Saying Goodbye

Maria Niechwiadowicz


Good byes are hard. Period.

For the past month I have been saying good bye to students, faculty, and the Guyuan community. In some ways it has been great to have so much time to spend time with people to properly say goodbye, but on the other hand, it has also been a month of prolonged agony. My family used to joke about the “Sorteberg goodbye” – meaning when family members started to leave, it would take them at least another half an hour to actually get out the door after saying the goodbyes. Well, that’s how I feel.:)

There have been many ways in which I have slowly been detaching; things that have allowed me to feel more peace about leaving the Guyuan community.


I printed photos of myself (a suggestion from other foreign teachers) and attached a simple note expressing my thanks and telling of my departure. I found this to be an incredible way to connect one last time to those in the community especially, people that I am not able to communicate with fully.

I spent some time walking around Guyuan taking final photos of people and places, as an act of remembrance. Oh…and eating my favorite foods, duh!

Planning parties with my classes of students was another way to say good bye in a way that satisfied both me and them.

There have also been many ways in which students, faculty, and community members have showed their appreciation of me.

The department hosted a final banquet for Arnold and I. We spent over three hours eating, laughing, and simply enjoying each other’s company. I feel so blessed to have been part of such a great team of faculty!


Students also prepared pictures and notes for me so that, “I will always remember them.”

Yes, I feel more peace at leaving Guyuan than a month ago. Yes, I am excited to go home, but…

It is not easy. In fact, it’s really painful.

Just imagine, spending two years of your life in another place, where most of your family and friends have never been, and knowing that there is a very good chance you will never visit this place or see these people ever again. I mean, I don’t want to by cynical, but that is the reality that I am dealing with.

This week has been filled with grieving in a vast sense. I have laughed heartily and sobbed into shoulders, often both in the same day.

When I began this journey and was dealing with feelings of dissatisfaction, I wondered if I would leave this place easily, ready to move on. I’m grateful for this painful exodus, because it means that I am more connected than before, that I found something special in this place, and that found that purpose that God was calling me to. I guess that is what is means to Engage, Connect, and Grow. I have been transformed.

I am down to about 12 hours left in Guyuan and less than 48 hours before my flight. I ask for your prayers as the last of the final goodbyes are said, as tears are shed, and as words are shared.

Zai Jain Zhong Guo!

Next post coming to you from the US of A!