I went. Of course, I went. I put on some Russian dance music, which seems to bring out my inner grrl or however you want to think about it, and I went looking for snacks for C and I walked up the hill to her school.
There are police officers at the school, which is sort of frightening, as they are carrying these long rifles and one man had a lot of things to say to me in the Regional Language, which I didn’t actually catch all of. One line was definitely about having a drink together. The beverage mentioned could have been tea. I know the word for tea, but things you know get lost when you’re awash in unfamiliar words. Anyway, that was interesting.
The police are stationed close to the girls’ hostel, so I walked past the officers, nodded and shrugged and looked puzzled, as the moment seemed to call for and then I went to meet C. Girls I think I did not know said hi to me, which was odd for me, because actually they are supposed to bow and say formal-sounding things like “Good morning” and “Good evening.” On the other hand, it’s also possible that they did know me and felt suddenly over-comfortable. Whatever. I asked if they knew where C was. Indeed, they did, and I was directed to her room.
There are maybe 6 rooms in the hostel that seem to have about 20 or 25 girls in them. It is just a big room with a lot of bunk beds in it. C has a lower bunk.
It all seems completely unreal. I realize now the reason it seems unreal is that my feelings were squashed way down. Saying things aren’t real makes them seem unreal, but they also feel unreal when we disconnect from our emotions, and I had too many emotions to cope with, so they all got pushed down to where I could not feel them.
C had been sleeping. She got up because I called for her and some of the other girls called for her and told her I was there.
The thing is this was yesterday afternoon, and it is morning now, and I have not calmed down enough to process any of it or even really feel very much. My day does not usually go well when this happens. Feelings pile up and don’t get processed, and the backlog interferes with processing the present moment, and I just don’t do well. I will have to cope somehow. But it makes me all the more scared, and all the more unable to process anything or access the feelings I need to have to do that.
Anyway, she sat up and cleared a place on her bed for me to sit and complained to the other girls about how dirty it was. I gave her the snacks and things I bought for her. I am realizing it’s not so much it’s a materialistic culture, but that material items are a way of expressing certain feelings. The items themselves are merely symbols. But it makes many things complex.
I asked to look at her notebooks. I didn’t have a good reason to really. It was just something to do. After a few minutes she asked me to stop, because everyone was staring. Which they were. They were absolutely all there, watching the two of us. I gave them back to her.
Then she wanted to talk to IT Ma’am, so I let her use my phone and she went off to get some privacy, and one girl had a question about a poem for English class she did not understand at all. C came back with the phone and said IT Ma’am wanted to talk to me, so I took the phone and C went off somewhere. I accidentally hung up on IT Ma’am at that point, and one of the girls told me C was crying.
I went to her, where she had fled in the back of the hostel, on one of the other beds and I hugged her and asked what had happened. My first thought was that IT Ma’am had inadvertently scolded C for something too harshly for C’s tender heart.
After a while C told me she was missing IT Ma’am, but this is not what actually happened. I believed her at that moment though. I held her for a while and a girl who seemed to be older came and C cuddled against her for a while, and I was glad of that.
What actually happened is that IT Ma’am told C I really care for her and I will never leave her.
She did eventually stop crying, and at that point she looked at her watch. I asked her if she wanted to do something. She said she wanted to study. It seemed like a good idea to leave and let her get on with her day, as being a celebrity wasn’t going to help her study too much. She walked with me to the gate outside the hostel. While we were walking, I said, “Look at me.” I wanted her to feel connected to me as I was leaving. She did, although this was clearly difficult for her, and maybe what I saw was fear. “Baby, look at me,” I said, because she could not sustain her gaze on me. I told her they are just tears. They don’t hurt anyone.
I said goodbye to her there. She called after me, “Love you.” I thought I couldn’t have heard that right, but I said it back to her. “I love you, too.”
Two other things happened in there: first, the girls were asking if I was taking her to the US with me, and I am fairly certain her answer to them was that in 2 years, after she completes 10th grade, she will go with me. I have discussed this with her, but not in any terms of certainty, because I don’t know yet what is best for her or what is really possible. But she said it with certainty. Of course, she has to say it with certainty, or she will feel ashamed in front of her friends. However, I think this means she wants to come with me and I honestly thought she would not. The second thing that happened is something that has happened before, but still has not registered or sunk in. Throughout the time I was there and she was talking to the other girls, she referred to me as “amma”—mom. I told the girl with the English question to sit on the other side of me from C, and the girl would not. It is just easier to teach someone when you are looking at the book together, but Country X students cannot sit next to teachers. So, C repeated this to the girl, “Mom says come,” in the regional language. She said this twice.
I had better get dressed for school now and try to stumble through the day. But I am reeling.