The Long Goodbye – Part 2

By Will

In Part 1, I talked about the weeks leading up to our departure from Ngoro. Here we start with our departure to Surabaya on June 11, which, like our two years here, was filled with surprises.

The day before we left, we received several visitors at our house and then we made the rounds in our village. We finished packing around 1am and crashed to get about 4 hours of sleep.

June 11 – Amy’s School Takes Her to Surabaya

Amy left for Surabaya around 8am and was joined by her counterparts, her principal and the vice principals from her school.

Their plan was to go up to Surabaya early and then jalan-jalan (or, hangout) until my school arrived at the hotel. Once in the car, Amy discovered that they were going to Radio Suara Surabaya, a popular news radio station broadcast around Surabaya and parts of East Java, to join the celebration of the station’s 31st anniversary. Amy and I had been interviewed by station 18 months ago because one of the journalists is somehow related to our host family. So, it was no surprise that she was again interviewed and broadcasted to the millions of listeners. While there, Amy also bumped into the American Consulate General who we had befriended during our time here which just added to the surreal nature of the day.

After a few hours there, they left to bring Amy to the hotel where all exiting Peace Corps Volunteers were staying in Surabaya. After my school dropped me off, we went upstairs with Amy’s teachers and spent a few more minutes in the hotel lobby.

All the folks from Amy’s school then left, except for Bu Kis who stayed behind. Her family was driving up to Surabaya to see us one more time so we killed time by taking her to our favorite coffee shop and treating her to her first cappuccino. Once the rest of her family arrived, we all went to McDonald’s. Amy and I felt conflicted about introducing them to one of the worst parts of American culture, but they enjoyed the experience of what is considered a luxury here.

It was a really fun afternoon, so much fun that the goodbyes weren’t tearful, but happy. After spending so much time with this family over the past two years, we don’t even question that we will see them again down the road.

June 11 – Will’s School Takes Him to Surabaya

Pak Eko picked me up at 6:45am to take our bags to school. Why did Amy’s bags come with us? Because my school rented a bus, with plenty of luggage space, so everyone could accompany me to Surabaya! The school had arranged for a lunch and ceremony (for me and the retiring teachers) at a restaurant outside of Surabaya, so we made a day of it.

Before leaving, I was first able to make the rounds at school and say goodbye to the students one last time. It was hard and sad and I won’t forget those last moments with the students who I had taught for two years. The bell then rang, signaling that classes were finished, the students could go home and the bus was leaving for Surabaya.

We boarded the bus and took off. As is the norm here, as soon as the bus got moving, the karaoke started. I was happy to oblige in singing (badly) one last time. We stopped for the lunch and ceremony, which was really nice. All of the school leaders spoke about the retiring teachers and me. Then my first counterpart, Pak Eko, gave a speech about me which was so nice and touching. He talked about how uncomfortable things were when I first arrived, as we were both nervous and didn’t know what to expect. But then, our friendship formed.

Next the teachers all hugged and shook hands with us, wishing me luck in my travels and wishing the other teachers luck with their retirement. We were presented gifts, which for me included batik from the school and traditional Javanese shadow puppets from my close friends. I still can’t believe how nice the gifts are.

Finally we boarded the bus again and made our way toward the hotel. After we arrived, the teachers all got off the bus and said goodbye to Amy and me one more time as we exchanged hugs and tears. Finally the bus pulled off and my life as a teacher at SMA Ngoro had ended.

June 13th – We Become Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

After our schools dropped us off, we spent the next two days in paperwork, exit-interviews, and last medical appointments. We were tired and exhausted, but finally on Friday around 3pm, we were finished. Peace Corps Indonesia has a tradition of the exiting Volunteers giving a short speech and then ringing a gong to symbolize the end of our service.

We celebrated that night at our go-to dive bar in Surabaya before waking up way-too-early on Saturday to head to Kuala Lumpur. As the plane took off, there was a real rush of emotion – excited about the next chapter of our lives, but conflicted with not wanting to close the previous one. Two years is a long time to spend in a foreign country and in a foreign culture, but we don’t regret a single second of it and we can’t wait to come back and visit.

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