Saying Goodbye

Peace Corps, teaching

The rain came, and it seemed nonstop for an entire month. Streets flooded, water rushed under bridges, and still the rain fell. July 2018 brought floods to areas of the Sichuan province, drenching my final days in China. With mixed emotions, I looked out the window of my 15th floor apartment and sighed. From atop my balcony, with coffee cup in hand, it all seemed unreal–the rain, the past two years, and what might come next.

The view from my apartment in Mianyang on July 2, 2018

Somehow, I had managed to muddle through, and yes, even thrive for the previous two years in southwestern China. Depression–a familiar companion in my life–and frustrations about living in China, mixed with gratitude for teaching and the good I experienced yanked me in circles.

A long to-do list scribbled on scrap paper sat beside me. The rain had dampened my already waning motivation to do anything outside my apartment, but this was a list mostly consisting of the important tasks necessary to close out my time in China and move out of the country.

Grade final exams; turn in final grades; deep clean apartment; close bank account; fill out Peace Corps paperwork; plan and purchase tickets to travel from China; pack and ship boxes to the US; pack suitcases; and downsize unnecessary items. These were among a larger list of tasks I completed in the final days.

I had already said goodbye to my students in class. On our final class days we had posed for photos, quite haphazardly, and I though exhausted, enjoyed the chaos. One class of sophomores had each written me a note on a postcard. “You’re my best teacher,” wrote a student whose spoken English was minimal nonetheless had progressed and shown enthusiasm for learning. Each note was personalized, composed with thought from that student.

Two students in their third year who had both been involved in the English Corner previously asked if they could cook Sichuan hot pot for me. They showed up to my apartment with bags of fresh meat and vegetables and began chopping away as we talked about life. Soon the apartment was filled our chatter met with the aroma of Sichuan spices and the food boiling in the pot.

A larger farewell event had already taken place, in which a hundred students of mine and my Peace Corps sitemate showed up. The evening was a dizzying event that included speeches and so many posed photos I felt like I was at a movie premier. Each goodbye was important, though I much preferred the smaller slower ones.

As I finished my coffee on that rain-drenched day, I savored the memories. From the first day when I felt clueless and terrified as did my students, right up until the last day when we realized how far we had come. I eventually finished my to-do list, the rain stopped, and my students and I moved on taking the memories with us. As Caroline, one of the students who cooked hot pot succinctly wrote in the photo album she gave me, “The photos end, but the memories last forever.”

Sumatran Rain

Indonesia

Today is the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere–but for this post, I’ve re-hashed two previous posts about the rain in Sumatra (here and here), forming this one below about October:

Siantar rainIt’s October and the rain falls nightly, bringing a chill to the air, though it’s not cold and it isn’t Autumn in Sumatra, this lush island near the equator.

On these earth-soaking October nights, some memory inside expects to arise in the morning to see orange, yellow, and red leaves falling around. But when I peer out my window in morning light and the rain gone, the leaves remain bright green; it is Summer for another day in Sumatra.

Sometimes I awake in the morning after the night rain, missing the misty cool mornings of the Pacific Northwest. I stare at photos of Autumn leaves and remember seasonal transitions. But in two months when I greet Sumatra’s sunshine as friends trudge through dark December, I won’t miss the cold winter.


When I listened to the sound of the rain—which is at times a roaring noise echoing off trees and metal rooftops—I was grateful for shelter above my head and an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, and rice available all year round on the tropical island. I’m back in North America now, but really do miss the Sumatran rain. The heat never bothered me much; I miss that, too.

hujan deras

Night Rain

discernment, faith

The rain falls nightly now, brining with it a chill to the air. This is deceptive. It’s not really cold to my body and it isn’t Autumn at the equator. When I listen to the sound of the rain—which is at times a roaring noise—on these October nights, some memory inside me expects to arise in the morning to see orange, yellow, and red leaves falling from the trees. But, no. When I peer out my window in the morning light, it is Summer for another day, and I return from my early morning jog to be drenched in sweat, even though my Indonesian friends still wear long-sleeves.

I miss the misty cool mornings of the Pacific Northwest, undoubtably colder than any temperature experienced here in Indonesia. But two months from now, when I greet the Sumatran sunshine, I won’t be missing the Seattle rain.

I’m improving on my Bahasa Indonesia skills. Not always quick to speak, I can understand some, and have brief exchanges. I’m better at writing: Aku senang disini di Indonesia, dan aku juga rindu temanku dan keluargaku di America. Yang tidak ada masalah. Terima kasih Tuhan atas hidup ini. Content here and missing home. It’s no problem to be in between. Yes, thank you God for this life.

I stare at photos of changing Autumn leaves and remember all that goes along with the transition of seasons. Most importantly for now, I’ll take this blessing of the rain-soaked Sumatran earth. This is my season now.

Rainstorm

Indonesia

Sumatra Rainstorm
Sometimes it rains here. A lot—although it should be the dry season now. This was a rainstorm on Monday 9 July 2012, seen from the cozy room of the deaconess building in Siantar.

I am no stranger to soft rain, but this rain—a rain that can last for hours and brings with it a loud rush as it hits rooftops and earth—is an incredible sight. Sometimes the rainstorm comes during the day, and we sit under the protection of a building, waiting for it to stop. Sometimes the rain comes at night, and I lay in bed listening to the beats of heavy raindrops on the roof and plants below and the cracks and booms of thunder, grateful for dry shelter.

Whatever the time of day, I am in yet awe of this common weather phenomenon.