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Saying Farewell in a Big Way

Michael Klatt is a CRS volunteer who helped create a waste management project in Honduras. He is currently completing his volunteer work at the Diocese of Chicago, Illinois communicating to parishes about Honduras and CRS. This entry is part of a series of personal reflections our volunteers are sharing from their journey and experience overseas.

I didn’t want any special treatment. I didn’t want any gifts. I didn’t want anyone to go out of their way for me. I was very vague, on purpose, about what day I would be leaving the small, rural town of Candelaria after a year and a half. However, after some prodding, I gave in and told a few friends that I would be leaving on a Tuesday morning.

I was told that the town wanted top have a farewell for me in the central park. It would start at 7:00pm on a Monday, the eve of my departure. My last days in town seemed to fly by quickly and soon the day of the event arrived. The park was beginning to fill up with families when I arrived. I went around to greet as many people as I could, to thank them for coming and to say goodbye. The mayor began the event by greeting the crowd with microphone in a booming, halting introduction . “Tonight is a very special night. Tonight, we do not say goodbye to a special friend, but rather, we will see you again soon.”

Volunteer

Michael Klatt is a CRS volunteer, who spent a year and a half working on projects in the rural town of Candelaria. Photo by CRS staff

It was a two hour event with music and skits. There was one particular part which was very memorable and heart-warming for me. Candelaria has a tradition know as the mojiganga(mo-he-gan-gah) which are ridiculous custumes of monsters and animals. These characters generally make an appearance twice a year: New Years and the main town festival. Normally, they try to pull pretty women from the crowds in order to dance, as well as to scare the little children. However, on this occasion, about 15 of them lined up in a single file line near the central park. One by one, they passed by and gave me a big hug.

I don’t really know how many people came to the event. The park filled up with a lot of families, students and children. I thought that there were maybe 300 people. Others tell me that it was easily 1000 people. I must have received a hundred hugs at the end of the event from little children. Families and individuals gave me many gifts, totally ignoring my plea. My night ended around 2:00am as a local quartet played me songs with their fiddles. As I walked towards my home, I gazed at the nearly full moon. Nothing had ever happened to me like this before in my life. Never did I have people express their gratitude and love for me like this. I was absolutely blown away.

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