Today we “goodbyed” the men, women, students and teachers. It is always a bitter sweet experience for me.
Today is the day of gifts and hugs. Peace gave me some white ribbon to tie several shirts I brought to give the men. The leaders of gentle handling had their names written on the ribbon. Akonyure will pass out single shirts to those men who treat their animals well.
The women got jewelry and some clothes. I usually give Imposia the largest gift and then she hands out the rest. Since she wasn’t there today, we gave jewelry to the ten women who made shea butter and women who are in the gentle handling program. Imposia will get her package from Pok when she returns.
I said goodbye and one of the women told Ayamdooh to ask me to return so they could “goodbye me.” As I walked over towards them sitting on logs and wooden benches under the trees, they started clapping and singing. I didn’t understand a word but I understood they were saying thank you for all of Yua.
Wisdom, the son of an elder, Alkolgo now works at the clinic. He has also taught gentle handling of not only working animals but dogs as well. I gave him a package of shirts tied in a bow and he told me that he needs to buy a truck to bring water to the animals that are not close to the house. He said it would cost 400 Cedis, which is about $190. I told him that I thought that would be possible.
Going to the school was the hardest on Ayamdooh’s and my hearts. The teachers all came out to thank us for the help we gave them and the students. They hope they will do better on their exams because of what everyone learned. Julius, the head teacher is always so humble and beautiful when he expresses his gratitude. My heart breaks open every time he speaks.
I stood in each of the 3 classrooms and said “goodbye.” One student asked if I would come back next year. A girl stood up and said that God would bless me and give me safe travels back home. Then thanked me for coming to help them. It was all rather humbling.
When I asked, “Who wants hugs,” and opened my arms, the girls were the first to jump up. The first girl held on for much longer than anyone else with her head in my chest and her arms squeezing my waist. She looked me right in the eyes for about 30 seconds before letting my hands go.
When I first came to Yua in 2000, I hugged a student and was told they had never seen that before. Years ago, a girl ran up to me after a ceremony, put her arms around me and held on. I still remember wondering if what I was feeling from her was some sort of deep pain. She couldn’t look at me but desperately wanted to hug.
Today the hugs were joyous and animated. One boy ran up to me so hard, he knocked me in my throat. Elbows and heads all over the place in excitement. Truly, this was so precious to me and so unexpected. I felt like turning back and saying, “Okay, I want to stay another week.”
Ayamdooh took his turn saying, “goodbye.” He paid his respects by saying the names and pointing to the students he remembered asking questions. It was beautiful to watch.
His last words to them were a promise. He would pay for anyone’s school fees if they got a single digit score on their exams. No one has ever done that in this school and the higher the number, the worse the score. He looked them in the eyes and said, “Single digit, I pay for a good school.”
Upon exiting the classes, Ayamdooh stood with his hands to his face and said to me, “This is not easy.” I knew exactly what he meant.