“No, no, no, not goodbye!” Si La Nanda held up his palm in a gesture of pause.
The Burmese monk, with Kim Jong-Il-size eye glasses and a youthful giggle, had approached us at a snake temple in Bago, Burma. Scribbling his name and number in the margins of our Lonely Planet, Si La Nanda invited us to visit his monastery in Shwebo.
Marcus called and confirmed, his native English breaking down to help the confused person on the other end. Tomorrow, can we come up tomorrow? Si La Nanda asked us. Friends, yes, we are friends.
Once there, the monk entertained us with mini cans of Red Bull and thanaka demonstrations, spiritual shrines and dusty back roads leading to 1,000-year-old artifacts.
Now, after 24 hours of Burmese hospitality, it was time to leave town (Burmese buses being slightly less dependable than our Buddhist host).
Si La Nanda folded his hands across his elbows. “We say ‘see you later.’ Because we do not know we will meet again. ‘Goodbye?’ Then we do not meet. But ‘see you later’? Yes, maybe…”
His words weren’t just a light-hearted expression, but a promise. Sometime, somewhere, this life or the next, there will be a reunion.
But even if we suspect that this current path presents us with just one shot, ‘see you later’ gives us hope in those strong, yet invisible connections, created on the road. ‘Goodbye’, on the other hand, gives us nothing but finality and dead ends.
I will keep this in mind as I leave my students, friends and community in Thailand; because it is an important lesson in spiritual awareness. Just like the best journeys have no true beginning or end, neither should the relationships we forge along the way.