“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.
Once there, he entertained us with mini cans of Red Bull and a visit to the region’s 1,000-year-old skeletons.
Now, after 24 hours of Burmese hospitality, we were leaving town.
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…”
Perhaps, if we follow the Buddhist belief in reincarnation, we will, indeed, reunite with this religious leader on another day, in another life.
But even if we suspect that existence presents us with just one shot, ‘see you later’ allows us to hope in the strength of those invisible connections we create on the road. ‘Goodbye’ gives us nothing but finalities and dead ends.
I will keep this in mind as I leave my students, friends and community in Thailand; for, 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.