Today was the last day at the kindergarten. I think I was more devastated than the kids. Waiting with the other adults outside the school gate at the end of the day, it was all I could to not to cry.
I think part of it is that this time I know what it is like to leave –
the complete severance of connection to this place – especially the kindergarten which was our most material and consistent tie to life in this place. I think also I realize how this was one a time thing – Jason did a tremendous amount of work to pull this trip together and airfare for 3 people to China doesn’t come cheap. Even if we did find we could swing it again, unless we come before July jie-jie’s class will have graduated to elementary school so being a “special guest student” is probably out for her. Mei-mei was already a bit bored with the 2-3 year olds so next time we would have to impose upon another set of teachers (although, come to think of it, Jie-jie’s teachers probably loop back down to the 3 year olds next year). At any rate, although I wouldn’t rule out a return at this time next year, I think 2 years is more likely. Hopefully I will have come up with some research funding by that time – funds that would allow me to spend time in China while I do my work on discourses of social inclusion. Even then, who is to say that we end up here in Guangzhou.
So, it is for all these reasons that I struggled with tears when during afternoon pick-up and even on the walk home. I am reading Hessler’s “River Town” right now. It is a record of the 2 years he spent in Fuling, Szechuan Province. At one point he talks about being 2 people –
Hessler and He Wei, the person he is when he is engaged in life in the town – speaking and studying Chinese, meeting people, travelling, etc. Hessler even had 2 desks in his apartment – one where He Wei studied Chinese and another where Peter Hessler wrote about his experiences in China. While I certainly lack Hessler’s cultural and linguistic competence, I have a similar feeling.