The correct answer, and what to do with my exercise bike

My job is not to fix cars, or to calculate income and expenses for local businesses. My job is not to heal the sick, to sooth toothache, or to design or construct buildings and other infrastructure.

My job is to write. And it should be evident from the examples I have chosen that I don’t think my work is better or more important or more valuable than any of many examples that could be listed. The point is simply that my job is not to do the work that other people are doing in the above examples. My job is, once again, to write.

(It makes me wonder whether I should be so bothered with a planned future. I do have to go back to South Africa, though, even if only for a few months, because of my parents and my sisters, and to transfer my possessions to a country where I don’t need annual permission to stay.)

I don’t like regret. It’s also often too easy to say in retrospect that certain actions you launched and certain decisions you made were incorrect. However, to admit that I should never have taken steps that amounted to me settling down permanently in Taiwan, would, I believe, be very sensible.

I arrived with two suitcases and a grocery bag or two. I should have been able to leave at any time during the past five years with two suitcases, a bag or two, and maybe a few extra boxes that I could have send back to South Africa by boat. The reality is that I am now confronted with a whole apartment full of furniture, of which I wouldn’t mind keeping a few pieces. I also have musical instruments, fitness equipment, five shelves full of books, and about thirty boxes of junk.

Now, it’s not that I’m sitting here with the logistical headache of how to fit an antique cabinet or an exercise bike in my two suitcases, or any other way of shipping my material possessions to South Africa. The problem is that I started cultivating and living the lifestyle here that I said back in Korea I wanted to live in South Africa. In other words, I got the lifestyle right; it’s just the environment that is wrong. This is the reconfiguration I have to make.

Also important to mention, I have no desire to spend the rest of my life in a 20-square-kilometre piece of South Africa, and to never allow the words “Northeast Asia” to slip out of my mouth again. South Africa is the country of my birth. It is where my family is. It is where the language of my heart is spoken by children and adults in schools, churches and in supermarkets. My place is in South Africa. It is also where my books, my pictures, my exercise bike, my antique cabinet, my wall hangings and my ornaments should be. Northeast Asia is where I can do part-time work on six-month or one-year contracts, where a language is spoken that I’m trying to master, and where you can spend a few months at a time when it is your job to write and not to design cars or to fix teeth.

If “location” was the question, “South Africa” would be the answer. If “work” was the question, “writing” would be the answer. If “Northeast Asia” was the question, “adventure, part-time work, study and writing” would be the answer.

In terms of my actual daily life I currently answer incorrectly on just one of these questions, and that is the first one. Without planning it that way, for the past five years I have been presenting “Taiwan” as an answer by default when “place” was the question. At times I just suspected this answer was incorrect, and at other times I knew it was. The past more than a year was one of the times I went to bed every night and woke up every morning almost without exception with the firm belief that “Taiwan” was the wrong answer – that I was living out the wrong answer every time I was writing at my antique cabinet, or staring at a wall hanging, or pulled a book from a shelf, or threw a quick glance in the direction of my exercise bike with a guilty conscience, and I knew what lie outside my front door was not Stellenbosch or Pretoria, or Middelburg, or Bronkhorstspruit.

This frustration is the one that I must overcome. This is the matter to which I should make an adjustment to be able to live what I believe to be the correct “answer”. Even if my exercise bike, my wall hangings, and my antique cabinet are in a storage room in South Africa, and I’m still in Northeast Asia.


One thought on “The correct answer, and what to do with my exercise bike”

Comments are closed.