Apologies Matter

My school has a history of fucking up.

Information isn’t given to us – or is given to use too late for it to act on it effectively – and each of these fuck ups is followed by an apology.

After all of the apologies I’ve heard, I’ve learnt a few things about apologies.

A good apology can soothe ruffled feathers, but a bad one can cause irritation to get under someone’s skin and fester. An apology starts with I’m sorry, but it’s what comes next that can make it or break it.

Continue reading “Apologies Matter”

It’s Gonna Take A Lot

So I was out on Saturday night, and my friends and I made our way to Suzy Q – by far my favourite place in Hongdae – and settled in there for a few drinks.

We hadn’t been there long when Africa started playing. I cheered. A few people at the table next to us cheered. And – as with many of the songs that get played in Suzy Q – many people sang with.

One of my friends asked me why the Saffas always get so excited over this song. I explained about the Castle ad:

(I don’t even like Castle. But I do get excited when I find Hunters in a bar, so I’m pretending this ad is for Hunters. Because I love Hunters, and Hunters tastes like home.)

I’m not even sure how old this ad is. I think some of the younger South Africans may not remember the song from that advertisement. I was pretty young when it was on TV.

I think it actually comes down to one line:

It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you

Now I know ‘you’ the song is referring to is a girl, and the singer is using African imagery to describe his love for the girl and blah, blah, blah…

But I don’t think that’s what we hear when we sing this, so loudly and so passionately and so drunkenly in bars all around the world. We hear it (or I hear it, anyway) as Africa itself. I think the ad does too. The feeling is… yes, we’re in another country. But it’ll take a lot to make us forget where we come from. It’ll take a lot to get South Africa out of our hearts.

After explaining this to my friend, she asked if I was homesick. I paused for a moment, and then told her that I am. A lot. I love Korea. I love what I do here – however stressed and frustrated I am at times – but I know I’m not going to be here forever. I miss home. A lot.

Anyhow. For those of you who want to hear the whole song – and get it stuck in your head for days – here’s the terribly 80s video:


As I know many of my friends back home are wondering about when (and indeed whether) I’ll be home again, here are the reasons I can’t really give you an answer.

In the beginning, I had a plan. I was going to spend 2-3 years in Korea, and then see where the wind took me. I imagined I’d do a CELTA, and go teach somewhere like Germany. Because why not.

Fast forward eight months into my epic (hahaha. pun.) plan, and it’s not what I signed up for. It’s better and it’s worse and now I don’t know what I want.

In a blog post I wrote ages ago where I complained about my job (again), a fellow EPIK teacher in a less than idyllic situation commented “It’s only one year. We can do anything for a year.” Continue reading “Decisions”

It Ain’t What You Do, It’s What It Does To You

I have not bummed across America
with only a dollar to spare, one pair
of busted Levi’s and a bowie knife.
I have lived with thieves in Manchester.

I have not padded through the Taj Mahal,
barefoot, listening to the space between
each footfall picking up and putting down
its print against the marble floor. But I

skimmed flat stones across Black Moss on a day
so still I could hear each set of ripples
as they crossed. I felt each stone’s inertia
spend itself against the water; then sink.

I have not toyed with a parachute cord
while perched on the lip of a light-aircraft;
but I held the wobbly head of a boy
at the day centre, and stroked his fat hands.

And I guess that the tightness in the throat
and the tiny cascading sensation
somewhere inside us are both part of that
sense of something else. That feeling, I mean.

 – Simon Armitage

(So part of my brain has been taken up lately by the value of experiences. I’ve had to think about it when thinking about my experiences in Korea and my sudden bout of homesickness, manifesting as wanting to go back to SA – or, more accurately, to go back to Pretoria – and wondering about what makes an experience a valuable one. This summed it up for me.)