Monday, November 8, 2010

CONG-RATULA-TIONS

I wanted to share this with people because I thought it was exceptionally kind and exceptionally cool.

After renewing my first Korean contract for two months which took me until the end of October 2008, I was able to say a sad farewell to some good friends I had met that year, and say an admittedly reluctant hello to the strange new people who were now invading their former classrooms.

I immediately understood and sympathized with the "veterans" who had extended their own contracts when I had arrived. They weren't always the most open and welcoming people, and I had, for a time, wondered why.

Well, after the summer of 2008, I had my answer. Making new friends in their first contract is (forgive the comparison) like agreeing to become a pet owner again. Of course I'm only talking in terms of the impermanence of it all - why bother being close to people who you know are going to rip themselves untimely from your life and leave a gaping hole where a set of darts, a Nintendo DS, or just a friendly face in the neighbouring classroom used to be?

As expected, once I got out of my funk, the new additions proved to be just as lovely as the dearly departed. We made fast friends, and I was very glad to be able to catch-up with some of these people upon my return to Seoul in March of the following year.

I do though distinctly remember one mid-October conversation (though not the exact dialogue) I had with one particular friend one night when we were strolling-about after class and looking to have some Yeong-tong-inspired fun before heading home.

I remarked how it was a shame that I would be leaving so soon after meeting this one guy whom I felt I had developed an immediate bond with. I can't help myself. I'm always the optimist (for now at least) in this regards and I can't help but think that despite the potential future distances between friend that meet on foreign shores, there will always be a chance to cross-paths at another point in our lives. He responded by hinting that it wasn't such a big deal - and that he was realistic about these things, and didn't expect that our paths would cross.

I don't remember exactly what he said, but I do remember that it was (or at least seemed to me) to be surprisingly flippant and dismissive. It stung a bit at the time, but seconds later I began to appreciate the truth and brevity of the comment. Yes - I had been there for a year, was going, had only been work-buds with the guy for a couple of months, and had seen many others leave. He was absolutely right.

Anyway, I don't know if he remembers the moment, but the resulting reality was quite the opposite, which I was and still am grateful for. He was the guy who warned of an odd student's hand-in-pants/hand-in-mouth tendencies, the guy who confiscated a drawing of Big Bang (K-pop group) from a student then threw it in the garbage with this classic rejoinder: "because Big Bang IS garbage...", and the guy who sat sometimes too quietly in our at times toxic work environment and thought a bit too much, but always made the more human of us wonder what was on his mind. The world needs more people like him, in my none-too-humble view.

So, here we are today - me, here in Korea, him, back in the US of A as other departed friends have flown, and who should I hear from through a series of 3 separate photos by Korean post, after he learned of my engagement?





Thanks, brother. Paths will cross in time.

4 comments:

Tuttle said...

AW.

ESO.

ME!

Mr. Genius-Face said...

Well this is all very flattering, thank you.

Jen Davies, MA, CDP said...

I know who that was, and I think that's the best engagement gift I've ever seen. Well done.

TechnoMonkeyX said...

It's totally true, expat friends are transient and they're WORSE than pets. When you buy a pet you buy one with a lifespan, you know how long you have with your efforts. I have invested xx amount of love in this rat, he will last 3-4 years if I take good care of him. Expat friends are worse, you just don't know what their lifespan will be. I mean, even a washing machine comes with a 1-3 year guarantee, if expats were washing machines nobody would buy us!

It's funny that you should blog about this right now, because I think you've tapped into something that's been on my mind ever since I started thinking about coming back to Korea. Why should I? Why should I invest another year of my life, creating friendships with students, teachers and expats, only to likely leave at the close of the year? Should I stay 2 years or three, I guess the effort would be worth it, but would I end up in your shoes, constantly farewelling my dearest and closest friends?

The friendships I made in Korea last year have been some of the best I've ever had. In fact, I've never been apart of such a close knit group. We were like a real life sitcom, always up to something, always there to rely on each other and now, we're scattered and the threads that bind us together are left to age in the sun, weathering and sagging like the wires on an old hillshoist, perhaps someday to be disgarded and forgotten all together.

My relationships with those I know in Australia are pale ghosts of what I had in Korea and it was this that pushed me into travelling, visiting my friends and hoping in part, to relive some of the glory of the year past. Now, having travelled further still into lands where I am without friends I find myself making friends easily, quickly and deeply. Knowing that they're transient allows you to build relationships fast, because time is not on your side. Social rules are discarded and skipped, you get to the heart of things quickly and then by night or weeks end, you bid them farewell, knowing how unlikely it is that your paths will cross again.

It really is touching to receive such a wonderful engagement gift and having friends across the world truly is such a wonderful thing, but there's nothing like knowing your place, your future and that your friends will likely be there by your side forever. Perhaps that is too much to ask, but we do and we can dream.