Who would believe the dream is now over. A year after entering Ecuador and receiving my first taste of rose plantation life; feeling a little vulnerable, friendless and with a total lack of Spanish, I have now left this country, still vulnerable, still virtually friendless and as for my Spanish, well, lets not talk about that. Although demanding at times, it's not all been bad, in fact it's been one of my most satisfying accomplishments.
Being the only father figure that many of my young students had, you would have thought a tearful emotion filled send-off would have been received, a loving figure wrenched from the hearts and grasp of these deprived children. Luckily for my own fragile feelings the children seemed far more excited at the prospect of the school holidays starting than never seeing me again. That's gratitude for you! Before studies did close down for vacations there was still time for some deeply touching comments before my exit. Comments such as 'thank you for loving us', 'thank you for being patient with me', and 'you will always be in my heart' tested my no crying in public policy to the limits. Even though I tried my best teaching them right from wrong, discipline and respect, amongst the odd word of English, I still find it hard to believe that none of these children will end up in prison or beat and cheat on their future spouses.
Saying goodbye is never an easy thing to do. Having grown close to many people here and then leaving, with the distinct possibility of never seeing them again is probably the hardest thing to deal with when volunteering in one place for a long time. Call it grieving if you like. Short term travel certainly has its benefits in this sense but I still prefer working and living in another country, immersing myself in the surrounding culture.
It wasn't all emotions in my last week, full of end of year schooling activities such as sleepovers and performances, where I was happy to see the well known children's classics 'This Old Man' and 'Dinosaurs Dancing' I taught performed with distinction to watching parents and guests. I was slightly disturbed though to see one boys play revolve around a machine that permanently changed him into a girl. Strange things that children think about and want when they're young.
My last week here also saw the start of the annual rose plantation football tournament. Sadly I was left disappointed with no men's games scheduled during the few days I had left. Instead, after being denied the chance to play for one of the women's teams by senior officials I was given the hard task of managing my fellow female workers. In my one and only game in charge, language differences alongside the innovative tactics of playing with no striker and allowing the defence to play two yards in front of the goalkeeper led to a disappointing and highly undeserved 3-1 defeat.
Now I have all the joys of a return back to America for a few weeks before flying to England in mid August. During this time I am preparing myself for the worse culture shock I have ever experienced, going straight from the Ecuadorian Sierra full of active volcanoes, to the happiest place on earth, Disney World. Bring it on!