So I just got back from seeing my friend Jennifer off at the bus terminal. She caught a red-eye to the airport in Seoul. This little awkward Korean woman kept coming up very close to us and talking to us in Korean while we waited for Jennifer's bus. I mean, we are rockstars, right, so we get that sort of thing a lot. She continued hovering over us while we stood at the bus door and avoided saying goodbye until the last minute. We just looked at each other and said, "Yep. This is happening." What a perfect sendoff, Gwangju. Thanks for doing your part to keep Korea strange-ee.
Jennifer had a fabulous going away dinner tonight with several of our amazing girl friends and we followed it up with coffee at one of Gwangju's billion adorable coffee shops.
We all avoided crying for as long as possible. Things got real dumb as we avoided the inevitable. Laughing ... lisping ... being ridiculous ... speaking in accents that may not have a home country ... running away from cop cars.
I couldn't help but think of that one scene from the best movie for southern girls. "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." (here's a poor-quality link if you don't know what I'm talking about)
This is the hardest it's hit me when a friend was leaving. She has been one of my bestest friends in Korea. We've been on such grand adventures! She and I would even have been great friends at home. (Even when we were in Japan and needed a break so we could stop getting on each other's nerves, I loved traveling with her. Those kind of friends are few and far between, you know?) Thank God she'll be back in a few months!
I've been here 8 months now and I've seen a few people move on to their next big thing. This is one of the hardest things about being an expat. Friendships here are so ... well, it's like they're in an incubator. I remember saying goodbye to friends after college, after being close for years, especially saying goodbye to those who'd been my roommates and were moving 10 hours away (cough, Calli, cough), with whom I'd gone through major peaks and valleys of friendship. Saying goodybe like that was hard. This is a very similar feeling, after only a few months. Seriously, incubator.
When you live away from everything familiar you've ever known, you have to build yourself a new community. The thing is, your community ebbs and flows each month as people's contracts begin or end. It's like the river in Pocahontas. You can't step in the same river twice, the water's always changing, always flowing. (Jennifer and I sang that tonight at the terminal with our sexy, raspy, 3 am voices. It was simultaneously horrible and wonderful!) Korea's expats are like that: you can't step in the same community twice.
You make these awesome friends and then your damn friends go off and leave you. What are you supposed to do with your Saturdays now? Who are you going to call when you accidentally take the bus to the opposite end of the line from your bus stop and have to sit in the creepy shed with the bus drivers while they watch baseball and wait for the next route to begin? (cause you have to let someone know where you are, so if you disappear, there are breadcrumbs to follow, and you need someone to tell you that you're not as big an idiot as you feel at that moment)(not that that happened to me or anything)
I suppose you just have to get used to it.
But, jokingly, what a bitch.
Have fun in the US, Jennifer. Think of me while you're getting that pedicure and walking around Target. I love you so much. I can't wait to see your shining face on Skype. Soon, darling. (and stop crying.)