After many years of working, I returned to University in 2007 and moved to London. In my first year I stayed in student accommodation on campus where I enjoyed all the new found freedoms of living away from home. Cooking wasn’t my strong point but I was lucky to be living with a generous group of Chinese students who made sure I was very well fed.
I struck up a close friendship with one of them in particular, Kang. We hung out together when we didn’t have classes – playing football games on my PlayStation – and doing our shopping together at the local English and Chinese supermarkets. He came to my parents house in Edinburgh for Christmas one year and here in London another year.
After I moved out of student accommodation, Kang moved away from London to study his Masters degree in Leicester but we still kept in touch. We spoke on the phone, chatted on Facebook, exchanged emails and I visited him once or twice.
He went back to China in 2010 and it became harder to stay in touch since most popular social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – is banned in China. Luckily he worked for a company that allowed international calling and he would call me every few months to say hello. I had the number for his work but I was admittedly too intimidated to ever call it. We exchanged the odd email but we haven’t been in contact for a couple of years.
Well today he called me up out of the blue to say he is here in London right now! His girlfriend is attending her Masters graduation ceremony in Oxford this weekend and they wanted to meet up for dinner.
I’ve just had a lovely evening catching up with Kang and meeting his girlfriend, Chang. I’m so thankful that he took the time to call my number after all these years, especially since he seemed to have misplaced my new email address so I haven’t been receiving any of his messages. He hasn’t set foot in the UK since he left university, and we haven’t seen each other since our emotional farewell at the airport, but it was like no time had passed.
It’s amazing to think about all that has happened in our lives in the last six years: he’s been married, divorced, and changed jobs. I’ve married, taken up volunteering, have five nephews now, and – to his surprise – I no longer have the moustache and pony tail I had the last time we met!
We’re determined to find a way to stay in touch and I’ve renewed my promise to visit him in Beijing in the not too distant future. We can exchange emails but we’re hoping we’ll find a chat/video service that isn’t blocked in China.
Have you ever been reunited with a long lost friend or family member?