Mitharsuu means ‘family’ in Burmese, and indeed, EarthRights School is a family I became a part of, this summer. Leaving them, therefore, reminded me of all the times I had to leave my family in Indore to come to Illinois Wesleyan.
As I sit at the airport right now, waiting for the flight that’ll take me home, I cannot stop thinking about all the lovely memories from the last two months. Not only memories, but all the love and appreciation I received from everyone at Mitharsuu Center of ERI is something I will never forget. Students started leaving for home this morning and slowly, each time, it became a little harder for me to say goodbye to these wonderful friends I might never meet again.
I was the last one to leave Mitharsuu today. For six hours, the campus was quiet and I felt somewhat lonely. After spending nine weeks there with 18 great friends, it felt kind of depressing. Leaving, nonetheless, was hard. It’s not only the place I’m attached to, but also the people who added phenomenal moments to my experience. I not only tutored students, but I also learned a lot from them. We shared the same space for so long, ate, played and lived together, and taught each other some words in our first language. The work they’ve been doing outside of this school makes me feel so proud that I got to work with them. This Freeman Asia internship is one of the longest at IWU, but I wish it were longer.
Goodbyes started yesterday when the staff started leaving for the weekend. Tera left then as well, and it was quite an emotional moment for all the students to think about not seeing both of us when they return after their research. We had one last music session together and it soon turned into a tearful evening. As a gift, ERI staff and students gave Tera and me cards with group pictures, and a message from everyone at ERI. One of the students said, “You are my first and last, amazing poem teacher,” which made me extremely happy. Tera and I did a small haiku workshop in English class the other day, and this student, Lulu, had been taking poetry lessons from me already.
During that class, Sang (who also drew a sketch for me! You can see it below.) wrote this haiku, expressing the sadness he feels at the thought of Tera and me leaving after this semester (…it was incredibly sweet!)
Now I feel so sad
Eva Tera will go back
Please don’t forget us
Here is the sketch he made. He is an artist!
This summer has been so much more than I initially thought it would be. I met human rights leaders in northern Thailand and interacted with them, learnt a Burmese song and sang a Hindi song no one understood, learned canoeing, tutored friends late at night (and in doing so, formed even stronger bonds), visited a rice field, fed an elephant, learned about the Mekong river and the problems associated with it, stood on a rapid in the Mekong, etc (the list is quite long).
Mitharsuu has an environment that makes everyone feel at home, even though having a long conversation is difficult for some students. I have heard students say sorry multiple times because they cannot speak English clearly. They are often afraid that the other person wouldn’t understand them, and I had to try so hard to raise their confidence. They are an ambitious group of people, always supporting each other. Each one of them has a story. For most of the students, I am there first friend from India. So we told each other that we would meet when they’d visit India, or when I would go to their country, whichever happens first.
This place and this summer holds a special place in my heart, because I couldn’t have hoped for better (and very cool) coworkers and students to work with. Below is the last set of pictures I would share. From dressing in traditional Karen clothes to honor the Karen to some great pictures at Pai to hiking with another phenomenal coworker to listening to the speaker at a field trip and stopping for a picture on our way to the boat restaurant, all these pictures (and more) remind me of some blissful times.
Finally, a big thanks to IWU’s Freeman Asia program and Dr. Amoloza for putting this all together. It was truly an opportunity of a lifetime, and it has taught me more than a simple class at IWU (not that they are bad; they’re very cool, too) and/or my own experience of studying abroad in US so far.
P.S. If you read this post earlier and did not find pictures, I apologize. I lost the internet connection at airport and had to wait to get home and update this blog.