The Mokpo Misfits Break Up (2017-2019)

All great things come to an end.  Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.  Every new beginning starts with some other beginning’s end.

No.  I cannot hide behind the facade of cliches and lies.  I’m sad as fuck.

As our contracts creep to a close, the friend-group that grounded me when I explored and embraced a brand new culture is soon to dissolve into dust.

Despite the yearly tumult of teacher turnover, much of our group remained intact after one year.  Though some of us did part ways.

I will always look back on hotel room floor-mat slumber parties and day trip getaways with fondness. Our weekend escapades served as a lustrous lighthouse as I navigated challenging classes and sticky, sleepless summer nights. With this gang in my corner, I never floated around without hope.

I know these forthcoming farewell messages will not do our friendships justice, but it’s the thought that counts. Right?

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Scrabbles moved back Stateside 18 months ago, pursuing counseling jobs in Utah.  Recently, she sent us an open invitation to visit her there with the added promise of finding us “all the jobs.”  I’ve yet to rule this out as a future possibility.

Thank you for pulling me back when my soju habits pushed me to a dangerous precipice.  May you continue to spread your spiritual truth and bask in the psychological glow of the Meyers-Briggs’ test. I’m still a consistent INFJ by the way ;).  Also, try your best not to get lost.  

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The Bard returned to Texas a year ago.  While we’ve fallen out of touch, I did appreciate an about-the-author portrait he did for audible.com. If you’re reading this, I hope you are well.  I hope you continue pursuing your literary and artistic dreams with a full heart and the determined abandon of a wild stallion.  I also hope your hair continues growing back thick and strong.

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The King is killing it in graduate school, studying his ass off to become a badass psychological counselor. (These are my words, which he then boomeranged back to me in sarcastic agreement).  Considering his unshakable equanimity, searing sense of humor, and engaged listening abilities, I have no doubt he’s going to impact a U.S. ton of lives.

Thank you for hosting us at the Palace and serving as the foundational father figure of our group.  May you keep on doing what you’re doing.  Because whatever it is, it’s working.

The rest of us waited an additional year before singing our Mokpo swan songs.

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Sugar will return to California and prepare to enter a teacher credentialing program.

I’ll never forget how she roasted me on the final day of orientation for claiming I was from Sacramento.  (I live 15 minutes from city lines.  To expats in Korea, it might as well be a footstep.)  While she’s always had her stuff together, I’m impressed by how she’s even further matured.  Back in 2017, I remember the vindictive promise she made to her future replacement at Oryong Elementary School.

“When I came to this school, I didn’t have shit.  I made all these materials myself.  When I leave, I’m taking all of it with me.  My replacement?  She’s on her own.”

Fast-forward two years.  The scent of homemade waffles wafts through Sugar’s apartment as Potato, Flatcap, and I munch on an indulgent breakfast.

“Yeah, of course, I’ll leave her my lessons.  My replacement is gonna have it so good.”

The following week, she went on the most positive Facebook rant I’ve ever read in hopes of luring the best quality teacher to her school, emphasizing the HUGE BUDGET and respectful students.

I only wish I could be a fly on the wall of her classroom.  Her passion for working with children is palpable.  She’ll soon make an amazing California elementary teacher, mixing her life experiences, teaching knowledge, and penchant for emotional intelligence to make an impactful classroom.

Thank you for the buckets of laughter and enjoyment brought on by your strong sweetness and stronger attitude.

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Potato will also leave Korea after somehow weathering two years of Hampyeong hardships by stress-eating and cheek-pinching.  Her departure will force the Mokpo chapter of Snackaholics Anonymous to close its doors.

Who will I commiserate with about filling a trash bag with baked goods for dinner?  How will I cope with my snack addiction now?  Thank you for being my sponsor these past two years.  You will be missed.

Potato will return to Canada to enter Teacher’s College (which sounds twice as prestigious as an American “Teacher Credentialing Program.”  I can only assume students will call her “Professor Potato” in two years’ time.  I hope she makes peace with moving back home.  (Seriously, who enjoys moving back home with their parents?)  And I hope she continues her journey as a snacking connoisseur and chaos-management extraordinaire.

May you enjoy all of the popcorn Canada has to offer.

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Unlike the previous two teachers-to-be, The Immortal plans to remain in Korea for at least the coming year.  He will move north in hopes of living closer to his girlfriend, a Seoul police officer.

While he maintains hope of finding a middle or high school teaching position in the near future, he will likely start with a short-term academy job to extend his visa and search for more desirable positions from there.

I will always remember his near-encyclopedic knowledge of topics I’ve never even considered.  I envy his ability to geek out on topics ranging between cutting-edge heat-resistant materials to ancient African history.  Moreover, I’ll miss his insight into difficult grammatical questions and his timeless hairstyle.

I hope he continues to nourish his curiosity and finds a well-fitting job in the coming months.

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Sadly, I don’t see much of Nightmare anymore. He’s become a hard man to reach. While he hasn’t hung with us Misfits since last Christmas, he certainly maintains a robust social life.

I did run into him outside a bar in Gwangju a month ago. We had but a brief moment to exchange drunken pleasantries before the noise and crowds drove us our separate ways.

But from what I remember, he’s living his best life – partying hard in Seoul, Gwangju, or whatever city tickles his fancy each weekend.  I would have voted him “most likely to go hard” in our group anyway.  I’ll never forget when Nightmare co-opted American slang in his posh Londoner accent as he danced down a Namak sidewalk.

“I’m turnt, bitches!”

May Nightmare live a pleasant life that one can only dream about.

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And finally, there is Flatcap.

We’ve spent much more time together since he moved from the Shinan Islands to a Mokpo-based middle school.  Between weekly Friday night sauna sojourns and lazy Sundays in cafés, Flatcap became a staple of my social life. We even managed a brief writer’s workshop, exchanging our irreverent fiction on a bi-weekly basis.

He’s given me a lifetime’s worth of reading recommendations as well, introducing me to the likes of Charles Bukowski, John Fante, and Sally Rooney among others. He exerted a powerful influence on my personal renaissance toward embracing fiction.

Next month, he will return to England for three months of R & R. Come December, however, he will board another east-bound plane and start a new job at an adult-catering academy in Kobe, Japan.

I hope I have the fortune of visiting him in the coming year just as I hope he has the fortune of visiting Tokyo for the upcoming Summer Olympic Games. May your dry wit and indomitable will carry you to whichever corner of the Earth you wish to visit next.

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I knew we would all say goodbye.  It’s near-inevitable in expat communities.  We all knew our time in Korea was finite and therefore knew our time together was finite.  And yet no amount of preparation can temper the sting of letting go.  Sure, The Immortal and Nightmare remain in Korea.  But life will not be the same.  Change marches toward us at a daunting pace.

As for me, I will move from Mokpo as well.  Next year, I will take up residence in the coastal city of Yeosu.  New home, new job, new life.  But more about that later.  Cue the music.

Closing time…

Don’t you…forget about me…don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t

It’s so hard….to say goodbye…to yesterday…

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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