The 21st day in Johannesburg

Sunday, 19 July 1998

Do I want to stay in South Africa?

South Africa is where I can fulfil most of my needs and ambitions. The only need that I cannot fulfil here is the need to live “further” – to be part of a larger world. Even if you just live an ordinary life in another country, it always has a dimension of “more” than just the place where you grew up. You broaden your frame of reference, your life experience, your first-hand knowledge of the world.

What needs can I fulfil here in South Africa? The need to be part of a community, to belong somewhere, to play a role, to engage with people, to build a refuge on home turf brick-by-brick, book-by-book, one chair at a time, one rug at a time, one souvenir at a time.

Several months have already passed since it dawned on me that I was not going to just wake up in suburbia one day, that I’m not going to be helplessly sucked into the middle class. Truth is that even if you work deliberately for many years at becoming a Suburban Everyman, there are no guarantees, seeing that you need an almost spotless credit record before you can even be invited to a tea party in the average suburb. Even if you qualify it is still an open question – do you really want this life?

What I want to do is to generate income from my home. The most ambitious, most ideal way to do this is to be a full-time writer. To supplement my income, I can do a little part-time teaching – EFL, literacy courses, and so on.

[The office job] I do at the moment is instrumental to achieving this ideal. If I go overseas again in a few months, it would also be beneficial. The difference is that I am now in a place where I can fulfil certain important needs – for which I came back to South Africa in the first place.