Break-Ups and Goodbyes

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I’ve made mention before of the single greatest downside of traveling and living abroad – and that’s having to say goodbye to good people. Some of them, such as my good friend Byron, are the kind of people you know you’ll stay in touch with well after they’ve left your immediate proximity. Others pass out of your life with a bunch of drunken fanfare, remain Facebook friends for a year or two, and then become just another participant in an anecdote you tell your shiny new friends.

This past week I’ve had two very different goodbye experiences. On Tuesday evening my girlfriend and I parted ways. While it was a relatively new relationship (only a couple of months) it’s never a fun or easy thing to split with somebody who you have had fun with and shared such feelings with. This past week has been the hardest I’ve had since returning to Korea.

I started chatting to Kimberly before she’d even come to Korea, and I think we both were a bit surprised how much we liked talking to one another before we’d even met. I know I’d come home from work looking forward to a Skype chat with her. There was just an instant chemistry. I first met Kimberly when she needed somebody to help her settle into the country and had fun playing knight in shining armor with spontaneous visits and sage (?) advice when Korea was wearing her down.

In a very brief time we had a lot of fun. We explored my home town. We spent chilly days in her apartment watching Mad Men. I played nurse while she battled her first Korean cold and she counselled me through my resignation at work. She was the motivation behind my very fun trip to Jinhae for the Cherry Blossom Festival and the engineer of last week’s Seoul shenanigans.

Kimberly and I climbing a mountain at Jinhae's Cherry Blossom Festival

As I grow up and gain more experience in relationships, I’m learning that having fun together isn’t always enough. While we had a great deal of fun and clicked on some levels – the distance of the two hour commute and a few things we didn’t see eye to eye on meant that it made sense to go our separate ways. In the ‘real world’, where we didn’t have to worry about where each of us would be in a year’s time – it might have been worth pursuing longer. But when you’ve got differences and there’s every chance you won’t be able to be together long term without somebody making huge sacrifices, it’s hard to gamble. In the end, Kimberly made the call and I have to live with that.

It’s been hard to adjust once again to life alone, and I’ll miss her a while yet, but it’s for the best. If we’re meant to cross paths again we will, and if we aren’t – well, we’ll be good friends somewhere down the line.

In a lot of ways, Kimberly reminded me of two very important things that I might have allowed myself to forget in the wake of Fallon and I going our separate ways.

– That no matter how gloomy you might feel after somebody significant leaves your life, you are always in a position to be swept up in a new romance and fall head over heels for somebody new. I didn’t think I would meet someone I cared about so soon after Fallon, but Kimberly showed me that it was not only possible – but fun as well. It’s a pity we didn’t get to spend more time together, but I am a firm believer that everything in life happens for a reason – and I’m sure we’ll both figure out what that reason is on our own time.

– That romances abroad can be both exciting and frustrating. There was something star-crossed about being introduced by a mutual friend because she thought we’d hit it off, and about taking a 7am train up to her sleepy little town after she had a bad first day. It’s those kind of adventures that are worth any heart-ache or teary eyes, and I wouldn’t give the thrill of new adventures, first kisses, and butterflies up just to feel better on nights such as tonight.

I’ll write a longer entry about relationships in Korea at a later date, but I’ll sum it up now – there’s so much more pressure on a new relationship when you’re from different countries, have different contract ending dates, and a finite amount of time to figure out where you’re headed. It’s a case of stay at arm’s length or go head over heels – and there’s no guarantee either approach is going to work.

But enough of that somberness and onto other farewells. Let me regale you with the tale of Byron.

I first encountered Byron during my nerdier days. I was an unemployed Newcastle resident with entirely too much time on my hands and I was addicted to a freeware game by the name of Extreme Warfare Revenge – a game that let you control various pro wrestling federations. I stumbled across a website where those addicts with too much time on their hands could post reports on the shows they booked. I started doing one and I read Byron’s while there.

None of the details are really relevant (or particularly interesting), but suffice to say we got to chatting and he was one of the many people who first encouraged me to come to Korea. When his own life needed a change, I returned the favor by nudging him in the direction of Korea. He arrived just as I was leaving after my first year, but we made sure to meet up just as soon as I got back. He and I (and the three amigos I mentioned in my post about Seoul) had a fun, drunken night in Gwangju and we’ve been fast friends since.

Rocking some noraebang at the German Bar in early 2009

Our paths have only crossed a handful of times since. He came down to see me off when I left Korea in 2009 and we had some memorable good times when we explored Texas Street together earlier this year.

Drunk off our heads at Vinyl Underground

With his second contract coming to an end and no offers here really grabbing him, Byron opted to go in search of new adventures to add to his already enviable collection. Wednesday night saw him and his parents visiting Busan and I joined them for a rather delicious meal of galbi and bulgogi in Seomyeon before they left town. A gift of Canadian maple syrup and a bizarre ‘Korean Zombie’ t-shirt only sweetened the deal, and we finished our farewells with Baskin Robbins in true Korean style.

I’m not sure where Byron is off to next, although his blog will doubtless remain an entertaining journey around the world. I’m not sure when our adventures will coincide again but I’ve come to know one thing for certain – it’s never dull when Beeker and CWB join forces.

Another week and another two people leave my life for a time. Now to continue the job hunt, knuckle down for my last three weeks at JC School, and see what new adventures the world has in store for me.

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