As per usual, we were up at 6am to have our session with the Year 6 students. Only this time, it was going to be the last. As I climbed the steps to their classrooms for the very last time, a strange feeling crept inside me. We asked the kids to fill up the survey forms once more to see how effective the programme was for them. Since it was our last session with them, we decided to just let it be free and easy especially after the long and emotional night they had.
After the session, we headed back to Shane’s house to finish packing, return all the mattresses to the boarding school and tidy up all the mess we had made. At 8am, we were called to gather at the eating hall for our farewell ceremony with the Year 6 students. Cikgu Kaitirin kicked off the ceremony by giving her speech, thanking us for all that we have done. It was then my turn to say a few last words to the children, doing my best to convey whatever I wanted to say to them despite my not-so-fluent Malay speaking. After the speeches, we took a few group photos with all the students and teachers and then, we were given some time with the kids before our taxis arrived. We showed them a touching video which Yi Fen had put together for the kids. The hall quickly turned into a very melancholy scene filled with tears, volunteers handing gifts and letters to their group of students and many long hugs. Even the most “macho” boys of Year 6 could not hold back their tears as they sat in a corner trying to cover their faces with their exercise books to not make it obvious ahaha.
We grabbed our bags and bid farewell to the house all fourteen of us had squeezed in for the past two weeks then made our way to the open hall where the rest of the school was waiting for us. Amir (who we made do all the talking most times) gave some final words of advice and thanked the school once more on our behalf. The children then lined up in two lines as they did when we arrived and created a pathway leading us to the gate. It felt as if we were celebrities for a moment as we walked past getting high fives from both sides and receiving letters from some of them. The closer we approached the gate, the heavier my heart felt. I turned around to see all the innocent and pure souls waving while screaming our names until we entered the taxis. It was a sight I will never forget.
We stopped at a restaurant in Kota Marudu to wait for the rest of the volunteers from Teringai then made our way to Alexy’s Café, Kota Kinabalu where the Rotary Club had planned a buffet lunch for us. It was so good to catch up with the other team and share all our experiences with each other. At around 4pm, most of us headed to the airport while some stayed on in Kota Kinabalu. After checking in, we ate at McDonald’s together before parting ways with those who were on different flights. Before going through the gate, we managed to do our “dance” for the last time, shamelessly
Our two week journey had finally come to an end and it was bittersweet. Two weeks of having to take the speediest showers, barely getting enough sleep, speaking way more Malay than usual and losing our voices from teaching were over. Sadly, this also meant that we would no longer be spending every minute in each other’s company and our days of teaching the children of SK Tumunda Salimandut could only be replayed in our memories. I climbed into bed that night, exhausted and I smiled looking back at what an incredible and eye-opening two weeks it had been.