“Everything flows and nothing abides, everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.”
~ Heraclitus (c.540 – c.475 BC)
After Sonam got her visa approved to move to Canada to be with her beloved husband, we waited to receive her leave date from school, which was granted by the ministry of education in Bhutan. I secretly hoped that it would take months so that I could continue to see little Jimmy everyday and hang out with Sonam like usual. However, as much as I wished to continue with the pleasant way things had been going, I could feel that CHANGE was around the corner and it was time to let go of the people I had come to call my little Bhutanese family.
The waves started to intensify the day Sonam packed little Jimmy a bag to go visit his grandma (Sonam’s mom) and his biological mom (Sonam’s sister) over our two-week school break while Sonam went to her in-laws for pujas (ceremonies) and I toured eastern Bhutan. As she put a few of his clothes into his bag, I had a pressing feeling that I needed to put everything aside to give little Jimmy my undivided attention. I felt a sickness in my heart and I told myself that maybe it was due to the fact that I would be missing Jimmy over the break since I had seen him everyday for the last six months or maybe it was due to knowing that he would probably be moving with his grandma whenever Sonam got her leave date. I wouldn’t dare allow myself to consider that the ill feeling might be caused by the subtle whispers that this was the last time little Jimmy and I would be together in the place we called home because Sonam’s leave date was days away.
|Right before Jimmy headed off to grandma's|
He is being a rascal with his toy gun
In some ways, I am glad that I ignored my intuition because I might have been too emotional to enjoy Jimmy’s last day in Bumthang. It was a memorable day! We ran in and out of the house playing tag and I felt like a kid again, especially when Sonam would yell at us to stop running in the house. Ha! He also would egg me on to chase him by pretending to shoot me with his plastic toy gun and I would easily catch him tickling him to hand it over. There was a lot of laughter! After an hour of feeling like a kid, I turned back into an adult and I needed to sit down on the porch for a rest while he performed numerous tricks for me with his new “shoes on wheels.” Indeed, I was no longer a kid again as I repeatedly screamed, “You’re going to break a bone! Stopppppppp! Those shoes are dangerous. Oh my God! Ahhhhh!”
Finally, after he sweetly picked me a few wild strawberries, Sonam and I walked him down the road to wait for his ride to grandma’s house, which was five hours away. While we waited I helped him study the 200+ flashcards of sight words that Sonam and I spent hours putting together for him. I told him that if he knew all of them when we all returned from break, then we would get ice cream. His face lit up and he said that he would be choosing a chocolate flavor; he knew that he would be getting ice cream regardless if he knew the flashcards or not. Then out of excitement for the promise of ice cream, he climbed a tree on the side of the road to proudly pick me a peach telling Sonam that I had probably never seen a peach before since I was from America, which made me laugh. We continued to entertain ourselves by looking at insects and just being silly together until it was time for him to go.
Right before we departed, I was determined to get a hug from this rough and tough boy who always acts like he hates hugs; I tricked him to help me put on my backpack so I could swoop him up for a hug goodbye. From behind me his little hands struggled to put the straps of my backpack around my shoulders and I quickly swished around giving him a gigantic bear hug while kissing the top of his head. I yelled, “Hey everybody, look Jimmy is giving me a hug! Awe, I love you!” and he grunted, “Errrr no hug errrr”, but I wouldn’t let him go until I felt that it was the biggest hug that I had ever given him and he wiggled his way out. We all laughed! As he got in the car and I strolled back to my house, I walked backwards waving and yelling to him, “Don’t forget to study your flashcards, so we can get ice-cream when we come back from break” and despite the mysterious heartache that lingered within me, I somehow convinced myself that this would really happen.
A few days later, while I was in the neighboring village getting ready to venture east, Sonam met me in a crowded restaurant for lunch and the feelings of change were still lingering around me. Sitting face to face with our pizzas, there was a different type of energy floating between us: one of nervousness, excitement and sadness. Then she casually informed me that she got her leave date. She said that when we returned from break, she would stay in our village for a week to pack and to hand over her responsibilities at school.
In order to prevent the tears that started to lodge deep within my throat, I didn’t ask any questions and I told her that I would help her pack. Additionally, I managed to swallow all the tears by telling myself that a week was plenty of time to say goodbye to Sonam and Jimmy. Thus, we enjoyed our lunch together and I headed off to explore eastern Bhutan.
For a few days while I traveled, the dreaded feelings of change left layers of restlessness and sadness around my heart thinking about what I would get Jimmy for a going away present. One day, I tried to dispel the weary feelings by taking a moment of solitary to relax; I crept through the kitchen at the hotel that I was staying at and got permission to sit out in the staffs back balcony to enjoy the spectacular view. I should have been thrilled because I had the most perfect, relaxing setting that could have been featured in any luminous travel magazine: a cozy chair, a beautiful marble balcony, heavenly views of dreamy mountains, steamy tea and a savvy book.
However, every time I tried to relax, my body would be consumed by a disturbing feeling that wouldn’t let me rest. In fact, the feeling started to grow to the point that I could no longer concentrate on reading. All I could think about was that I needed to call Sonam and confirm if Jimmy would be moving with his grandma and when his last date at school would be so I could plan to say goodbye. However, I didn’t want to call her because I had this strange knowing that she would tell me something I didn’t want to hear. Nevertheless, I could no longer ignore the strong urges to speed dial her and I picked up my phone to do so.
On the other end of the phone there was a difference in her usual peppy voice; it had a softness and quietness to it. After we had small chat sharing stories about what we did over the last couple of days, I finally worked up the courage to ask, “Did you tell Jimmy you’re moving? Will he be moving with grandma? ”
She calmly answered, “Well, grandma told him that I would be going to Canada, which he knew that this day would be coming sooner or later. So it wasn’t a shock for him. I also talked to him on the phone and explained that I would try to get a visa for him to come to Canada too and he seemed to understand. Grandma says that he is doing fine and he didn’t even cry.”
For a bliss second I wondered why I was feeling so restless because this was great news and I cheered, “Oh that’s so good to hear! I feel so much better knowing that he’s ok with everything. I was so worried about how he would take the news.”
Then as quick as the joy came, it instantly vanished and I got my answer for the strong urges to call her as she said, “He’s going to stay with grandma to start school in grandma’s village immediately after the break instead of coming back home with us to start the packing…”
Feeling completely caught off guard I gasped, “What? He’s not going to come back to say goodbye to everyone? What about all his stuff?”
Sonam explained that she would pack it all and take it to him as well as spend a week with him before she moved to Canada. As I realized that I wouldn’t see Jimmy’s cute little face at school when I returned and that the day we saw him off to grandma’s was the last day we would all be together, tears started to stream down my face. Despite my heavy sadness, my voice remained steady and I agreed that it was best for him to start his new school right after break and we ended the conversation.
I quickly left the balcony and rushed to my room so I, a sniffling tourist, wouldn’t scare the hotel workers. In my hotel room, my friend tried to make me feel better by reminding me that it wasn’t like Jimmy had past away and I could go see Jimmy before I left Bhutan. However, all I could think about was the last time we had spent together. I sniffled, “You don’t understand! We were supposed to get ice cream when we came back from break. I didn’t know that he wasn’t going to come back to school when he left for his grandma’s. It was suppose to be a visit not a move. I didn’t get a proper goodbye because I wanted to give him a special present so he would always remember me. I thought that I would have a least one more enjoyable week when I returned to say farewell sniff sniff...” My friend just grinned at my little, mousy sniffles as though he wondered how I could have made such strong bonds so quickly with others, especially an eight-year old.
It took me a few minutes, but I eventually found comfort in my friend’s words. He was right: Jimmy was vibrantly alive and I would make sure that I went to see him with ice cream and all before I left Bhutan.
After break, I helped Sonam pack and it was strange not having Jimmy making a ruckus in the house. It was even stranger packing up his little black shoes and big pink bear. I didn’t seem real and I kept expecting to see his darling little dimples flash around a corner or hear someone scream “Jimmmyyyyyy.” But instead it was quieter around the house and there was no one to wake me up at six in the morning. Once all his toys were packed, reality set in and I actually felt like I could breathe again because the waves of change had come to pass; there was no more denying that life was changing, which I accepted.
Although my everyday life is no longer the same without little Jimmy, I have wonderful memories as well an overflow of love and joy in my heart from my experience knowing the little eight-year-old who made me feel welcome in Bhutan. Once again, I relearned that nothing in life stays the same, which makes life full of surprises. Thus, I am embracing the waves of change because they are my indicators that it’s time to move on, to grow, to welcome others and to learn more life lessonsJ.
UPDATE: Jimmy is doing great at his new school and he is embracing his new change in life. He is in the same class as his little uncle and they love playing with each other all day long. His new teacher says that he is so happy to have Jimmy in his class because Jimmy doesn’t hesitate to raise his hands to answer questions (he’s super smart) and he is well liked by all the students. Go Jimmy!