My first year as a teacher is over. The end of my time in American Samoa is rapidly approaching. We leave Manu’a any day now, sail to Tutuila, and wait for our flight Friday night. I land in Chicago Sunday morning. In less than a week I will be home. I can’t wait to see my family, spend time with my friends, play with my dog, and enjoy the wide selection of fruits and vegetables found in every supermarket. But leaving is hard. This has been one of the best years of my life. I got to live the dream. I spent a year teaching amazing students while living in a tiny village of welcoming families on a gorgeous and remote tropical island. I formed what I hope will be lifelong friendships, snorkeled on pristine reefs, hiked the height peak of American Samoa, visited the only US National Park south of the equator, and proved to myself that I can do what I set my mind to. I learned that I can teach on my own and that I may even be kind of good at it. I tried new things and traveled to some amazing places. It can’t get much better. I know that someday the experience must end. There are others adventures to be had. But I feel like my work here has just begun. Leaving won’t be easy. I wanted to write more about the week of graduation festivities, but looking at the pictures of my final moments with my kids makes me cry. Every goodbye leaves me fighting back tears. A few of the village kids have gotten clingy since realizing our departure is nearing. One in particular just keeps repeating “I’ll really miss you Miss Jackie” and giving me giant hugs several times a day. How do I say goodbye, possibly forever? I want to ensure he gets the education he deserves, along with every other child on this island. I want all my kids to get the education they need to achieve their dreams. I want them to always have someone who believes in them and pushes them to continue learning. So to the future teachers at Manu’a High School, take good care of my kids. So many teachers have come and gone, but they all still care so much. And to my students, keep working hard and never give up. You all have so much potential. And to the people in Manu’a, thank you for becoming my second family and making me feel welcomed and loved while so far from home. I will miss this place more than anything. I hope to be back. Maybe as teacher. Maybe just to visit. But no matter where life takes me, I will always carry a bit of Manu’a with me. This island and its people are in my heart forever. As my crazy juniors once sang, “If you are a Sega, we’ll never let you go. Treat you like a family, you’ll never be alone”.
Once a Sega, always a Sega!