Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Let Her Go - a flashback

I have been ridiculously ready for vacation.  It's less about needing to get away from the daily grind (which is, honestly, not that grinding) and more about being super stoked about where I'm going - Kyoto.  There is a veritable ton of festivals going on that week, there are about a hundred different workshops I want to do (although I'm only doing about five), and, oh yeah, I might actually get to see the Kawaii Kid, if the stars align.  He's promised to take me to Osaka's Denden Town, at any rate, which is the Kansai version of Akihabara.  If you don't know what that is, don't worry.  It just means you're not enough of a nerd, and that's okay - we can't all be.  I wasn't, two and a half years ago when I last visited Japan.  A month later I would watch my first episode of Fairy Tail, and eventually kick myself, because if I had seen it sooner, I might have visited anime's Mecca between festivals and Fuji.  Instead I was high on cherry blossoms and Japanese Kit Kats.

That time I shared a layover with Champ and Li'l Miss Catwalk. They'd heard me speak glowingly more than once about Korea, the home of my heart, and how much I loved to take layovers there on the way to wherever.  They were particularly interested in my waxings poetic about Butterfinger Pancakes, and I promised them, on this most auspicious of layovers, that I would take them there.

We spent a couple of hours in the Incheon arrivals hall snoozing while waiting for the first train into the city.  We may have talked a little then about what else to do in Seoul, or maybe it was prior to arriving; I'm not sure anymore.  I do remember them saying they weren't really interested in "touristy" things.  At the time, I couldn't - or wouldn't - formulate the thought that Seoul wasn't the kind of place that you could get to know in a few hours, and that "touristy things" were really the only thing we could experience in half a day.  But they were my friends, and I was determined to do what I could.

After breakfast, we started walking through Apgujeong toward Coex.  We saw a giant finger about to dong-chim King Kong, and a Barket - beer market - and eventually stumbled onto the Seongjeongneung royal tombs.  I never spent much time in Apgujeong, being neither a drinker nor friends with the drinkers who liked to go there, and it looked like something interesting to explore, so I convinced them to go with me.

It was only 500 or a thousand won to get in, and it was a nice, quiet place to explore.  Lil Miss Catwalk took on the role of tour guide, making up interesting facts about the tombs and their features.  We made friends with a Korean ghost, whom I dubbed Fred - if you taught at GDA with me my last year in Korea, you might recall an adorably chubby student with that English name, which was my inspiration.  We talked about hiding in fairly obvious places to scare people, doing the Asian ghost thing - hair in front of your face, hands clawing this:

We didn't actually do it.  We probably would have gotten ourselves kicked out of a UNESCO world heritage site if we had, and that in and of itself kind of seems like a reason you should (I mean, how many people have gotten kicked out of world heritage sites for anything less than defacing them???), but in the end, it was early Saturday morning and not really enough people around to mess with.  Instead, we wandered around for a while, made some jokes, and eventually made our way to Coex.  It was not a particularly eventful layover, but it was pleasant enough.

There's this totally bullshit saying about how friends are there for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.  Well, I think it's a bullshit saying, anyways.  Maybe this is because if I like someone enough to want them in my life at all, it pains me to lose them.  Take my life in Korea, for example.  Over the years, I've seen lots of my former coworkers from GDA, including Dougie-Poo, who has actually brought his family to Mongolia to work at my school.  Pretty much any of my friends from the last twelve years would be welcome in a heartbeat if they showed up at my door (Socrates being the exception, good riddance).  So it was a slap in the face when Champ stopped talking to me this spring.  I could try and break it down for you - without actually talking to her about it, I can't be 100% sure exactly what was up, although I have a pretty good idea - but I won't.  I'll merely say that I had a lot of respect and affection for both her and Lil Miss Catwalk during the three years we worked together, always tried to support them, and even if they believe I stabbed them in the back and hate me, I still wish them the best.
The layover coming back - visiting Jogyesa Temple in Jongno.
Here's the thing:  in spite of my efforts to preserve them, expat relationships do sort of come with an expiration date.  It's the nature of the beast.  For better or for worse, when you live outside your own culture, you become friends with people you wouldn't have chosen back home.  Champ was super-sporty, and Lil' Miss Catwalk, so introverted that she made me look like the life of the party.  I, on the other hand, am a consummate culture vulture.  Back home, I probably wouldn't have been close to them.  Maybe on good terms if we worked in the same school - I might have even said I liked them (which seems like that's not much, but as a fairly a-social person with a low tolerance for bullcrap in the workplace, this is a decent concession from me).  But I doubt we would have spent much time outside of work together.  We were too different.  Here, though, we went to dinner on a weekly basis.  I had them over for Korean; they invited me for crepes.  We were friends, and it makes me sad to lose that.  On the other hand, it also makes me appreciate the friendships that do last - those people I chat with and in some cases even call long after one or both of us have moved on, like my best chingu, Sara.  The friends whose cities I don't feel awkward showing up in, and who make time for me if I do - Dark Lord and Master, I'm looking at you.  Or, hell, even come back to time and time again - no matter how much I love tzatziki, it's not the primary reason I've traveled to Greece as much as I have.  That would be Bronte.

Here's to more friends like GDA friends.

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