the tending to their precious hearts, is the hard part.

We've tackled bullying, we've fought against tattling, we've explored how to express our anger in a positive way. These past few weeks we've been working through something I had never expected-- how to express our emotions when we don't possess the language nor do we completely understand what is happening.

I leave this country in 34 short days. But our last day of school is on FRIDAY. Friday. As in, three days from now. In three days, I have to say good-bye to the 45 smiling faces who have weaseled their way into my hearts and refuse to let go.

This is challenging enough for me as a 23 year old adult who can grasp what is happening and who made this decision. It's exponentially harder for those 45 smiling faces.

They understand that something is happening. They understand that Miss Caitlin is going back to the United States.

But that's about where their understanding stops.And that's about all they can express. They don't have the language to delve deeper into their feelings nor can they really even comprehend why they're feeling the way that they do.

But they're hurting. I'm hurting. And I'm hurting even more when I watch them hurting. My heart breaks to know that they're feeling this way and that I'm the one who has caused it. We've been doing devotionals throughout the year and this time of hurting has provided us with many opportunities to talk about how sometimes God calls people to do things that they don't want to do and hurts their hearts, but God always knows what is best for them. Jonah was called to Ninevah, Miss Caitlin is called out of Honduras.

Grade Two and I have been together since day one. Together we've been to hell and back. I'm not kidding. They're tough and I'm stubborn. We've seen the worst of each other and we've seen the best of each other. There's 23 kids in that class and each one of them has an incredibly vibrant personality. Each one of them craves personal attention ALL THE TIME. The boys in Grade Two are ALL boy. 100% boy. They live and breathe sports and interact with each other using violence. It's not uncommon to have at least two boys fist fighting on the floor. And that's normal.

Out of all the things that Grade Two and I have done together, we have NEVER taken a good class picture. Someone is always moving, someone is always pouting, someone is always missing, someone is always blocking someone else's face. For whatever reason, taking pictures with Grade Two is like pulling teeth.

But today Grade Two and I took a class picture and I was almost moved to tears. Sarah came in to take a picture with the students and then Tony and I stepped in to take a class picture. In Sarah's picture the kids were in one long line with a couple jolly students sitting in front-- more like what you would expect a typical class picture to look like. The second Tony and I stepped in, they climbed on top of us. Every single kid wanted to be by Miss Caitlin and Mr. Tony. Some of them didn't surprise me. The fact that they girls wanted to hug us was no shocker. But two of my BOYS wanted to be next to me. Two of the boys who haven't shown much interest in Miss Caitlin. Ever. And then after taking our picture, they each gave me a hug. Before they realized that they were boys and hugging the teacher isn't cool and went right back to punching each other.

Their precious, tender hearts. After all this time together and I'm still surprised at the things they say and do.

Being a teacher is hard. Character building has been hard-- on all of us. But it's been worth it. Getting glimpses into their precious, tender hearts is so worth it. They've grown, I've grown, we've grown together.

In the same way we've gone through hell and back together, we'll get through this difficult season of good-byes and transitions together. We'll all come out stronger on the other side.

And just to lighten up a pretty heavy post, here are all the class pictures that Grade Two and I have taken together over the past two years. Crazy, hectic photos. Precious, wonderful memories.

While they were in Grade 1-- ice cream party
While they were in Grade 1-- with Mr. Carl
While they were in Grade 1-- the Science Fair
While they were in Grade 1-- One Day Without Shoes
Now that they're in Grade 2-- supporting La H
Now that they're in Grade 2-- Cultural Day
Now that they're in Grade 2-- Thanksgiving
Now that they're in Grade 2-- Christmas
Now that they're in Grade 2-- with Mr. Carl
Now that they're in Grade 2-- February 27th
Now that they're in Grade 2-- the 100th Day of School
Now that they're in Grade 2-- Language Coffeehouse
Now that they're in Grade 2-- Mini-Olympics
Now that they're in Grade 2-- Mini-Olympics
Now that they're in Grade 2-- One Day Without Shoes
Now that they're in Grade 2-- their official school picture
Now that they're in Grade 2-- the picture that nearly broke my heart
Being a teacher is hard. Hard. Difficult. Difícil. Being a teacher is worth it. Worth it. Vale la pena.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

One Day Without Shoes-- 2014 Edition

If I had to rank my favorite holidays, TOMS One Day Without Shoes would fall somewhere between my birthday and Thanksgiving. Probably right around the 4th of July, truthfully.

Every year TOMS hosts One Day Without Shoes to help raise awareness of the hardships faced by others throughout the world. What started as a campaign to fight against the lack of shoes has grown into a company that aides in providing shoes, glasses, and water to many people throughout the world. Their website, One for One, shows how help is distributed and in what capacities.

In my short career as I teacher, I have now facilitated One Day Without Shoes three times. I would like to say that each time has gotten better and better. This year my students and I spent exponentially more time taking about social injustices and how they can help than we have in the past. I also showed them a One Day Without Shoes promotional video and they begged me to watch it at least 10 times. Slowly but surely, thdse kiddos are learning.

As well as going without shoes for a day, the students were encouraged to bring in gently used shoes and/ or school supplies to donate to one of the local schools in town. I'm a firm believer in the notion that even the smallest person can make a difference in the life of someone else and I am desperately trying to help my kids learn this as well.

Grade Two takes their shoes off.

Grade One takes their shoes off.

 CEE takes their shoes off.

Next year will you join us? The premise is simple, the effects are profound.

One Day Without Shoes: 2013 Edition and One Day Without Shoes: 2012 Edition