My last day at school in Sathavattom was quite the emotional one. It was Friday the 16th and I never expected that I’d show all the kids just how much it affected me that I was going. I wasn’t ready at all to be leaving. Maybe it was because my work wasn’t done. The annual day event still hadn’t taken place, so I was leaving with the rehearsals for my acts still unfinished (over the next 3 weeks the students will be doing everything without me, and I have to trust that they’ll keep putting in the effort to rehearse by themselves, and perform as best as they can when the day finally comes… (7th of Jan) I guess it’s all out of my hands now, I have little control over what happens, and that’s why I wasn’t ready to go.
It didn’t help matters that I became somewhat ill on the Wednesday night - 3 days before leaving. To make the chaotic days a little lighter, I started popping pills for the flu and some other aches and pains on Thursday night; 5 different pills at a time, 3 times a day!! For someone who never pops even an aspirin, this felt to be a huge amount – but I was reassured that the doctor only prescribed the best... Needless to say, such an amount really did work.
But even still, my last day (Friday the 26th) was hard. I was wrecked, stressed, and was eager to spread as much of myself as I could. But there wasn’t enough to go round. I didn’t even get the chance to properly prepare myself for the new school. Too much was happening, it was going too fast, and because I wasn’t well, it was a great struggle to keep up the pace. I did though, until the last hour. That's when we had a satsang (this is when the students will sit together for 30 minutes, making music and chanting songs). I wanted to say a proper goodbye on the mic during that hour, but I was too emotional (on hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have spoken!). I tried to do it without tears, but nope, it didn’t work, and of course I CRIED… In front of the whole school and all the teachers! I wanted to say so much to them all, but I only managed a few lines. Man oh man… how frustrating and what a soppy old one I’m turning into! The poor kids didn’t know what was happening… seeing ‘Niamh Ma’m’ in tears. I must have traumatised them all…oops… what a way to leave!
I thought they were only happy tears, but on reflection, I really don’t think they were. Yes, I’d had a brilliant experience, both at school and whilst living with Lekha. So I simply didn’t want to go. I wanted to be more apart of that school and of the childrens days. I felt to be leaving without having done half of what I could’ve done… Also, I became far too attached to them. Or they became attached to me, and then I simply let myself get carried away. It’s strange to think that I’ve been travelling for years, on and off, and whenever it comes to saying goodbye, I never cry… when I leave my family, I don’t sob… but when I leave these kids… I cry! Last year also, when I left the kids in Kayankulam, I cried on the mic… And it happened again here! Man oh man… I could apologize for my weakness, but I won’t. I believe it’s not a weakness but a different kind of strength when showing we’re vulnerable. It shows we’re only human. So no apologies from me! It is as it is...
Anyhow, on the way home in the car (still Friday), I suddenly had to start making the shift from Sasthavattom school to Kayankulam school. As well I still had to pack and round-up more bits and pieces and say more goodbyes that evening. But I was still weak, dizzy and flu-ish, emotional and in need of catching-up on the sleep I’d been loosing, because of having fever. Exhaustion reached its peak when I was trying to sort something out with the tailor. I was telling her about one of the costume designs for something for annual day. Suddenly I started having one of those ‘out of body’ experiences. I was talking, but I was outside of myself. I could hear myself speaking, but I had no control over what was coming out of my mouth. I was on auto-pilot and my voice sounded like the recorded version; the one that everybody else always hears, but not the one that I hear inside myself… if that makes sense ;)
Anyhoooos… I was freaked out, got home, went straight to bed. 10 min later, out of bed, trying to sort my life, but couldn’t speak for ages and just sat at the kitchen table, nursing a cup of milk, trying to grasp reality (I knew I had so much to organize within a few hours, but felt I had nothing to organize it with – there was no life inside!)… WHAAAAA…. I sat and sat and sat and waited for the drive to come, so I could start speaking again… then I sat and sat and sat and waited patiently for the drive to come, so I could start moving, eating, washing, folding, packing… And it did all happen… eventually. I can’t hardly remember how I did all that I needed to do, in the tiny space of time that I had and the small dosage of energy – but I did it.
Saturday morning, the day of leaving, I had to be in Sasthavattom school one last time. From there I left, with ‘my life’ in my backpack, at 11am. I said goodbye to Lekha, I took a rickshaw with 2 teachers and we bumped our way to the station. I waited for an hour with this lovely lady, not really thinking that I needed any mental preparation for what was to come. So I happily hopped on the train and by 3pm I was in Kayankulam. The driver of the schoolbus was there to pick me up – the same guy who would always collect me every morning last year! I jumped in, as if we’d only seen each other last week and off we went. I hoped he’d bring me straight to my new home – even though I didn’t know where it would be, but I was in need of a bed. We didn’t go near my ‘new home’. First we were off to school!
Oh god… I was looking like hell! I didn’t want everybody to see me for the first time in a year and a half looking like somebody who has just been to the wars! (after travelling on hot, smelly Indian trains - even if it’s only for an hour - anyone will look unattractive and in need of a bath) Either way, all the teachers were waiting. The children weren’t there… thankfully. So, I put on a big smile, I met everyone again - some new faces, some nicely familiar. Meeting everyone only took a short time.
Then I waited for a lift ‘home’. I was getting more and more curious… where would I be staying? They’d promised that it would be better than last year. I only hoped so, because I wasn’t really keen on staying in the same place again… Surely I wouldn’t be so unlucky and end-up back in the hostel that I classed as being one of the worst ‘long term stays’ I’ve had during that trip in India? It wouldn’t be that same hostel where mice were in my backpack, cockroaches were visiting daily and where my first impression made me break down in tears in the toilet - 18 months ago…??? It can’t be same place????? Well… it certainly can!