Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lost and Found

"He who does not travel does not know the value of men" – Moorish Proverb.

I am writing this from my vinyl convered desk chair, the chair I have sat and written in for the last twelve months. The view outside is much the same; smudged smog of yellow dust from China, blocks of apartment buildings crowded like wasp nests, the river and its workmen placing stepping stones in the water, and the neons empty of their night lights. Everything I love is exactly where it should be only now, there is something missing. I have no more future in this place. My year in South Korea will be over by the end of the day and my life here become just a memory. Where once I pinned pictures on the walls I now find myself dismantling and packing their designs. My kitchen is bare but for a single copper pot dinged where East and I have spent many a night firing BBs at its base. The blanket we bought on our first night is folded on the lounge ready for the next person to move in and despite how many times I've washed it I can still see the red wine spilt during my parent's visit last September. There is so much familiar, even in this now largely empty apartment. We make our homes based on so many tiny details but somehow manage to miss the important ones. I've spent so much time obsessing over how I'll miss the way the afternoon light hits the bedspread that I forgot about the people.

East and I are about to embark on a four month trek through Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia, ending with our eventual arrival in Scotland, and it took me some time to see through my haze of excitement. Once gidinness turned to reality I remembered that what we're doing is by no means original but it is an opportunity many are never given. Korea has opened this part of the world to us but with this gift came an almost constant supply of people arriving and leaving the country, making it impossible to truly relax into any friendship without fearing it will disappear. The very landscape of our relations with other people are determined by a factor we have no control over: the teacher's contract. Everyone here is living on a timeline and the only way to fashion a friendship with even a semblance of normality is to abandon all hopes that each one will last beyond the final days. Life in South Korea is a constantly evolving shift of companionship; in the last six weeks alone I have lost two good friends, one to Ireland and one to Australia, and my own impending departure left me completely unprepared me for theirs. I can only hope we will stay in touch and attempt to beat the pitfall that is distance but then I get to thinking about the people I left behind a year ago. I'm in regular contact with friends from Australia and England but do I give them more attention because they have been in my life longer? When do new friends become old and how do we decide which ones to let loose to the winds? I'd like to believe that we work on the basis that all people are treated equally, even in something as changeable as friendships, but this simply isn't true. I've seen my fair share of connections break and recently I've been watching the person I love struggle with his own friend demons. Leaving Australia has given me an even more keen sense of loyalty because, simply put, you need effort to sustain the things that once natural are now stretched across the world.

I wish I'd never realised how close we are to leaving because it's given me an overwhelming sense of vertigo. Everything's changing and I'm reaching out for anything to anchor myself. My friends in this country can no longer serve this purpose and those back home have been long removed. If it weren't for the promise of my masters in a European city thriving with creative talent I'd feel helpless wondering where my next good friend was coming from. What has made my trip, due to officially start in just nine hours, all the more magnificent is that there have always been friends awaiting us amongst the sprawl of South East Asia. Many of the people who left Korea now live in Malaysia, Thailand or Indonesia and all we need to reignite our connection is an email. It's the most simple development toward future friendship that I've ever experienced; we're working from necessity and a mutual love of the world. Perhaps our meeting will add wood to the friendship fire for the next year or two. Maybe I'll be suprised and years down the track people I never thought I'd see again will be first on my letter writing list. It wouldn't be the craziest thing to happen. The strength of friendship can be a superpower all by itself.

Lara will absolutely definitely not be stealing any sea life whilst in South East Asia. Probably.

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