A New Year

I’m sitting at my desk. I’m still on a plane. The same smells, sing-song language and echoes of teenage girls through long enamel corridors. I’m still in bed somewhere, the time is not.

The classes are shorter today, my first day back at the school. The staff are being friendly and everyone seems refreshed. I have tea. These small mercies are what fuel my faith that everything is going to be ok.

I also fuel the belief that I can’t go back to South Africa because there’s just nothing there for me anymore except a white collar job somewhere and a pocketful of daily guilt. Trained, experienced musicians have trouble getting by in Cape Town. What hope do I have? I need to travel more to kick out the crutch of destiny.

South Africa is now again a world away. I have a handful of friends here, nobody but Nic older than a year. Thanks for Nic. He’ll be somewhere in Seoul, jamming it on the weekends with me. Thanks for Cindy.

But Yvandi, Yvandi, Yvandi. Without her it would all be so perfect.

It’s a somewhat foreboding feeling, embracing the annual cycle of a school year in Korea. There will be a Spring, a Winter, exams. There will be frustrating classes and easy ones. I’ll ride home. My fingers will continue to defrost as I pick away at pentatonic scales on the guitar in the evening. As I slide into second position on the violin, slapping my thigh, exercising rhythmic drills daily.

It’s also exciting, the promise of a new classroom technique. Rhythm, karaoke, a mastering of the terrain. Taming the anxiety of being the teacher. Getting good at it, controlling the attention of the students with exercises I would have liked to do in high school. Adapted to an Asian context, rote learning, mass hypnosis. The music of English.

I take yet another step in faith this year. That my residency will materialize, that I will meet more people linked to my fate as a creative professional. That my growing confidence will spill over, uncontained, into reality, that my dreams will continue to take shape. For these things I pray daily.

It’s encouraging to document these things.

They upgraded me to business on the flight over here from Dubai. Carl bullied his way into the face of Vukani, the hapless check-in attendant, after he informed us that Emirates had overbooked the flight and I had to wait an hour to know if I’d be flying at all. Bullshit, said Carl, and demanded to see the supervisor. Heavy arguments, personal comments, and raised defenses later, I had a boarding pass with a big “B” on it. Vukani took the brunt of that encounter. It wasn’t his fault, but then again, it wasn’t mine either. Still in a moral quandry about how that one went down. Right is relative.

I had just completed a dusty, air-conditioned blitz of Dubai with my brother and sister and Carl and Katy. The city is a mirage in the desert, a hall-of-mirrors illusion which seems to have been convincing enough for most of its residents to remain. They shield the glare to look in the passing reflections of buildings, they see themselves as they want to be seen. Suited, successful, smart. Who’s the fairest of them all. A plastic city with no history.

The brother and the sister are keeping well by the seems of it. They’ve invested, they’re growing up, they’re way more money-smart than I. They’re also good to me and indulge my ongoing fantasies with a modicum of respect and encouragement.

The 10 days in South Africa were as close to a package tour that I’ve ever been. Living in idyllic, spacious accommodation with access to my own transport, home-cooked meals and intimately familiar with the surroundings. Basically, everything catered for. We had breakfast in the quiet sunshine of a Constantia restaurant. We slept under heavy duvets, visited relatives, people who hadn’t left in years, stayed out late and spent lazy days wondering what to do next. Heavenly place for a vacation, after all.

Now I go teach 5 classes. Then I go home and decide what to do next. Perhaps visit Cindy, get out of town. I have until Sunday to plan my assault on the Monday morning classroom. Phase two of this strange adventure begins.


One thought on “A New Year

  1. positive and insightful friend – thank you!

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