So Long, Farewell

Goodbye, Banda Aceh.

My time with you has come to an unexpected and abrupt ending.  I was supposed to be with you until next January and A was supposed to be with you until June but you win, your Imigrasi wins.  We’ll go.  We’ll go now.

I admit that this situation is partly this organisation’s fault for not renewing some of these documents in a timely manner but we also know that your Imigrasi has the power to do whatever they want to, including giving us time to sort it all out.  An Indonesian volunteer will keep the centre up and running for now while he tries to sort out the maze of requirements and documentation that your Imigrasi wants so that this organisation can keep operating within your borders.  As an Indonesian, maybe He will be able to do what we could not.  Meanwhile, A and I must go because your authorities gave us a deadline that is impossible to meet and it’s best that we get gone before it passes.  We will be in Jakarta, continuing to do good for the children of Indonesia.

I leave you with no regrets, Banda Aceh.  I leave you knowing that I can honestly say I did not once ask God to end our relationship, despite the ugliness that some of your citizens showed me.  I stayed, Banda Aceh, because you were where God wanted me to be and I knew He would move me when He was ready and not before.  I leave you knowing that I gave my best to you, even though you did not appreciate me.  Yes, Banda Aceh, I shake your dust off my feet.  But…


I cried, Banda Aceh.  Your good people made me cry.  The local volunteer whose first day with this organisation was the same day that I arrived – she made me cry.  I cried when I looked into her eyes and remembered how kind and generous she has been with her time, how we could always count on her to jump in and help even when she didn’t have to.  I cried when she wept in confusion and anger at her Imigrasi, as she quietly and tearfully told me that she doesn’t understand this country sometimes and this is why good people cannot be better off, that even when people are trying to help something like this can happen.

I cried when I thought I wouldn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my first student, my SD5 ‘exteen‘ boy, whose first day at the centre was also my first day teaching.  I cried when I did unexpectedly see him because he came to pick up his little sister, and I got to say goodbye.  I cried because I’ll miss him grinning at me from the front of the class, knowing that he’s up to something.  And I cried because I had to say goodbye to the rest of my SD5, SD6 and SMA students by letter and I knew that they would be confused at my sudden departure.  Because you said, “Go now.”

I cried when our roofer’s wife brought us tahu goreng for dinner on our last night with you, Banda Aceh, because he knows that we like it because of the peanut sauce and the vegetables.  I cried when I realised that I wouldn’t get to see my Bahasa language tutor before I left because it all came to a screeching halt so suddenly.  And I cried when the owner of the photocopy shop up the road that I frequented to copy materials for my classes said that my copies were free because it was my last day there.

I was shocked, Banda Aceh, because an hour before I started crying, all I felt was joy to be almost rid of you.  I had plans to say, “Buh-bye and good riddance” to you.  Instead, I say so long to your good people who were kind to me, praying for the best for them, praying that their dreams for a better life will come to pass, praying that my students will grow up to be good people too and that they will have opportunities for that better life because of the work that this organisation does.

So instead I say so long, Banda Aceh.  Farewell.

Goodbye Aceh

Our last day in Aceh, goofing around with local volunteers…R let me hug her and it made me cry even more because she does not do hugs


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