Luckily for me, two teachers who had been both friends and family to me, decided to look over my finished product... We re-vamped my Japanese 'translation' so that it actually made sense and didn't use ancient wording (which my dictionaries had happily supplied), until finally we had a speech that conveyed everything I had wanted to convey, but also did so with a sophistication and class that my previous one had unfortunately lacked.
Now came the task of memorizing it. Unfortunately I only had one and a half days to prepare for that, which wasn't nearly enough time. I managed to memorize the first paragraph well, and the later three rather badly.
Once they called me up to the stage I found myself looking down upon a sea of faces as every single one of my student stared up at me. Each of the three grades that I had taught these three years, over 500 of them in total, looked up at me expectantly. What was shocking was that all their faces were familiar. I can't remember names for the life of me, but I can always recognize new students simply from the fact that I don't recognize their faces. But here, I knew every single one. It was an extremely emotional moment for me.
I started my speech, the first paragraph went without a hitch, but by the second one I was stumbling over a few unfamiliar verbs badly enough that I had to look down at my paper. My desire to still keep eye contact with my students kept pulling my eyes away from the helpful sheet that lay before me. At one point I made a mistake and tried correcting it twice, when I heard one of the baseball boys from the front row whisper the corrected sentence to me. Without thinking I thanked him through the microphone in Japanese and kept going. I felt like laughing and crying all at once. The fact that my own students realized what I was trying to choke out, and were trying to help me out even while they stood at attention under the watchful gaze of the school's teachers, was very touching.
By the time I got to my last paragraph, my voice was cracking. It was the part where I was telling them that these three years had been the most fulfilling I had ever experienced in my life. How they were all amazing students and that all the fun times we spent together, the silly chants we sang at the boys baseball games, and the events we all took part in together... all of it, I would never forget. At the very end I'm am ashamed to say that I was crying. The only thing I remember after that is the applause and the principal leading me off the stage. I get the feeling that the teachers were bowing to me as I was passing them, which made me feel a bit embarrassed. I hadn't really done anything worthy enough to warrant that kind of a show of respect. I guess they were simply showing me their thanks for all my work these past three years.
Afterwords, I had students coming up to my desk, either in groups or in pairs. They came to thank me and say goodbye. Some of them handed me little letters or thank you notes. Others tried to thank me in a chorus. It was really cute. The band club amazed me though. They had created a poster for me on which every member had written a little message for me. At the bottom of that poster was the cutest, most amazing drawing of me and two students. What was shocking was that I could actually recognize myself; they even had gotten my silly-looking ponytail right. I also received a beautiful DVD from them of their last performance, which I am proud to say I attended. I had been begging for that DVD from the time since the performance first been presented. I found out that the DVDs had just come out the day before and that I was one of the first people to get a copy. I couldn't believe that the day could possibly get any better. I was wrong.
As I was passing the windows in the hallway that looked out onto the school courtyard, the baton club was practicing right outside. They spotted me immediately as I was passing them (I was on the ground floor at the time) and they rushed up to the open window calling my name. They were so sweet. Each one was trying to tell me that she would miss me, but you could see that they couldn't find the correct English words to get their meaning across. In the end they settled for taking turns to hold my hands. It must have looked funny from an outsider's perspective, but in reality It was adorably sweet and very touching. It was almost as if through the contact they could send all their emotions and thoughts to me telepathically. And in a way they did. It's hard for me to explain how amazing it was to see so many of my students trying to talk to me all at once, to let me know that they would miss me, and that they didn't want me to leave. It was the perfect goodbye present.
At the end of the day when I was packing to go, three of the English teachers I had been working with all these years came up to me with a lovely bouquet of flowers. It was a gift from all the English teachers in the school. As I'm typing, I look back at my floor (the table had been picked up yesterday and moved to my sucessor's new appartment) and look at the gorgeous bouquet that is currently standing proudly in my makeshift vase, a nice, tall container of Bailey's chocolates (minus the chocolates, which were eaten by the teachers upon my arrival from Canada last Christmas). I must say that the combination of chocolates and flowers seems fitting for some reason. After all, I love eating chocolates as well as smelling flowers. (Truth to say, I love smelling chocolates as well...)
And there you have it. A very random and actually serious post. I had a very strong need to write about this as I haven't had a chance to tell anyone about it yet. It's very hard for me to explain how I feel at the moment. A mixture of happiness to know that I will be missed, sadness at the thought of having to let go, pride of having had such wonderful students, and the hope that I will have a few more chances to visit them, once I start my new job next month.