Saying Goodbye

December 4, 2008 | By Helen Tapping | News, Photography, Photojournalism

Today I woke up and realized with sadness that it is our last day here. The TCV, a quiet oasis in the chaos of India, has quickly become our home and our students have become our friends. Even though it’s a Sunday and we have to leave at 8 AM, the students still arrived to say final goodbyes. We were presented with hugs, more Katas and banana bread from Lhakpa’s parents.

Saying goodbye is harder than I imagined. The students wanted to know the time difference between India and Seattle so they would know when to check their email to find out that we made it home okay. They made us promise never to forget them. That’s a promise I know I will never break.

Before heading back to the airport, we detoured briefly to the Norbulingka Institute. This is a center dedicated to preserving Tibetan arts and culture. It gave us all a chance to wander through the tranquil grounds, temple Dorma Ling nunnery and watch the artisans at work, while we quietly reflected on our experiences over the past two weeks.

We discussed how meeting, bonding with these students and listening to their stories has been a life changing experience. Through their voices and stories we’ve learned so much about Tibet and its culture, and ultimately about ourselves too. I appreciate Getty Images for awarding me this opportunity and feel privileged to have met such amazing students and have witnessed the success of the Bridges to Understanding program. As the board president for another Seattle-based non-profit with a similar mission – Youth in Focus – this experience has energized me further in supporting and evangelizing important programs such as these.

Somewhat fittingly with our sad mood, it began to rain for the first time on our trip as we said our goodbyes to the other mentors and staff.

On the plane home, my husband Chris and I didn’t waste anytime and started to plan our return visit.

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