Saying goodbye is hard.
But what do you say to a 12-year-old girl who greets you in the morning with a tearful, "Jenny, I'm leaving for school. Will I never see you again?"
For me, I responded with an equally tearful, "Don't cry, Paru. I'll see you again."
I walked Paru, my host family's daughter, downstairs and waited with her on the front steps for her bus to pick her up for school.
Her mother and father took photos of us and we hugged goodbye for a final time.
"Technology is much advanced, Paru," her father, Baiju, said. "Don't worry. We will see Jenny again."
It's a strange feeling to be so attached to a family you've only known for five days.
And it's not just me. My entire team cried like babies last night at the final Rotary meeting in Kollam as Baiju, who is also the Rotary Group Study Exchange coordinator, expressed his love and appreciation and unexpected sadness from behind the Rotary meeting lectern.
We are all mystified by our emotional connectedness to these people, who five days ago were strangers. Today, they are family.
My host family in Kollam set a high standard for the next host families in the weeks to come. Our team has already said they don't think the experience we had in Kollam can be matched for the rest of the trip. It's refreshing to know that this unusual and exciting (and exhausting) Rotary journey in southern India has kicked off on a positive note.
We leave today for Kottayam, where we'll stay for another five days.
I'll miss you, Kollam. I know we'll see each other again.
And from one southerner to another, thank you for the hospitality.
Until tomorrow, Victoria.
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