For the last time, I pulled out the tiny school chair from the cafeteria table and sat down, sunlight streaming in from the window. The kind, old waitress wandered over with my café con leche and toast with melted cheese. "Gracias," I said, looking at her with a sad smile. The family that ran the joint had been so nice all year, patiently waiting for me to finish my order in jumbled spanish, several mornings a week. I wasn't even hungry today, I just wanted to take advantage of the (relatively) quiet atmosphere of the cafeteria, in the hour before the school break, when all of the students bounded in to wreak havoc and noise. On my last day at the high school where I'd been working for 8 months, I wanted the comfort of sipping coffee in a tiny glass, the cheese that melted over the sides of my baguette, and the sound of the father of the family loudly ranting about his beloved fútbol team.
I hardly told any students about my imminent departure. I wasn't in the mood for a dramatic goodbye. No matter how often you travel, you never completely feel comfortable saying goodbye to the great people that you meet. I've had trips where I spent only two days with someone, and in the end it hurt to say goodbye. Same with these kids, whom I'd seen grow for eight months. I called them MY kids, even though they weren't mine. Things had turned around greatly since the beginning of the school year. Kids who stared at me with growly eyes, not wanting to participate, were eagerly shooting up their hand to answer in english by the end. Some younger kids, who were hyperactive overachievers in the beginning, were now starting to feel the effects of hormones, settling into a quieter presence in the class. Some were starting to awkwardly figure out flirting, attempting to show physical affection to the opposite sex. Some of the older kids excitedly asked me about Canada and the U.S., hoping to fulfill their dreams of one day visiting.
The same way I fulfilled my dream of living in Europe, I honestly hope that these kids, "my kids", all fulfill their dreams, too.