Recently, Geumchon crew learned that one of our favourite couples in the area, Johan and Anel will be taking up positions in the Middle East in August. This news literally devastates us here in Geumchon and saying goodbye to friends is definitely the worst thing about living in Korea.
I’ve been here since 2009 so I’ve become quite accustomed to saying goodbyes and it seems like every other weekend there is a going away party. In fact, once you’re here for a while, you make friends with people who are here long-term and of course Koreans themselves so your core group of friends are stable. But it’s inevitable, for me anyway, that I would have friends who are only here for a year. In a way, I think that after a while you learn to detach yourself a little in a friendship so you know it’ll be easier to say goodbye. Usually when people leave there’s that initial sadness that the person is gone but it’s a quick recovery as you get to know the replacement and life just goes on. Of course, there are also the people who you are only too delighted to say goodbye to but they are in the minority.
Many of you who regularly read this blog know, I live in Paju city, the Geumchon part to be exact. The foreigners here have a Facebook page and use it to organise trips and nights out and so on so we’re quite a close community. Everyone has their own role and it’s amazing to look at the group and see how people take on different tasks and how communication in the group works. Everyone in the group is great and I don’t usually single out people but I’m going to bend my own rules this one time.
Since they came to Geumchon earlier this year, Johan and Anel just made the greatest difference to the group. If they are going out for dinner or going off somewhere, they literally call around and make it a group event. They are South Africian but secretly I think they might be part Irish. They have the best sense of humour and whenever we are in their company there’s no social pressure. It’s like you can turn up and just be yourself and they completely accept it, even if they don’t agree with a word you say. Anel is partial to a nice cup of tea and loves to just “pop in for 5 minutes” so of course I’m quite partial to her company. She’s also a big fan of the norebang (she has mad skills there, a rare thing) so a night out is always a good bit of craic. We have spent many the night sitting in our new favourite cafe drinking a bottle of wine and passing the hours talking. They never seem to run out of things to talk about. They are so honest and such true personalities that every time we hang out, they make me want to be a better person!
The best thing about them is that they are so encouraging of everyone. Teachers by profession, it’s their encouragement that most people will tell you is their favorite quality. A few of us play on the same touch rugby team. Every time anyone makes a mistake at training or at a match, they say things like ” no worries, next time” or “don’t worry, you’re doing great”. And it makes the world of difference, those of us who used to feel like we were letting the team down and as a result shying away from playing are now so much more confidant and actually improving.
I know a lot of great people in Korea and it’s the people who make me love my life here so much, but these two are completely different to the others. They bring the group together more and they naturally assumed that role when they arrived. Perhaps it’s that they remind me of Irish people so much or perhaps it’s that they are inclusive of everyone or the fact that you can actually have a conversation with them but having them go will leave a big void in the group.
Saying all that the opportunity in the Middle East is too great to pass up and we all know that they’ll do just as well there as they did here.If there’s one good thing about having your friends leave is that more often than not, they leave for other countries so hopefully we can all add Oman to our new vacation destination!