I hate goodbyes. I prefer to say, "See you later." Even if I don't think I will see that person again, I don't like the idea of never seeing someone again. Especially if they mean a lot to me.
Like Tea. There's no way in this world that I will not see her again.
I spent the day (Sunday) doing lots of "lasts." My last breakfast in the village. My last time greeting Tea with a cheerful, "Morning!" My last cup of coffee with Tea, enjoying the silence and the rain. My last run through Shamgona. My last shower in the green-tiled bathroom. My last time to wash dishes in the yard. My last time to pull up buckets of water from the well (inevitably getting my feet wet no matter how careful I was). My last supra. My last toasts to the friends that I have grown to love here. My last time to pack for a trip away from the village. And my last goodbye.
But every "goodbye" to one thing is a "hello" to something else -- another beginning to something new.
Right now I am on a train headed for Tbilisi. I have said goodbye to my wonderful host family who is truly family to me. Then I fly back to the U.S.A., and I will try hard not to have a heart-attack at the range of choice available at every turn in everything from shampoo and bread to cars and TV stations. Living for seven months with few, if any choices will make America's range of available products seem overwhelming, if not obscene.
My new beginning will include a few much-needed improvements in myself. I have written a bit about growth, and those are the lessons that I will strive to live out in my life from here on. Lessons that I have learned from these blessed people that I have lived with and around for the better part of a year. Lessons like generosity, hospitality, selflessness, and helpfulness. I am leaving Georgia a changed person.
For my counterpart in this adventure that has come to an end (Tea), this end is a beginning for her, too. She has also grown. Her English skills have increased exponentially in these months. She is a much better teacher now than she was at the beginning of this year. Her motivation and enthusiasm for her profession is driving her to learn everything she can about education and the best methods to use in her preparation and classroom management. She will pass her certification exams with no problem. I am sure of it. And she will influence many, many students to become the best they can be for their future -- potential, improvement, and possibility are all within their grasp. With a teacher like Tea, they will believe in themselves and fulfill their dreams.
I leave Shamgona with a strange mixture of happiness and heaviness. I am thrilled to be headed home. But I am so sad to leave those that I have grown to love here -- Tea especially. At our suphra tonight, she told me that I am her closest friend -- the one that she can tell anything. My hope is that someday I can make possible for her what she has done for me -- to host her for an extended period of time in the U.S. Spending time in America will improve her language skills in ways that she only dreams of right now. So we have already started planning for that possibility in the future. I just need someplace to live… and a job so I can support her as she has supported me for these many months.
As the train pulled away from the station in Zugdidi tonight, I looked out the window. Tea, Koba, Elene, and Zaza stood there, waving goodbye as a few drops of rain fell from the clouds. I waved back and blew a kiss to Tea. How I will miss all of them….