Blatant lies, compromise, change, and a bunch of other stuff


It’s a blatant lie – I never said I was going back to South Africa at the end of February! I did solemnly announce it as my plan last July, but when I resigned at the one school at the end of August, the explicit implication was that I would possibly not be able to execute the plan. That was the agreement with myself, and I accepted it as such.

It is also true that I started making noises last December about the end of February – and I did begin brandishing half-woven banners with pencil-written propaganda on late at night, when no one was looking.

I also plead guilty to mentioning to a friend late last year that I had booked a plane ticket for Thursday, 4 March this year and that I felt like “shaking things up” a bit. In January, though, I admitted to the same friend that my plan was not going to work. It would be understandable if she questioned my credibility because I suddenly started referring to the March plan as a possibility again this week.

Furthermore, it can be stated that it is somewhat unrealistic to go back to South Africa at the end of February. After five years in Taiwan I would be leaving with about R3,000 – where other people make enough money in two years to buy property in South Africa. And my financial obligations – student loans and, believe it or not, a life insurance policy – is approximately R1,700 per month.

I’m not afraid of being poor again. I am also not interested in creating an artificial ego with expensive clothes and an extravagant hairstyle. But there’s a time for propaganda and speeches, and then there’s a time to recognise real limitations.

If financial constraints is one important issue to confront, my inability to stay in Taiwan longer than one more week is another. There is surely something like mass that reaches a critical point, that then serves as a catalyst for something else. I am ready on all fronts to leave Taiwan – in all areas, except money.

I can compromise. I can go do my medical on Monday and renew my resident visa. I can take on more classes for three or four months, perhaps get lucky with other projects, and arrive in Middelburg with more than the current three thousand …

The awful reality that may not jump out between the lines and grab you as reader by the throat is that I haven’t been this close to giving up in a long time. Why am I doing all this? Because I want to eventually publish my own literature? So what? I swim upstream – but to where? An “extraordinary life”? Alone?

Last night I got angry with the six-year-old twins I teach every Thursday evening and Saturday morning. I like these two kids – they’re clever and endearing like six-year-olds can be. And their father fixes scooters for a living, which means I’m not employed by a wealthy businessman who raises his children to emulate his arrogance when they take their places beside him as adults one day; I provide a service to a blue-collar worker who wants to give his two smart kids a good education. It’s a class I approach with commitment, which I enjoy most of the time, and which I even find rewarding when I see how their English improves. But when they weren’t paying attention last night, my internal alarm began its lament that I was wasting my time at that moment, and therefore wasting my life.

And I’m talking about taking on more classes? Am I barking mad?!

(Bob the Fool built a boat from the remains of his half-burnt furniture and guitars, flew to the moon and founded an organisation by the name of Al-Qassandra. He threw stones at robots that forced him to urinate into a test tube, but the stones kept floating in the air …)

I think it would be good to deconstruct my current situation, throw half of it in the garbage, cast the other half out the window, and put what’s left on my head and hum folk songs while I look for work in Mainland China.

I miss my sisters. I miss my parents. I believe everybody needs me, and everyone’s lives would be colourless if I don’t make wild promises that not even a rich attorney could fulfil.

I have a thankless task I must perform. First I have to convince myself that there is hope in the world, and then I reckon I have to convince other people that they don’t need to cry themselves to sleep at night because they have to get up at six-thirty every morning to maintain a life they don’t want. And that while most people have already sorted things out for themselves, have already devised answers they are satisfied with, and never needed to ask so many questions in the first place.

What does it mean when someone greets another person on the street? I know! But who the hell cares?!

You don’t need to have children to feel that your life is worth something, because …

“We want to have children.”

Oh, well, but what do you do with your free time?

“We watch TV.”

Exactly! And that’s the point I want to make …

“We like watching TV. It makes us happy.”


I think I’m going to start stealing money from the poor and giving it to the rich – in the hope that they would like me. Maybe they’ll invite me to their luxurious beach houses to have a barbecue with other rich people. (“It’ll just be a few of our good friends,” they will say.) Then, after the potato salad and grilled sandwiches and the best sausage in town, they’ll ask me to provide the evening’s entertainment. I will tell stories of years in foreign countries, but I would tell it in such a way that it would be funny. I won’t add anything about emotional wretchedness, because it won’t make anyone laugh.

I will also, to their great amusement, tell them of bailiffs and the policemen who keep them company while they calculate the value of former middle-class people’s furniture and frying pans and other household items that were bought on credit but were never paid because someone said something to the boss and then he got fired. They will laugh about it at first, but then the host will put a stop to it. “Go fetch us more beer!” he’ll say, before slowly lighting a cigar.

I’ll scurry away, not noticing the tomato that was thrown at my head by one of the boys.

What is the purpose of my life? To stay alive. But I am slowly committing suicide by smoking too much, and by failing to give myself the basic pleasures of intimate communion with significant others.

Am I doomed to failure in all the endeavours I have started the last five years? Is this the only possible outcome, because I don’t have the guts to do what I have to do? Am I doomed to failure because I don’t want to give up what little comfort and security I have managed to scrape together over the past few years? Is it because I don’t have faith? Is it because I don’t have the slightest fucking clue what is really important? Is it because I don’t want to play by the rules … but not because I’m a rebel, just because I can’t stand other people telling me what to do? Is there a place in this world for a so-called writer who refuses to write short stories or articles, is too proud to sleep in the street, and too stubborn to do more commercial work to make sure his next repatriation plan works out?

Do I take the polarisation between rich and poor too far? Do I take my own life too seriously? Is it starting to count against me that I’ve been using old fears and unresolved anger and who knows what else for inspiration?

Maybe I died an untimely death without any value in a previous life, and I’m still angry about it. “I” am thus trying to hijack “my” life in an attempt to regain something that “I” lost in a past life. What was it? Bullet between the eyes in a trench during the World War One? Murder in an alley in a previous century? Stone to the head when I walked past a group of protesters?

Am I paying for the sins of a previous life? Is it about redemption and reconciliation? Or is it just about weaknesses in my personality that make me unable to do the right things for the right results?

Are the “right” results a “meaningful life” or an “extraordinary life”? Am I a crazed, wounded animal that wants to tear the world to pieces, but because I’m afraid the world would tear me apart, I half-heartedly produce literature in an attempt to escape and in the process retain at least an iota of my dignity? Will one plus one end up being two?

The price for repatriation – whatever that means – have never been lower. But the price for my happiness has never been higher.

The cards are on the table, and the dice loaded. The Truth consists of five trillion, three-hundred-and-eighty-two billion, seven-hundred-and-ninety-one million, nine-hundred-and-twenty-three thousand, six-hundred-and-forty-five pieces. I contributed my two or three pieces. May I go now?