Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On old acquaintances

The previous weekend I got to hang out with some old friends. One of them - let's call him Ken* - is Japanese and I met him when we were both attending university in a remote city of Japan, almost seven years ago.

Since we last saw each other our lives have taken very different turns. I returned to Norway to finish first my BA and then MA degree, I've had two other short-term stays abroad (one of them in Japan, but somehow we never managed to meet then, even though he didn't live very far from Tokyo), and I eventually started working at my alma mater here in Oslo, where I currently teach history.

Ken, on the other hand, graduated to become a somewhat classic Japanese business man, working for a big firm in Yokohama. He got married and he's got a son. Then, his company purchased part of a Norwegian shipping company, and as a result of this, they made Ken come work here. "Here" not meaning Oslo at all, but a small town on the western coast of Norway.

Even if it's on the other side of the country from Oslo, Ken is now living a whole lot closer to me than Japan, so we decided that it would be fun to meet up and hang out like the old days.

From our days at the uni in Japan I remember him as a boyish, charming, fun guy. We had a few classes together, and we'd frequently have lunch in the school cafeteria or go out drinking with a bigger group of friends. Meeting him again all these years later he had "grown up" more, but he was still fun and charming, and as easy to talk to as I remembered. For him, coming to Oslo after having lived the small town life for a few weeks was something of a luxury, and I think it's safe to say that it was a very successful weekend for all those involved.

When he was here we obviously wanted to show him not only Oslo by day (the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, the Opera, the Royal Palace and the Vigeland Park), but also Oslo by night. So we went out for dinner and later drinks on Saturday night.

Oslo by  night isn't classy. It can be - there are places where the drinks are too expensive to get ridiculously drunk no matter how rich you are - but for the average Joe we go to places where the drinks are "only" expensive enough to make you have to mortgage your house after a drunken brawl. I'm only kidding a bit. (Foreigners tend to complain about the price level in general, but for alcohol in particular.)

Anyway, we managed to find several places that were okay, and we managed to make ourselves eligible for mortgages (had any of us been house owners). Eventually, after having been to a few other places first, we ended up in a bar I've never visited before. The place was packed, and the noise was almost unbearable. Since it was getting late and we had plans for Sunday morning as well (last chance for sightseeing!), we decided to only stay for one drink and then leave.

As I went to get mine, I passed a group of girls where one of them suddenly went into squeal mode. "OMG, it's you!" she exclaimed.

I knew her face. I knew where I knew her from. We went to high school together. I even knew the two girls she were with, also from high school. We exchanged some pleasantries, and then I quickly made an excuse and went on my way, even though she seemed eager to stay and chat about everything that had happened in our lives since we last met. I was more eager to get back to Ken and my other friends.

I didn't remember this girl's name, and it took me well into the next day (and perhaps a little Facebook research) before it came back to me. We were never close in high school; in fact, I'm not even sure we ever had a proper conversation back then. She was in a different crowd than me, and from the little I knew of her,  I didn't much care for her. After not having seen her for almost ten years, neither of those things had changed.

Still, it hit me. This girl is my own age. We are from the same hometown and now we live in the same city. Looking at her Facebook profile (or the limited version of it, as we are not friends there either), we have approximately 60 or so friends in common. Some of which I count as good friends of mine.

Yet, despite having so much things in common, I have no desire to get to know her, and I don't care what she's made of herself. It makes no difference to me whether we see each other again in the next ten years or not.

Whereas Ken, whom I clearly do not have so much in common with - in fact, I have more or less nothing in common with him apart from the fact that we once attended the same university - I enjoyed seeing again. I hope to see him more times soon. I would like to meet his wife and son (who will move here from Japan soon). I think it's interesting to check out what he's been up to via Facebook, and I enjoy talking to him.

Personal chemistry is important, of course. I have that with the people I count among my close friends, several of them from high school. And I don't necessarily think I would have as fun with all my friends from Japan or elsewhere that I technically don't have very much in common with today, should I get to see them again.

But still, it intrigues me that it is so much easier to stay in touch with some people than others, and that with certain friends you don't have to talk with them very often - maybe once every seventh year - and things are still as they used to be. Fortunately.

Sometimes friendship is like a ski jump without snow. Mostly, it's not.
(I'm in this picture. Or my foot is. The first person to find it gets a prize!**)

*Actually, his name is Kensuke, but I noticed he introduced himself as Ken here in Norway, presumably because Norwegians would have trouble pronouncing his name. It's supposed to be "Ken-ske" rather than "Ken-su-ke" as we would say.

** The prize is to jump from the top of the Holmenkollen Ski Jump without skis or snow.
Still want to be that first person?

1 comment:

Jan Morrison said...

Yep! No accounting for it - it must be some chemical thing. A pheromone only for friendship not lust! I know exactly what you mean. thanks for this great post!

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