Goodbyes are hard. I’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of special people in my life and I can tell you that it never really gets any easier. Sometimes it’s not so bad to say goodbye to a friend you’ve made because you’ll know you’ll be able to keep in touch. These days Facebook and 4g make it pretty easy for us all to do that. The problem lies in the fact that the majority of the people I’d be saying goodbye to don’t have these conveniences and I can’t confidently say when the next time I’ll see them.
My day started with a trip into Stellenbosch. The last thing I’d need on this day was any sort of reminder that it was my final day. I was very well aware of that fact and was looking to just make the trip alone. When I’m alone I don’t have to communicate with anyone how I’m feeling, I can just go about my day, and on my last day… that’s what I needed. There were only a couple things I wanted to take care of while I was in town so I knew the trip would be quick. The first place I went was the photo shop where I could print out a few more pictures before leaving. I wanted to give these pictures to the children that didn’t receive a photo book the day before. I only want the best for these kids and always wish I could do more. I think we often take pictures for granted these days. Everything is digital and online and we often forget that it’s not like that everywhere else in the world. Most of these families don’t have any pictures of their kids let alone an online data base that holds all their dearest memories. I know that these printed photos will be taken care of and never forgotten. While they were printing I went through town to find some flowers for Mama Zulu. It’s just a small token of my appreciation and gratitude for opening up her home to me. There were plenty of options of flower bouquets, and I was feeling indecisive over which one I thought she’d like. I decided to just pick the one out that I liked the best figuring that if I liked it than I’m sure she would to. The bouquet was filled with green and white flowers with splashes of yellow. Kind of reminded me of home because the green and white were my old school colors.
Once I had everything I made my way back to the mini buses and ultimately back to Kayamandi. Mama Zulu was around back hanging laundry when I presented her with the flowers. She’s always called me one of her sons, but this time it felt different. Not only would I have to say goodbye to all those kids today but I was also going to have to say goodbye to the Zulus. I wasn’t leaving for another couple hours but I knew things were only going to get harder.
I spent the rest of the morning packing up my bags, taking the pictures and notes off the walls, and getting everything as close to ready as I could. As I was doing this Eric came in to let me know that he’d be leaving for the day and probably wouldn’t get the chance to see me off later on in the day. Eric was the first volunteer I met on this trip and the first person I’d have to say goodbye to. From day 1 we’ve been close friends and have loads of great memories together. I’m very confident that I’ll see him again so our goodbye was much more of a see you later. It’s been great Eric and I look forward to hearing from you. I’m so proud of all you are doing for Kayamandi and really appreciate the work you’ve put in with the kids. I’ll see ya around buddy!
Back in the kitchen I met up with Mieke and Hanneke who were just about ready for some lunch. They had a frozen pizza heating up in the oven that they were looking to share and I pulled out the leftovers from the previous night’s fajitas. I genuinely love leftovers so this was already starting to look like a solid lunch. In the middle of all this we were joined by Gesa, Clara, and Theresa who were all home from work to see me just in case they didn’t have the chance to say goodbye before I’d be leaving. While we hung out Clara made up some of her world famous flapjacks. These were the perfect dessert to accompany my pizza and fajitas. Thanks so much for all the food ladies, I absolutely loved it!
Riri and Mawande were the first to come over. I think their school let them out before the other school because of the exams starting on Friday. The first thing we took care of was letting Mawande shave the rest of my beard off. Looking a bit more normal we were soon joined by the rest of the gang. I still had a few hours before my ride to the airport would be coming and I didn’t care what we did as long as I got to spend it with these guys. When I asked them what they’d like to do the response was unanimous. They wanted to look through pictures from my time with them. I opened my computer and pulled up the file that read, First Week in Kayamandi, and we began going through. I can tell you right now that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of going through these pictures. Each picture tells a story and brings back the greatest of memories. If anyone reading this would ever be so interested in looking through the pictures and videos I’ve taken of my travels than I’d be more than happy to set something up!
After a couple hours of going through pictures, videos, and memories it was just about that time. With Riri’s help I brought my bags up to the front of the house and was followed by an entourage of my closest friends and family. I’d been dreading saying goodbye for so long that I wasn’t even sure how to begin. Mieke suggested that I should start saying my goodbyes and taking pictures with everyone sooner rather than later so as not to be rushed once Isaac arrived to take me to the airport. Even with the head start I still wasn’t ready to go. As I was taking pictures with everyone things were going well. It wasn’t until Isaac pulled up that it hit me. I was going to have to leave, and before that, I was going to have to say goodbye. This time it was Clara that made the first move. She came right up to me and gave me a big hug and told me everything was going to be alright and that she’d come visit. It was at this point the tears began. I think it was the fact that so much had been leading up to this point, and ultimately at the end of this procession was my transport to take me away. The next volunteer I said goodbye to was Theresa, followed by Gesa. It was such a pleasure meeting you all and I can’t wait to see you again. The work you are doing in Kayamandi is truly amazing.
Honestly, at this point things began to feel surreal. If I close my eyes I can still see myself walking towards the kids. Their heads are hanging low when I approach them. I get down on their level so that I can see eye to eye with them and try to tell them how much they mean to me but the words are struggling to come out. One by one I hugged each of them and realized that words were no longer necessary, and I knew they understood what I wanted to say. Mawande was the last one I said goodbye to in this particular group of kids. I lifted him up and gave him the biggest hug I could muster. I remember thinking to myself that I should just take him with me. I really didn’t want to let him go but knew that I still had more goodbyes ahead of me and Isaac was waiting. Turning my back to this group I moved on to Riri. He was standing by himself just up the road. The closer I got to him the more it became apparent that words were not going to work. I think we both realized this at the same time because we just went right in for the hug.
I love these kids so much and consider them family. Having to say goodbye was truly one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’ll miss them all like crazy and will be constantly checking in with the other volunteers to hear how they are doing.
After a tearful goodbye to Mama Zulu, Papa Zulu, and Lelethu I packed my bags in the trunk and got into the car. Hanneke, Mieke, and Dan would be joining me to the airport. It took everything out of me not jump out of the car as we were leaving to say one last goodbye. I really didn’t want to leave them. As we pulled away I glanced the kids walking up the street with their heads still low. I may not be able to afford it, but I’ll be back. It’s not a matter of if; it’s just a matter of when. One day…
The ride to the airport was quick. Or at least it felt quick. Poor Isaac was talking to me the entire time but I haven’t a clue as to what he was saying. My mind was stuck on leaving. Isaac, I really do appreciate the ride and everything you’ve done for me. You’ve been such a great friend and I look forward to keeping in touch!
Once at the airport I checked in and dropped off my bag. Luckily my bag would be flying directly back home and I wouldn’t need to retrieve it over my layover in London. It was also around this time that I had to give me final goodbyes.
Mieke, Hanneke, and Dan had been with me for virtually my entire trip. We’ve come a long way and covered a lot of ground. Throughout our time together we’ve accomplished a lot and created many great memories. I’m certainly going to miss our game nights, our trips into Stellenbosch, and all of our adventures. It makes me so happy to know that such amazing people are living and helping in Kayamandi and that I’ll be able to keep in touch with all that’s going on.
I hope you guys all realize how much I value our friendship and how grateful I am for all that you’ve done. Ya’ll really made a positive impact on my trip and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I look forward to keeping in touch and seeing you all in the future. Come and visit! I said goodbye and headed towards my gate. I’d have a long couple flights ahead of me before making it back home. Lots of time to think about everyone I was leaving behind. I’ll miss you all to the moon and back!