The Ebb & Flow of Friends Abroad

(Originally Posted August 2014) One of the most profound aspects of working abroad in an environment that has a constantly fluctuating set of workers is how common it is to gain and lose friends within a short amount of time. To watch your community come together in harmonic assimilation, preserve itself with strong bonds and interests, and then shatter and fragment as important friends & acquaintances move away forever, is something that's impossibly hard to get used to and does not exist in most other non-abroad people's lives. The August intake/outtake cycle is happening right now in my small foreign Gimcheon community of ~30-40 people, and we just lost 4 people (two couples) who moved back home to the States, or to Vietnam, and it seems like just yesterday they had arrived in our town and quickly became part of the city friend circle. One year goes by so much faster than anyone can ever dream in Korea, and I've now lost daily friends to multiple of these intake/outtake "cycles". I know that I have to cherish my time as much as possible with the people who are still here that mean something to me. And it's always hard to tell when the next batch of peers close to me will decide to head out. So what happens to me when all of my best friends move away? I guess the easy answer is that I make new friends, as we all do (and must) throughout life. But in reality, the holes left in my psyche... in my existence, from some of the better friends who have left; they are holes that can't be patched up by anything except time, just like any other relationship. I suffer when I lose friends that I may not ever see again, despite our social savior that is Facebook and the internet. I'm sure I'll see most of them again, but the several dozens of them once my time here is complete? Not a chance. So the only thing to really do is to roll with it. That's one thing I've always been good at. Rolling with the good and rolling with the bad, and in my opinion, the waves of social change are more of a bad thing than a good one. They are good in the sense that the changes force you to get out there and stay active in your community if you want to have acquaintances. I've joined sports teams and language groups which have both helped tremendously. And I feel very lucky to still have my absolute top best friends here that have been with me since orientation. But when they leave, that's going to be a crippler. It's going to destroy me. I don't know if I can even handle that. But we have to and we will, because that's the life of adventure and travel that we've chosen. And it has always been that way, and it will never change in the future. As I sit here thinking about the major loss Gimcheon has recently taken simply by 4 single individuals leaving, I have hope that the changes that approach and the potential people that join our region will be positive and be able to fill needed gaps that all communities must have to thrive.

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