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Photo by Caleb Brooks

A Warm Goodbye

This past Friday, I sadly said goodbye to someone I had never expected to meet, and much less expected to learn such a great deal from. After a series of events that led to a very sudden shift in instructors, we were introduced to Sharon and told that she would be spending two weeks with us before Neerav’s return. It felt strange to know that even as she arrived, she was also on the verge of leaving. But despite knowing that, I wanted to make the best effort to connect with Sharon and learn as much as a could from her and her experiences.

It didn’t take long to break the ice with Sharon. She is someone who makes it easy to talk about anything, something which became evident just two days after her arrival as we went out for a group lunch at the Natraj Dining Hall. After just a few minutes of conversation, I was already blown away by her experiences traveling as a Dragons instructor and how she somehow managed to balance it all while raising seven children despite moving from her home state of Sikkim to the US and then back again. But what became even more evident was Sharon’s warm and open nature as she joked and laughed and made fun of the boys in the group for only talking about the gym and working out. From the start, her role in the group was unquestioned, and I knew that our two weeks with her would end much too early.

Valentines Day was her last full day with us. We had been planning on doing something to celebrate that day (we kinda just like to arbitrarily celebrate any holiday at this point because it gives us a reason to hang out and cook together), and Sharon thought that it could be a good day to teach us how to make momo dumplings. So that Friday, after a quick trip to the gym, I reached the program house and met with the whole group as we got to cooking. I have to mention that I am what some might call a “trash cook,” but spending time with the group had at least some sort of impact on my abilities, namely those involving the cutting of assorted vegetables. I was proudly chopping onions with Anna and Tejas, tearing up as Sydney and Pia worked on the carrots and Max sliced and diced cabbage. Sijbren walked in with a bowl full of chicken, a gesture that was met with a diversity of responses from the veg and non-veg sides. Dani spent a lot of time with Sharon in the kitchen as they worked on putting all the elements of our work together. Jaipal, Neerav’s friend from Jaisalmer, and Nishtha, a coworker of mine and good friend of Sarah and Neerav, also joined us in our momo making adventures, adding to good vibes of the night.

After a few hours of chopping veggies, rolling dough, throwing momo wrappers, and listening to Anna’s 2000s playlists, the momos were near finished. All it took was a little steaming and frying from Sharon and Jaipal, with me and Max making sure they were good enough to serve by getting a taste of some early samples. Eventually we all sat down and ate, reminiscing about the first time we tried momos while in Dharamshala during our first month of travel. But it wasn’t the obscene amount of momos I ate that made that night special; it was the knowing that we had shared so much of ourselves and that we could send Sharon off not just as some random instructor who had come and gone, but as a friend who had given the best she had to a group of students who needed her after some very sudden and unexpected changes.

I recently read a book which mentioned that people only say goodbye if they intend on seeing someone again. So goodbye, Sharon. I will miss you, and I know the rest of the group will too.