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.