A Big Heart Says Bye

On the road there are good days and bad days. Other times, when you are lucky, there are really good days.

And then sometimes, when you least expect them, there are days that you are destined to never forget.

http://journeyswithkaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/IMG_4443.jpgThis past Friday at Colegio Maria Luisa in Paraguari, Paraguay was one of those days.

It started simple enough. With a 45 second prepared speech from me to the students and faculty of the school. The school that had taken Kaia in and under their wing and, for the past three months had made her and her parents welcome at every step.

I was no Winston Churchill but the important thing was, with the help of http://journeyswithkaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/IMG_4470.jpgmy trusty, go to app, I managed to convey our gratitude. A thank you to everyone who had done their little and not so little parts in welcoming Kaia and helping put to rest the uncertainties of mom and dad those first days and weeks.

Public speaking in front of any large group of people has never been my forte. Especially when it implies having to do so in a language I often wonder if I’ll ever really master.

http://journeyswithkaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/IMG_4454.jpgBut as the saying goes, sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Especially when it’s the right thing to do. Even if that means doing so at the risk of what I felt certain would be an undercurrent of snickering at the sound of my Spanish pronunciation.

But, amazingly, in the end, as a small round of applause settled, I realized no such giggles had materialized. At least none that I heard. And for a group of 3-14 year olds, this seemed a fairly impressive act of self-constraint and discipline.

What came next, however, would be even more unexpected and inspiring.http://journeyswithkaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/IMG_4444.jpg

At only the slightest prompting from our main benefactor, school director Dalila, a line was immediately formed in front of Kaia. A line that saw every student from grades Pre Maternal (Kindy) through 8th  (nearly 100 strong in total) approach our little cherub and say adios and buen viajes (happy travels).

A simple face to face wave and a quick good bye would’ve been impressive enough, especially for the older students. But these kids took it to a level that neither Bec nor I would’ve ever dreamed possible before first arriving to this small town. And for the next 20 minutes we marvelled at the various forms of kind hearted affection on display.

http://journeyswithkaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/IMG_4453.jpgHugs, kisses on the cheeks and friendly words of parting were the norm with the majority of the older crowd unflinching in their willingness to drop to a knee–to the level of their blond haired school mate—to say bye.

It was as touching as it was unexpected and, not surprisingly, the Kleenex Brigade had to be called in as the tears from mom and numerous teachers started to flow.

Just in time for Kaia to finish off with a few last high fives and fist bumps before wrapping things up outside and joining her classmates in their classroom. The classroom where, for the past few months, Kaia has learned to sing and play along in a language it is only now becoming apparent how much she grasps.  And, on this day, a classroom that had been transformed with balloons, streamers, table clothes, finger food, sweets and cake.

Three hours later and the sugar rush in full effect, there’d be more hugs, photos, tears and even a gift or two for Kaia. One in the form of a flash national Paraguayan soccer jersey that we are happy to say has plenty of room to grow into since Kaia has grown out of most of the clothes we packed six months earlier.http://journeyswithkaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Kaia-Going-Away.jpg

And, better still, a montage print of Kaia and her classmates. A print with the touching words “Kaia, Te Recordaremos Siempre.” (Kaia, we will always remember you).

It was all so much and I couldn’t help but wonder if such kindness and generosity would be so easily replicated if the shoe was on the other foot. Would we in the faster paced US or Australia, for example, have the inclination to make such an effort? And an effort made so easily, at that?http://journeyswithkaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/IMG_4464.jpg

I had my doubts and, in the end, I chalked the day’s experience up to being a major fringe benefit of having set up camp for three months in a small town in a country that tends to be overlooked on most travellers’ South American itineraries.

http://journeyswithkaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/IMG_4466.jpgTo a country that knows its geographic location is the heart of a continent and a town and a school that doesn’t seem to take this coincidence lightly, words escape me.

As such, we can only offer up this: a heartfelt ‘Muchismas gracias’.

That and the certainty no greater understatement has ever been uttered.



  1. Tracy Bua Smith September 5, 2016 Reply
    • Jimmy Bua October 11, 2016

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