Farewells Are Not My Specialty

Yui Lee - Ecuador


April 2, 2015

Farewells were and are still not my thing. I can’t let the feeling go of not knowing when I will see people again. Even though the people I’m departing from always ask me when I will return again, I can never make a promise. Of course, I want to say it and follow through on what I say, but for me, letting them down for not being able to go back for some reason is worse than just saying, “I don’t know.”

As the 8-month journey nears toward the end, this farewell with my host country and host family I have to face is something that I’ve come to struggle with only recently. Two weeks ago, I only had excitement for the idea of going home to Carmel, CA. Now, with only 10 days left, my cohort and I hosted la despedida de Chimborahua– the farewell of Chimborahua– and I said my short speech to my family in front of all the other families. At that moment, the speech which I had prepared and practiced with my Spanish teacher in advance had turned into the speech of my most sincere feelings from me. After I said my message to my family, my family members who attended (7 of them) came up to each give me a hug. What really got the tears rolling down my face is that my mamita had jumped and ran to give me the first one out of the others which was something I was not expecting, knowing that I had only been with them for three months and had pretty much only washed dishes to help her around the house. When my host mother came up, not only was she the first one, but she was also the longest hug I got that day. Everyone else gave me the hardest hugs I have ever gotten from them as well, but I can never erase the image of my little mamita springing up to tell me that she got my message through her touch.

If the farewell party was not enough, then the things that occurred after it were real tear-jerkers. In the evening, my family got some customers to buy some fruits, and one of them asked, “Is she your hija (daughter)?” while looking at me. I was expecting my mamita to say no, just a friend living with us, since that was how I was talked about any other day, but instead, she said, “Yes, she is mine. Isn’t that right, Yui?” I was both surprised and happy, and as I said yes, her customer was even more surprised than me. Her eyes widened and she asked, “Really” as my mamita and I laughed at our half-serious joke. Before any of them could see me, I went into my room where I cried for what seemed like the tenth time that day. I realized how powerful farewells are. Feelings that you never thought really were there come out from within yourself as well as from those around you.

The emotional wreck I become when it comes to saying goodbyes are probably the reason why farewells are my weakness. However, that will not stop me from saying them. Farewells are gratitude as well, so I show people how much I appreciate and care about them as I say my last words to them. To my family, friends, co-workers, and country I am leaving behind: Farewells are not forever; it is just a “hasta pronto!”

Yui Lee