We are in our last week of Bristol life and getting excited. Excited and... Perhaps- just a bit emotional.
We have had lots of leaving meals, drink and picnics.... but on Saturday we had an evening where there was dancing, a banner, cake! and lots of lovely cards. Safe in the knowledge that we will be missed- leaving a gap that we can easily slot back in to when we return. I feel honoured and humbled by everyone's goodbyes and we will take all that love with us.
There are other goodbyes to be made though. Mike's felt like his right arm has been chopped off without his Blackberry and I have been able to walk around town without feeling like I might be jumped on by a client wanting to know the progress of their housing application. It's not all been rosy and I realise how valuable ti tis to feel needed.
Almost exactly a year ago I saw the picture of a little boy's body washed up on a beach in Greece and decided that somebody should do something. I was lucky enough to be living in a part of Bristol where a grassroots organisation was taking shape just around the corner. I answered the call for volunteers to go to Dunkerque Refugee camp and went to try to help in any way that I could.
The experience changed my life and the work was all consuming and then one day I realised that I hardly looked at my children' faces anymore.
So, why is this relevant to my 'goodbye' post?
Yesterday, I was been sent pictures of squalor that refugee families are currently enduring in Paris. Friends and comrades are gathering Aid and setting off to deliver it to the homeless families dispersed to urban streets after having their homes decimated.
I feel impotent. I want to so much to be the person that i once would have been, stepping up and taking pride in delivering a little slice of dignity to some people who are being treated as less than animals. I wish I could get involved as ignoring it is impossible.
Lucky for me, my family are taking up the mantle. My wonderful Dad is now the treasurer for the organisation I worked for and both parents support the refugees that I once took responsibility for in Bristol. I am missing my part in responding to the Call to Action though.
For now, I will watch from the sidelines. My choice to travel seems selfish and juvenile- but the fact that it is a vehicle to educate the children does not. We are not rich, we have had to make sacrifices to do this trip. It is about priorities and if I want the children to see the value of human beings, I need to put what money I do have, where my mouth is.
Sadly, the refugee crisis will probably still be here on our return- but I'm aiming high. If I do my job well, my children will want to be the humanitarians, activists and politicians who will work towards solving these problems of the future.
Saying goodbye to our communities and our sense of identity is tough but saying goodbye to close friends and family is even harder... I know we are outrageously lucky to be going on this trip but I won't tell you how much I am dreading the final goodbye on Sunday when we board the train to Heathrow.
I'm bracing myself for the sense of loss which is going to hit me, but for now I will remind myself that;
a) The children are bouncing off the walls for good reasons and
b) it is only an 18 month trip.
For now, I will immerse myself in packing and delicious celebratory meals and let you know how it feels once we reach the other side.