by Naomi L. '19
From the moment this trip started, I knew we would leave the village. I knew that our trip was book-ended by a couple nights in Chiang Mai with a retreat in the middle. Our departure from the place I had called home for a month was inevitable, no matter how hard I tried to avoid logistics. The days leading up to our final morning were filled with activities with the villagers. We wove Lahu bags, completed a fourth bathroom, went to a temple with the Lahu team, and participated in many ceremonies.
After each of these days I wrote in my journal that I was going to cry when I left. When I ate dinner with my family, I thought about how it was one of my final meals with them, and I teared up at that thought. On Friday (our last night in the village) we watched a video and slideshow that students had been working on. Scarlet, Eugenie, Aishu and Callista had spent the last couple of weeks interviewing key villagers about their life, opinions, and dreams. Naomi (me), Frances, Jack and Mina spent the last couple weeks compiling videos and photos that showed how much fun we had and how much we appreciated the whole trip. I was nervous no one would show up to watch, but people did come to see our work. The villagers laughed the whole time seeing the videos and pictured that reminded us all of the funny moments of our trip. It was obvious that they cared and we filtered into the ja-kut-kut (the dancing grounds) for our final dance. We lit lanterns and watched them flow up into the black sky, sparks of fire against the darkness of night. The camera flashed as everyone raced to get one last picture with their family. We migrated to the chief's porch where we ate pork and rice. I had a looming feeling sadness the whole day. From the ceremony to the videos, to the dance, to our last dinner, I kept realizing how special everything truly was.
Saturday morning (the 16th), the day of our departure, I wondered how quickly I would cry or whether I would display any emotions at all. Everything felt calm as we loaded our bags into the truck and I wondered if our exit would be a quiet affair. I said goodbye to one of the little girls, Nada, and noticed tears about to overflow out of her eyes. Suddenly I was crying and Natalay was sobbing, Nasole was burying her head in her hands, and Nato clung to Callista for support. I heard sounds of Lakesiders crying and saw other staring sadly at the scene. I hugged my mom and heard her cry, tears falling onto the shoulder of my Lahu robe. The tears weren't stopping, but villagers and Lakesiders were being vulnerable. All of us displaying our affection for one another, whether through tears or laughter or hugs. Everyone cared about everyone. The love and accompanying sadness was tangible.
I am so grateful to have spent a month of my life with people who I care deeply about and who care about me. Our departure from the village was overwhelming and consuming, but this reflects how much connection we all gained.