LAST DAYS

Chapter 15

The next day I had my last day teaching at school.  Originally, it was thought my last day would be on Friday or the next Sunday. However, we had learned that Friday there was to be a national strike and it would not be safe to hold school, and we also found we were mistaken about the day we were flying out which was, in reality, a day earlier.  I let the principal know this, actually after my classes were completed I let him know as I had not seen him earlier in the day.  I had spoken to the English teacher when I came in and he had me go in to grades 5 through 7 instead of 8 through 10, as I anticipated.  One of the classes I taught was very excited and another was deathly subdued and hard to engage.  I was bombing out there. 

 

The next class I went to had just found three baby snakes that snuck into the classroom and they were energized for the whole class period.  Unfortunately, they were so energized they offered me what was billed as "candy" but looked more like a balled up eraser covered in dirt and grime.  I was hesitant.  I asked them, "are you sure this is food?"  They all pressed to have me eat it, even the innocent looking young girls.  It looked as though the kids were eating things that looked like it so I said to myself, "eh, what the hell, I haven't gotten sick on this trip, yet." 

 

I popped it in my mouth, and it did taste like it was intended to be edible, however, it tasted terrible.  It was spicy, overly sweet, and dirty tasting.  It tasted like it could be some kind of local form of homemade candy, but it was so strong and strange I ended up spitting back out in my hand.  I realized this looked odd.  I had no place to put the mush in my hand and my mouth was still filled with weird tasting saliva.  I, nonchalantly, well, as much as possible, turned out the door and spit down the drain in the courtyard while dropping the mush through the grate.  I came back in acting as though nothing happened and the kids were still abuzz.  Luckily their abuzzed-ness got them to forget about me leaving the room.  They harnessed that energy to tell me facts they had learned from their workbooks.

 

After eating lunch with the principal, he asked me if I could stick around for a few minutes longer.  Then he brought me into the staff room where there where it seemed all of the teachers were sitting.  There was a little model of a temple in a small glass case in the corner and the principal gave me a little introduction asking if I wanted to say a few words.  I went for it and gave a little speech thanking them for letting me visit their classes and admiring how they have taught the children to adapt and improve their language skills in our short time.  After I spoke I heard murrmuring from the teachers and they said they thought I should address the students.

 

The teachers left the staff room ahead of me and before I could work my way down the stairs to the courtyard, the students started coming out of their classrooms lining up in front of a classroom with an open wall.  I hadn't thought much of this space before, I figured it was just an area for the day care aged children so that they didn't feel enclosed in a room not realizing that it was intended as the auditorium stage with no fixed seats for an audience.  I saw the teachers gathering the students.  I started to think maybe I should start and say something, then I remembered before their graduation/farewell there was a little time of just waiting for last minute things, so I decided to be patient.  A student and a teacher brought out a speaker and a microphone and the principal slowly walked down the stairs from his second floor office and across the badminton/basketball/courtyard. 

 

One male teacher I had seen around the school gave an introduction and explained to the students that this was a farewell for me.  He asked if there were any 10th graders that would like to speak.  The 10th grade class was the most consistently shy class, who, although they were interested in what I had to say, were nervous asking me questions or volunteering answers to my inquiries.  The teacher asked 4 or 5 of the 10th grade students on the spot if they would come up and talk and they all looked back sheepishly and declined.  I didn't blame them, they were asked at the last minute to give speeches in front of their whole school. 

 

But there was one student from the 9th grade class, a thin boy who was a little taller than many of his classmates who is the drummer in his class band.  In the songwriting class that I ran, he was the most enthusiastic students as he contributed and frantically took down notes.  As he stood giving his very nice speech thanking me for coming the way he was standing, his thin athletic stature and unabashed creative style reminded me of myself, however a version of myself I didn't fully express until I was a few years older, perhaps even in college.

 

From him, I learned that the western musical influences in Nepal are very interesting.  First of all, they love heavy metal, something I was not only surprised to hear based on stories from other similar countries around the world with vibrant metal scenes.  I was, however, very surprised to hear him say that one of his favorite bands is The Eagles.  They're not quite one of my favorite bands, but it reminded me that some unexpected cultural things travel very well.  His two favorite bands were The Eagles and Metalica.  I asked the students if they knew of Nirvana and it sounded like they said they did not, although I did see at least three people on the streets wearing Nirvana shirts.  Who knows if they're a band that younger people in Nepal don't know of or if older people think the shirts are in the religious context of the word.

 

I gave my speech after the student and the principal spoke.  This attempt at a speech was a little more awkward because I could hear myself through the microphone speaker.  The few "ums" that slipped out of my mouth were so much louder and noticeable to me.  I had a little trouble at the end transitioning to the conclusion, but in the end I was pretty happy with my remarks especially at the last minute in front of so many people.  It certainly was not the work of Shakespeare, but I also was able to refrain from saying anything unintentionally offensive or blurting out any swears.

 

After I concluded, I was presented with a "token of love," a term that seems common in Nepal when giving gifts, usually farewell gifts from what I have seen.  My token of love was the model of a temple in a glass box, and my forehead was marked with a bright red powdered dye.  I didn't expect the marking on my forehead and there was a lof of it dabbed on.  It was to the point that some of the dust went down onto my nose and the top of the glass box of the statuette.  I softly chucked when I saw how much of it fell on to the glass case.  After the ceremony I went with the principal through each of the classrooms I had taught in and took pictures with all the students.  After this, I took the bus back home and was very grateful that it was not crowded and I did not bump my glass covered gifts all over the innocent commuters.

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