I feel home, hear the seconds tick by, but think long-term

Thursday, 16 January 1997

It’s very strange. I think the effect of 25 hot Januaries in South Africa is beginning to take its toll. I’m here in the northern hemisphere where the temperature ranges between minus five and five degrees Celsius, but my spirit isn’t here. It’s eating garlic pizza and drinking Black Label somewhere in Stellenbosch. It’s sitting in, of all places, Pongola’s Wimpy Bar with [my younger sister]. I am everywhere in the warm Cape, despite the fact that I am freezing in Korea at the moment.

The funny thing is, I really feel those places – I experience them!

I think the positive association with summer has to do with the fact that I will be leaving Korea and will return to South Africa when the weather starts heating up here.

Conclusion? The warmer it gets in Chonju, the closer I am to going home.

Saturday, 15 February 1997

(Six o’clock in the morning, Seoul train station)

This is how it is: Wednesday evening it transpired after a discussion with [my boss’s son] that there was a misunderstanding about the airplane ticket. He had asked his mother if she would be willing to buy me a ticket to go home after a year … for a holiday. At that time she was still considering it.

It was only after the conversation that I started thinking. I have never actually thought of the possibility of going home on vacation after a year and then returning to Chonju. I had talked with [the South African guy whom I had met in Seoul on the day I arrived] earlier the evening, and he mentioned that he was planning to take home about R50,000.

That put me in the mood to play around with the idea. What would I do if I were to stay another year after all?

I thought of subscriptions to newspapers and magazines, of joining an Internet café, even of getting a telephone. Then, against my better judgment, I reached for my calculator. A quick calculation brought me to the same amount mentioned before: about R50,000 in savings. That’s an obscene amount! A real possibility to start paying off my debt!

Then I thought, there’s no way I can hold out for another year in this place. And what about my plans to go to Cape Town, and to spend a few weeks at home, and going to Europe?

That brought me to another tender matter. A day or three ago I thought whatever I was going to do after Korea should be considered in the context of the bigger picture: What am I planning to do with my life over the next few years?

Thursday, 6 March 1997

To think of the long-term – of staying here another ten months – is an abstract thought. September … August, are just flashing images. I don’t find it hard to motivate myself for it, especially when I think of what would come next.

The short-term – like the next two classes – is a challenge for me as far as motivation is concerned. It’s concrete. It’s look up, look here, look there, look down, say something, give someone a dirty look, get up, walk around, and feel how the seconds … tick … by. Then I think, okay, only two more classes … and then … basically, nothing.

I need something to motivate myself – concrete motivation for the here-and-now.