Saying goodbye, again and again


Dear Reader, we will leave Korea in about one week.  It’s hard to believe that it has been almost two years since we arrived.  It seems like only yesterday that we stepped off the plane in Incheon and arrived here by van.  Now it’s almost over, and I’m growing nostalgic.  I will truly miss Korea.  I enjoyed Korea, as did my family.  We have all had great, good, bad and ugly memories of this place.  Most of all, we enjoyed–and were frustrated by–the people.  We met so many wonderful people here in Korea.  Some are Koreans, others are expatriates.  At the same time, some of the most frustrating incidents I’ve experienced have been dealing with people here.  Koreans can be very stubborn or persevering, depending on whether you define their behavior in a negative or positive light.  They can be both.
 
We have had goodbye get togethers virtually every day since Saturday, and we’ll continue to have daily events until a day or so before we depart.  So far my family and/or I have attended a farewell concert in our honor, a team farewell, an MBA alumni gathering, two dinners with my wife’s former coworkers, and a meeting of the "Society of Chili Dogs Lovers," a tri-weekly get together for free chili dogs and beers at a local restaurant.  Tomorrow we will attend a hail and farewell for new and departing employees.  On Friday afternoon my office will throw me a small party, and in the evening, I will join one final "Soju Club" get together.  On Saturday we will have a children’s party and an evening of dinner and noraebang (karaoke) with friends.  We planned the farewell concert with the Nunchuks held last Saturday, but all other events have been organized by friends and colleagues.  It’s become a bit comical, because some people have been invited to many of our "goodbye" events.  If they can’t make it to one, they can always attend the next one.  Today two colleagues, partly tongue in cheek, commented that I’m the most feted colleague they’ve met.  I responded that it’s probably because I’m the only one leaving Seoul in the next two months, and people are itching to party one month after Christmas.  Maybe, maybe not.
 
Why do I/we have so many going-away events?  It could be as my father once told me following an event in which I was the featured guest–"I thought just was another of Mike’s productions, but it actually turned out pretty good."  Harsh words, but they hold a glimmer of truth.  He later apologized for being so brash, but I realize now that he had a point.  I can be a showman at times and have to admit that I like being in the middle of the action, even though I don’t often stand out in a crowd.  I’m more of a cheerleader on the sidelines. 
 
Many of these goodbye events are based on groups that I started or energized during my time in Seoul.  Still, the outpouring of goodbye gestures is genuine.  For example, the Nunchuks are rushing to make us a concert DVD before we leave on Wednesday.  You can’t buy that kind of thoughtfulness.  A colleague told me today that he would do his best to keep "Soju Club" going after I leave.  I hope they do continue.  They definitely aren’t about me or my family.  They’re about getting groups of like-minded people together for fun and fellowship.  Sometimes it just takes an "A" type cheerleader such as myself to spark interest and make it happen.
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