Farewell (+ My Leaving Speech)

Posted by on June 3, 2013

Today was quite an interesting day. I don’t leave Sand Creek until early Saturday morning, but for various reasons our farewell event was held today (Wednesday).

The school day itself was a typical end-of-term day (an incredibly stressful and tiring flurry of record keeping and paperwork), but at 3:00pm our leaving event was started with a short speech from our HM, Kit “Chips” Spencer. The programme that followed included dances by students, poems that they had written, several very nice songs, numerous performances from the Katiwau Culture Group, speeches and farewells from parents, presentation of traditional necklaces to Harry and I, speeches from Harry and I, and other items – needless to say, it was a fantastic evening.

The assembly was followed by a general get-together, which in Guyana means a good gaff, plenty of food, free-flowing kari for those who choose, and lots of dancing. The Katiwai Culture Group (under direction from the wonderful Aunty Dorothy) taught many people to attempt their tribal and cowboy dances. Harry and I got fully involved and danced late into the night!

One of the items from the farewell assembly was a leaving speech from myself and my PT partner Harry. We both typed up our speeches to leave behind in the time capsule, so here is a copy of mine:

Good afternoon students, teachers, guests and visitors.

Ten months ago I was standing right there, and this hall was packed with students and parents. I think a lot of you were at that meeting. At the time I had just arrived in Sand Creek, after flying down from Georgetown, spending a few days in Lethem and then travelling here by vehicle and by boat.

I had been in Sand Creek for all of twenty minutes, and already I was expected to speak in front of about two hundred people. I was nervous, but I managed to say a few words, and I’m proud to tell you that later that same day I taught the very first lesson here at Sand Creek Secondary School.

That was ten months ago, but as I stand here before you I have just two days left as a teacher at this school: I have tomorrow, I have Friday, and then that’s it; I have to leave to make room for the new volunteers who will be arriving in September.

My time in Sand Creek has been short, but I can tell you that it has been absolutely unforgettable. When I arrived I felt like a stranger in a foreign world: I was pale white, I didn’t know anyone’s name, I hadn’t eaten farine and I didn’t drink kari. I didn’t know that “till so” meant here, but “tiiiiill so” meant here1, and when people kept asking me “kaiman?” I had no idea what they were talking about.

All of that changed very quickly, because the fantastic people of Sand Creek Village welcomed me into your community with open arms, and really made me feel like a part of the family. Some people in particular, and I think they know who they are, really made an effort to help me feel at home in this village.

The time I have spent in your community has changed me in many ways – for a start I’m not such a pale white anymore – but the biggest thing I will take away from Sand Creek is my collection of memories. I will remember travelling by horseback to fetch wood from the bush, and the painful injuries that resulted; I will remember many fantastic performances from the Katiwau culture group, and I will always be fascinated by how many things Buckman Knows; I will remember picnics at the creek with my students and my colleagues, during which I watched the boys pull many, many fish from the water, whilst I stood there catching nothing; I will remember dancing the Gangnam style at Christmas and making quite a fool of myself; I will remember parading through the village with red dye in my hair to celebrate MASH; I will remember raising the Golden Arrowhead at midnight to celebrate another year of Guyana’s independence, and learning over the last eleven months the things that your flag represents.

Most of all though, I will remember the people of Sand Creek Secondary School, because you are the people who have made my period here truly the experience of a life time. To my colleagues, I extend my warmest and deepest thanks:
– Sir Kit, you will be remembered for your drive to develop and enhance our school, and you have worked this year to keep our goals firmly planted on the bigger picture and the future plan for the school;
– Sir Mohamed, on the other hand, went to great lengths to look after the details, and ensured that our school operated smoothly;
– Miss Abigail, it’s no secret that everyone in Grade 8A owes you a huge thank you for your hard work this year, but most of all I will remember you for teaching me the lingo, including the infamous kowas;
– Miss Samantha, more than anything I will miss your laughter – any hour of any day, I could count on you to be laughing about something, so I want to thank you for making my time in Sand Creek more entertaining than it would have otherwise been;
– Sir Harry – what can I say? The poor man had to live with me for an entire year, so thank you for coping, thank you putting up with me, and thank you for not running away just yet!

Finally, and most important of all: my students. Each and every one of you has acted in some way to make my time here a truly unique experience. To every student of this school I would like to say thank you for the past year, and good luck in the future. Each of you has accomplished something this year, be it academically, in sports, or with something else entirely. I want you to know that I am proud of every single one of you, and I certainly will not forget you.

There are many other people in the village – far too many to name here – to whom I owe my most sincere thanks. That list includes parents, families, friends of the school and visitors to the village, so I would also like to say thank you to everyone I have met in Sand Creek; there is no one in this village that has not made me feel welcome and at ease here.

As you all know, we are coming to the end of this school’s first ever year of admission. I feel very privileged to have been a part of this school’s history, as one of the six initial members of staff. No one could deny that we had teething problems at the start, but in my personal opinion this establishment has had an exemplary first year, upon which it can build as it continues serving Sand Creek in the future. I hope to return to the village in a few years to see my grade eight classes graduate, and I am looking forward to seeing how much the school – and the village – has developed.

It is my hope that the future will look kindly on Sand Creek Secondary School. I hope to see that it can run effectively at full capacity, and that it earns a reputation in Guyana as a model school upon which other establishments can base their aspirations.

So, as I prepare to leave the village that has been my home for nearly a year, I have just one thing left to say:

Kaiman õ kian unao ati õ kiwan naa umashapa kaiman na’apain tominkaru unao tum.
(Kaimen nn key-an u-now at, nn key-when na, imashap kaimen, na-apine tominkar unow tum)

If you couldn’t understand my accent there, that was Wapichana for “thank you, goodbye, good luck, and God bless”. Thank you.

1 The difference between “till so” and “tiiiiill so” is something of an in-joke with most people in the school.

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