Personal Agenda, Book Three: Introduction

A few pages ago I solemnly said GOODBYE. Now I’m sitting here behind my computer, wiping the sweat from my brow in salute to the reader who has made it this far.

The first part of this final INTRODUCTION starts with a piece that I wrote as people were filing into drinking establishments for New Year’s parties (2003/2004). In the second part I refer to a few dreams that have gotten stuck in my memory over the years. The last part is taken up by administration for the third part of this literary project.

I. What I planned for this year/What I plan for this year

It is Wednesday, 31 December 2003, 25 minutes past 11 at night. There are 35 minutes left of this year. Because it has become a habit to write something at this hour, because it is usually a good idea, and because I’m not in the mood to pay a fortune to get drunk with a bunch of strangers, I am sitting where I’ve spent most of my time this year: behind my computer, writing.

As the title [of this part of the “Introduction”] indicates, I decided not to write about trains, women, teaching English, or the fact that you can buy cheap alcohol at the 7-Eleven on New Year’s Eve. This piece will cover plans.

There were plans at the end of last year, and there were plans at the beginning of this year. There were plans in May, and there were plans in July. There were also plans in August, September, October, November, and December. And then, as befits a New Year’s Eve, there are plans tonight.

My plan at the beginning of this year was to lift my exile and return to South Africa at the end of February [2003]. That was what I now call a “liberal plan”. I didn’t have enough money, and I didn’t really know what I would do in South Africa. I did like the “revolutionary” nature of it, though. Because the plan was a bit crazy, it set off a reaction I now call the “conservative response”. I (once again) thought, “Actually this place isn’t so bad,” and that staying in Taiwan until the end of 2003 would probably have a positive effect on my financial well-being and professional development.

By May, I had come up with the idea that I was never going to make enough money here in Taiwan, or with English teaching. “I need to do business!” I cried out. And went off on a coughing fit brought on by five years in a windowless apartment.

By June I was fed up. I propelled myself forward on the ink fumes from my notebook in which I furiously offered up notes and poems as compensations for all that wasn’t good in my life.

By July, I was determined that I was going to lift my exile in February 2004, and to haul a caravan into my family’s backyard in Bronkhorstspruit or Middelburg. Information was collected, pledges made, and dry twigs solemnly broken off from a tree in the garden – and planted in a vase back in Taiwan to remind myself of my promise just in case I forgot.

The tree on a farm outside Middelburg

August brought the brilliant plan to quit my job at the pre-school and make all the money I needed with “Business!” End of September saw me in a new apartment, finally, after nearly five years in Number Fifteen.

All the free time I saw stretched out in front of me every day eventually made one thing clear: I am, in the first and final place, a writer. The project entitled “Personal Agenda” was my main project from February onwards. It remained my main project throughout the year. It was also what I kept myself busy with in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings when I was actually supposed to do “Business!”

I did finally start working on a few ideas that could be classified as commercial projects and continued working on a few others I had placed on ice earlier. After some months I actually completed one project. My Chinese also benefited from more time I had at my disposal. I have generally felt happier over the past few months, as I was in the first half of 2001, when I also spent most of my time in my apartment, hard at work on my own projects.

It is Wednesday, 31 December 2003. It is two minutes to midnight. Two minutes before a new year. Two minutes left of a good year …

* * *

It’s Thursday, 1 January 2004. It is one minute after midnight. It’s the beginning of a new year. Fireworks rattle like machine guns in the distance. Water is dripping from my toilet. The computer’s fan is making a noise, and my fingers are dancing epileptically across the keyboard. Welcome to a new unit of time in our lives.

Wednesday, 7 January 2004

Here are my plans and intentions for the next three years:


That being said, I would love to lift my exile as I have always hoped it would happen – by transporting my possessions and my person back to the place from where I departed on 16 January 1999. How things will work out, is how they will work out. We make plans, and then there’s reality. But we must continue making plans, otherwise we might just end up waiting day and night for a bus that may only arrive in fifty years. We don’t determine everything that happens to us, but until things do happen, we need to keep ourselves busy productively. This way we can also influence what will happen to us, and maybe even when.

II. Three dreams

I was very young, maybe five or six. I dreamed my parents and my sister (my youngest sister wasn’t born yet) and I were driving in our station wagon through some city. It was evening. We had become aware of someone following us. Later we were in an apartment. Everyone but I was asleep. The people that had followed us tried to break into the apartment. I was the only one who could hold them back, but all I had to protect myself and everyone else in the apartment was a box of matches.

As a teenager I used to have a specific type of dream. I would be in danger. I knew someone could help me … if I could just give a good shout. The problem was, I could never produce any sound.

The third dream is still conjured up by my subconscious from time to time with different backstories. I’ll be among a large group of people – say at an outdoor wedding, and then I start walking off on my own. After a while, my steps would become longer. Eventually my steps would become stretched to the point where I would float in the air for a few seconds. I would be so chuffed with this ability that I’d purposely stretch my steps as far as I can. It usually doesn’t take long before my feet no longer touch the ground.

III. Administration

The introduction of the final part of this literary project is shorter and more modest than the introductions to BOOKS ONE and TWO. The content is also organised differently.

February yielded a plan. Chapter One follows the development of this plan over the course of just more than a week. Chapter Two contains a few notes from January and February. February was not only the battlefield of a plan, it also brought a new, temporary order to power. Chapter Three contains the official history of this Commercial Dictatorship. I also arrived at a certain insight during the first week of the new regime. Its development can be viewed in Chapter Four.


Friday, 2 July 2004