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It has been a week since leaving Zhuhai and looking back on it is an utterly surreal feeling. The final performance went by in a flash. The days leading up to it were filled with rehearsals and practice and since the kids were on summer vacation they were hyper and some did not show up until the day of the show. It was a hard and long process trying to coordinate all of the children together, but in the end it paid off. Their costumes looked really eye-catching on stage and they performed without missing a beat in their dance and had big smiles on their faces the whole time. After their dance, they went back into their dressing room and cheered and cheered about having done well. I was so incredibly proud of them because I know having a dance teacher who only spoke English must have been frustrating to them.

The next day was probably the hardest. After the final performance, we had a day to just spend with our host family. Knowing that the next day I would have to say goodbye to three people and two cats I had fallen in love with would be hard. My host sister, Amy, and I went to an arcade that morning and were able to win a lot of plush keychains and the jackpot a couple of times with the tickets. After, my host family and their extended family and friends went to a KTV and sang a lot of song together. There was a song all of the adults knew from childhood and it was really fun to see them all sing and dance together — it reminded me of when the Pokemon theme song comes on and all of the kids my age can’t help but sing along. It was a heartwarming scene. After words we all went to dinner at a nice beef restaurant, and when I made a toast I couldn’t help but cry. I want to come back and see all of their loving faces but I don’t know when that is going to happen. It could be soon or it could be years from now.

The next day having to say goodbye to my host sister and family was incredibly tough. When I left my host family’s house for the last time the cat who had come to be my partner in crime named Kimi looked at me and my suitcases and started meowing non-stop. It was like he knew I was leaving for good. When we got to the school there were a lot of students and among them Lyra. Lyra had always been such a sweet girl and I loved getting to know her throughout my time at no 9 middle school. But saying goodbye to my host sister was when the waterworks started. I was ugly crying while hugging and clinging on to each other and I held her hand until I had to let go and get on the bus. I looked out and waved to her until I could no longer see her from my window. I love her so so much and I am glad I am able to keep in contact with her and send her sassy photos of David and cat pictures so it feels like she is right next to me on the couch in her living room. What an incredible experience this Duke Engage program has been, and I am so blessed to have made the friendships and bonds I was able to. Thank you so much to Hsiao Mei and David for everything that you did — I am forever grateful.