Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Eb and Flow of Friends

Over the last few weeks I've seen many old friends and had many farewells.

About three weeks ago I went to the farewell party of Leo. He worked as a director of sorts (I forgot what his actual title was) for the big nationwide language institute for which I worked the first time I came to Korea. He was one of the people responsible for my training during the first two weeks I was in Korea. Leo is a South Africa and after about ten years of living in Korea is now returning to South Africa to resume his position as a school teacher.

Another South African I saw at Leo's farewell was Mimie. I met Mimie at Kangnam Institute where I worked that first round in Korea. She took me under her wing and showed me the ropes. Mimie has been told that her contract will not be renewed. At around 70 years old she is still fit as a fiddle and put many younger teachers to shame. Unfortunately the retirement age in Korea is 65. She really enjoys her mission in Korea and is sad to leave, but I know she will be a blessing wherever she goes. She told me that she may take up tutoring mathematics again when she returns. She's not the type of person to sit around doing nothing.

At the party I also saw another South African friend with whom I worked at Kangnam Institute and who has also left Korea for the time being. She doesn't like to be talked about, so I won't say much more.

Patricia is yet another South African I know from my first time in Korea. We started together as part of the same batch of teachers and went through orientation together. We also worked together for a short time at the same language institute (in Kangnam). Patricia and I were instant friends. Both of us had come and gone and come back again to Korea – Korea does that to a person. Patricia's contract is finishing this coming week. The two of us had lunch today – decadent grilled mackerel. She is a fish lover from the Cape and when I visit South Africa I hope to meet up with her and her family, while I visit my one brother living in the Cape.

Laura is a mutual friend of Patricia and I. Laura also worked at the headquarters of the language institute with Leo and was one of the instructors during my orientation in Korea. With time, we too, became friends. She has finished her time in Korea around three years ago but still visit Korea annually, at which time we usually meet-up, enjoy good food and hang out together. We did so recently as well.

Two Saturdays ago Patricia, Laura and I went to the Kangnam Institute where we worked together for a while, there to meet up with many of our old colleagues. It was wonderful to see so many of them and was quite nostalgic to be back there. Although the language school had had a facelift since I've been there the previous time, it still smells the same and feels the same. Many happy memories of my time in Kangnam flushed back. I had lots of fun there, although I can undoubtedly say that my current job as a university lecturer is much better. That afternoon we went to a choir festival – a number of churches in the Kangnam area came together with each performing one or two items. A close acquaintance happened to be the conductor for one of the choirs. It was nice to see him and his wife again too.

Laura and I have a favourite restaurant in Daehangro that serves traditional Korean food with lots of side dishes at a very reasonable price where we always go. This past Saturday night, Laura, a friend of hers named Susan, Patricia and I went there. Afterwards we went to a Starbucks. Students of mine gave me a Starbucks voucher so I treated the lot of us to some drinks and deserts.

There after we decided to go to Tteoksam Resort, there to find a street food vendor that Laura always fafs about. It's been three years since the last time Laura's been there, resulting in us getting completely lost both on our way there and back.
Nonetheless, it was one of the most fun evenings I had in a long time. Getting lost in Seoul is always an interesting experience. For instance we stumbled into the street where every store has in front of it a sofa or two.
  Getting lost resulted in us missing the last subway train. It took us quite some time before we could get a bus – probably the last bus too – on which to worm ourselves in as it was so overcrowded. The bus only took us so far and we had to eventually take a taxi to get all the way home. Laura has returned home, to America, in the meantime.

Yet another friend, Christine (from Bookish-Bohemian aka Korea Has Seoul), finished her contract in Korea at a public school and decided to return to America. She's considering taking up a master's degree. We never worked together, but did work for the same company and moved in some of the same circles. Christine left me with two and half suitcases of books that I'll keep for her in case she returns. If she doesn't return, we'll work something out. Having some extra books around will help me stave of the temptation to buy more books.

On Monday I went for lunch with a colleague of mine. Chonghee and I became friends after her first semester work in our department and it has been a joy. Our offices were next to each other (basically one room partitioned in two) but luckily we have similar taste in music so we didn't bother each other too much. Chonghee and I often went to concerts together. For instance we went to see Rent, Jamie Cullum and Mika together. Her contract finished and she decided to go back to America. I will surely miss her, but completely understand why she decided not to extend her contract. While she worked here for the last two years her husband has been in America, visiting every couple of months.They need to be together and since they recently bought a home in Pittsburg, that is where they will live for now.

A week back I saw my friend Chanyang who recently went to America to study. While there he decided that that particular major is not for him, not to mention the exuberant study fees in America. He returned a couple of weeks back. I saw him last week at the Taekwon-dojang and was surprised at how happy I felt to see him again. I've really grown fond of him and am happy that he is back.

Another Korean friend who studies in America is also currently in Korea. Unfortunately Young is only here for a visit and will return to America within two weeks or so. Young and I also worked together at the Kangnam Institute where we both taught English. His fun-loving character was a great compliment to my moments of seriousness. He enjoys my creative side and when we are together we usually have lots of “silly” fun. Young and his wife, and their baby daughter came to Korea to attend Young's brother's wedding, to which I also went last week. It brought back memories of Young's wedding during which I functioned as an MC and other best-man activities like the Han-ceremony. I'm really happy to catch up with Young again, but am also quite sad that he will be leaving soon again.

But then again, so am I. I'll be visiting South Africa for a couple of weeks coming January during which time I will get to see many of my loved ones. I'm very much looking forward to it, even though I know I'll be quite exhausted from all the travelling. Nonetheless, it's worth every kilometre of dreaded public transport. A year is a long time not to see your loved ones and I'm eager to see them again.


Christine said...

I miss Korea terribly as well as so many people I met there. I do want to go back, yet I have to make sure I will be in a good situation if I return. I did have to take a break from working there. Some things didn't work out.
I will miss Mimie. I wish the best for her in South Africa.

Skryfblok said...

Good luck with your decisions for the future.