Seoul was my home for four and a half years. I arrived in the freezing February of 2002, and I packed up my things during a typically sweltering August, 2006. I was 27 when I arrived. I'm now nearly 32. I wasn't a picture taker then, and by the time I became one, Seoul had long since become familiar. I have no pictures, because that is what we do when we're at home, take it for granted.
During my last days in Seoul, a stopover between Mongolia and India at the end of September, I was busy finishing unfinished business. The most unfinished business of all, I was surprised to realize, was saying goodbye to the places, and more importantly, the people, that have been witness to the last few years of my life.
As soon as I arrived at Kevin and Mary's apartment, welcomed by a full day of discussing the past month, and the coming months, with Mary and my dog and the best coffee Seoul has to offer, I knew I was back home, even if not in my own apartment, and I wanted to stay a little longer. I had initially booked the layover for two and a half days, and I wanted to extend it to five. Because it was Chuseok, a major Korean holiday, I could only get one extra day, and then I would have nearly six days in Singapore until a flight was open to Delhi. It was worth it, so I took it.
I've spent some time since I left thinking about where those four and a half years went. What does one, in the end, have to show for one's time? The amount of time that results in memory is only a small fraction of the time that passes, so what's does all the rest amount to?
Searching myself, I can come up with only two things. The first, I have myself to show for it; I learned a lot during that time, and I'm fuller person now. I underwent the most fundemental transformations I've seen since the end of childhood there, and those took time, years. The second is friendship; friendship, past initial attraction, also requires time, and I've seen it grow in rare and lovely forms.
The two dovetail neatly with one another: I can take a measure of myself by the quality of my friends, and my friends are people who I trust and admire.
I will miss some things about Seoul, like the gaudily painted steel and concrete bridges over the Han River, riding my scooter as if there were no such thing as traffic laws, long walks in Namsan Park, and the view from my balcony, but myself I'll have with me. And my friends; like all true companions, who share something more than the goings on of the day, when we meet again, we'll pick up where we left off, as if no time had passed at all.