Notes at airports and in the air

SUNDAY, 8 AUGUST 2004

The point and the twist

00:26

(Kuala Lumpur International Airport, 40 minutes or so before take off)

The point is if who you are, is not predestined, you can be who you choose to be (Friedrich Nietzsche: “Will a self, and thou shalt become a self”). The twist, however, is that who you choose to be or who you choose to become is limited to what you’ve been “given” – genes, socio-cultural and ethnic background, etcetera – as well as by particular time and place.

Still, to use what you’ve been “given” as an excuse to not become more than what you assume you’re supposed to be because of what you’ve been “given”, is to underestimate the extraordinary potential that humans have for personal transformation.

Confront the recluse

01:09

(Still waiting in the machine)

I can understand why some people choose to isolate themselves from the community – from other people. It’s not necessarily that they do not like people; it’s more a case of them having reached a point where they no longer want to be confronted on a daily basis with things that most people miraculously manage to ignore, or that most people simply accept without too much questioning.

The mood of the single traveller …

01:21

The woman in the pink sweater is sitting in row, I think 23 or 28. After I had talked to her in the minibus on the way to the airport, she waited for the next elevator to the fifth floor. When we were waiting to board, she sat down on the same bench as me, two seats away. I asked her, “Ni yizhi feidao Agenting ma?” (Are you flying non-stop to Argentina?) We chatted a bit, and when we had to go, she got up first, and walked fast enough to be several places ahead of me in the queue. When I walked past her on the plane (to my seat in the back, number 63D) she wasn’t specifically looking at me, but I was in her field of vision. I imagined she was ready with an English phrase if I were to say something in passing like, “Enjoy your flight.”

Have I mentioned that I am tired of travelling alone? Last Saturday evening in Number Nine I thought to myself: that is my next ambition – to not travel alone anymore. The woman in the pink sweater would have worked just fine …

We’re beginning to pick up speed. (Did the people in the front not hear the pilot telling everyone to shut up?) The jazz over the speakers are becoming jazzier, the people are talking louder, the lights of the airport are flashing past faster and faster, and we are … airborne!

It’s miserable being alone.

The homecoming

04:55 (South Africa time)

The land of my Given Self has been spotted. The timing could not have been better for the song in my ears: Juluka’s “Akanaki Nokunaka” (He Doesn’t Care, Even about Caring).

06:45

(Johannesburg International Airport)

“I was the only one / to witness my homecoming / so I asked myself / Brother Josef, how’ve you been …” (Lyrics from the song, Africa, by Juluka)

One Mail & Guardian, two cigarettes, six postcards – am I not a tourist? – and half a bottle of Orange Powerade later, and I’m sitting in front of the Bureau de Change, filling yet another page in a notebook that is usually lying on my antique cabinet in Benevolent Light.

In a quarter of an hour, I will give my old friend J. a wake-up call, and in about an hour or so I will make my dramatic reappearance in Bronkhorstspruit.

Are my opinions of the past few months going to change over the next four weeks? Am I going to gain new insights that will cause current plans to be reconsidered? Time will tell.

Time for a cup of coffee …

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