Monday, 17 July 2017

The Long and Short of Firu and Visya

Taken by our friend Kynann in Heidelberg (Feb, 2011)

It feels so surreal that it's been seven years since the time I practically asked Firu to embark on a relationship together with me. We've spent seven years loving and fighting each other with equal intensity, six of which we spent being away from each other, geographically separate from one another. Imagine that, only one year of our relationship did we basically spend almost every waking hour together. God, he must've been so sick of me back then—even more than now. But we knew from the start that one day we would have to go our separate ways, to pursue our own dreams and aspirations. So we practiced sometimes, not contacting each other for whole days—although it lasted only for 2-3 days—and thought it wasn't that big a deal. Boy, were we wrong.

Late August 2011 was the first time we ever lived in different towns and state, although still the same country. While Firu stayed in Karlsruhe, I moved away to Halle (Saale)—both in Germany. It was also the first time I had to live completely by myself, hence the most difficult first few months of my life. At first, we vowed to see each other every month and video call all the time, but soon found out how difficult it was to fulfil. We did Skype almost everyday, though, around 7 hours a day—while doing other stuff, keeping each other in the background. But it was clear we couldn't meet up every month—we didn't see each other at all that November. But we did our best to do so, somehow, like meeting halfway (in Nuremberg) so we wouldn't spend too much time on the road. We also made up for it during Christmas in December and semester break in February, where I spent two weeks at Firu's place—our old place. It was a lot of fun! However, our video calls diminished in frequency—quite dramatically—when Firu went back to Indonesia for two months in April, followed by his transition from his old apartment to his new one, which allowed him limited internet access. For the first time, we both experienced what LDR would actually feel like.

Taken by our friend Uki in Karlsruhe (March, 2011)

Suddenly, it was already August again, which means it was time to transition into Uni life. It would seem a given, to think about one place where we could both pursue our majors and choose it, but that's not what happened. While I chose Kassel early on, Firu decided on Duisburg—shortening the distance between us from 506 km (5-8 hours by train) to less than 300 km (around 3 hours by train), but still putting us in different states. At the time, I was naïve enough to think that the short distance would mean we could see each other more often—but that's not true. This was the time I learnt a crucial LDR lesson: Distance is only one of the factors. Time and money also play an integral role—our schedules and budget made it impossible for us to see each other every week or so. We ended up waiting for holidays to come, specifically those long weekends, or summer breaks. Money is easier to manage—we could always look up cheaper modes of transport—but time is non-negotiable, especially with exams and presentations flying around. By this time, I don't think we video called all that frequently either—maybe around once a week and definitely only for less than 3 hours—because uni was crazy and we had to adapt to the new lifestyle.

It doesn't matter how often we saw each other anyhow, we realised that our real life was always separate from our time together—like our relationship existed in this limbo. When we got to see each other, I remember being excited to pack and leave, but coming back with this hollow feeling in my chest. Time always seemed to stop when we were together, but moved awfully quickly at the same time. It also moved on when we were apart, introducing us to new experiences and friends, ones we desperately longed to share with each other—okay, maybe it's just me. All those hellos and goodbyes wore me out. "Surely we can't keep living like this," I thought once, looking at the distant future when we wouldn't have to go back and forth to have a relationship.

Taken by our good mate Edwin on the way to Mannheim (May, 2011)

Then in 2014 life took an entirely unexpected turn: I decided to move back home.

And thus our actual long distance relationship began—around 11,000 km, to be precise. The rules of the game completely changed. We familiarised ourselves with timezones and different holidays and clashing schedules. Our video calls happen at least once a week, although there are months when we could barely spare time for that at all. The worst part is we haven't seen each other since Firu went back to Germany in October 2014—almost three years ago! To be honest, we still don't know how much longer it will be until we get to see each other again. It got to a point where I wasn't sure if Firu was real, if my life in Germany wasn't simply a figment of my imagination, if I wasn't in a relationship with a ghost. In all the LDR tips I've seen online, everyone says it's best to know when your next meeting will be—well, you tell me.

Taken by our friend Gorby (I think?) in Karlsruhe (October, 2011)

Although we've gotten used to not being in the same place as each other for most of our relationship, there is a huge difference between living hundreds and thousands of kilometres apart. There is a difference between being in the same country, the same timezone, the same lifestyle and being in completely different parts of those things. I used to have an itch at the train station when I lived in Kassel and Halle (Saale); whenever I saw a train that led to where Firu was, I could almost feel myself jumping on—last minute ticket being entirely possible. But now, oceans and continents apart, bureaucratic matters form a giant wall between me and a plane to where he is—and they don't come cheap too. I used to mark the dates when we got to meet again on my mental calendar, counting down the days to cheer myself up. But now, without a date to mark, my calendar becomes irrelevant. Is it even Monday or Saturday now? I can't tell, they both suck. Conversations go dry sometimes, because the only question none of us wants to ask—and none can answer—is the one echoing through our heads everyday: "When will this distance end?"

Every year on our anniversary, I try to be thankful for Firu and be cheerful about the anniversary. But, really, I'm not sure how long I can keep my sanity with this distance. People ask me all the time, how I stay in a long distance relationship. Honestly, I have no idea. All I know is I still love Firu and I cannot wait for this distance to disappear altogether.

P.S: These photos were candid shots taken by our friends. I love seeing our relationship through their eyes. Thank you, everyone, for the photos!

Taken by our good mate Edwin at Le Château Versailles (December, 2012)

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