Saturday, October 25, 2008

Destination Cape Town…

Less than an hour ago I was chatting to a friend in Cape Town while looking at tickets for my proposed trip to back to the ‘Mother City’, as it is known. I was kind of nervous about the prospect of buying a ticket for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the mere cost of the ticket. That said though I believe this is the right time to head back, even if just for a short while. So in any case, I bought the ticket so I will be arriving in Cape Town on 1 December.

As I wrote that sentence there was a flurry of thoughts running through my mind. As I said in my previous post I have been thinking about a number of things regarding this trip, but I guess now that I have made the decision to go I can stop thinking about it and just wait for it to happen. Decisions are funny that way, I think. We fret about them before hand but then once they are made we shift into a different frame of mind where it’s the ‘when’ and ‘how ‘as opposed to the ‘if’ questions that come to mind. Then again, there’s also the fact that once the decision has been there is nothing else to do about it other than prepare for it to happen. I think I’m rambling but there it is – I have a ticket and I’m going.

Now that I have made that decision I can fully focus on making the most of my last few weeks in South America. It’s been a crazy adventure and I don’t regret it. Wait a minute; that almost sounds like it’s all over already – it’s not. Watch this space for more on Buenos Aires over the next few weeks…

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Moving Forward to ‘Begin’…

So although I don’t yet have a ticket and the exact dates of my trip to South Africa are not confirmed I have been thinking about this trip quite a bit lately. I have a strange feeling in that I don’t feel as though I’m going back to South Africa, after all much has changed and my travels have changed me so it will be of a (re)discovery process, yet at the same time I know there are things that were left unfinished in South Africa that may need to be dealt with this time around.

One of the thoughts going through my mind at the moment is whether this trip is really just going to be the short stopover I believe it’s going to be or perhaps something else altogether – recent revelations about things happening in my family has been a catalyst for this line of though. Another train of thought involves my mother who passed away in 2004. You see, while I dealt with so much of that grieving process in South Africa before I left there is also the fact that since her passing I have spent most of my time outside of South Africa, away from the places or other things that would remind me of her. Will this be much of an issue? I don’t think so, but who knows… Coming back to the (re)discovery though, this is going to be the most interesting. I know things have changed in Cape Town and the rest of South Africa – World Cup stadiums are going up, my old college has been relocated, friends have had babies I have never seen, to name just a few. Apart from these things there is the fact that I have changed over the course of the past couple of years. Undoubtedly, the experiences I have had, the challenges I have faced and the things I have seen have all left their mark on me, but without a benchmark of some kind to measure the change I have no idea to what degree this has happened. Cape Town will be that benchmark.

But, I’m not dwelling on all these issues at the moment. I’m am also excited about seeing friends, visiting familiar places, meeting new friends and catching up on things that have happened in my absence. I’m sure that I’ll be telling my story a few times too. So I guess if life were a Monopoly board game you might say I’m passing ‘begin’ again, because I don’t see this as going back. And who knows, the next chapter may just involve passing by some familiar places or landing on some new ones along the way.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Marked for Life…

Have you ever thought of doing something for years and constantly find real or imagined reasons for not doing it? Well, I’ve had one idea in my mind for the past 5 years of so and had numerous reasons for not following through with the plan – a tattoo. Back in 2003 (actually it may have been before that) I came up with an idea for a tattoo I’d like to have one day, but since I’m not much of an artist I needed someone to translate my idea into reality. I shopped around for prices from time to time but was more committed to the idea of the idea than to acting on the idea. My main reasons over the years were a lack of money and not having a design I was happy with. That’s not the case anymore.

While working in London last year I met a jewellery designer (and for tattoo artist) who agreed to work on a design for me based on the idea I discussed with him – a worn and cracked wooden cross with a crown of thorns hanging around it. This was the same concept I came up with years back. On my last day at that company, back in August 2007, he gave me a drawing and when I saw it I knew that was it. But, alas I was due to leave in about a week London and did not have the time to find a tattoo artist, not to mention the fact that having a design I liked was a bit too real. So I carried this design with me in my bag for the past 14 months here in South America, talking about it at times when tattoos came up in conversation. But acting on it was too real. That too has changed.

I had my tattoo done yesterday, 16 October 2008, here in Buenos Aires. And, like other major decisions I have made at times I simply got to a point where I had thought about it so much that there was nothing left but do it. So I went to a studio I had visited a week ago and simply had it done. It was more painful than I thought it would be – then again why wouldn’t a needle been stuck in my arm who knows however many times a second hurt? I’m really happy with the result, although I’m now in the careful maintenance phase that is going to last about 2 weeks at least – so that’s only slightly uncomfortable. From what I have implied so far in this entry I have also seen this experience as a metaphor for inaction in other areas of my life. Yes, I know there are going to be times when things might go wrong but not everything can be controlled even God himself leaves things that matter to him in our occasionally out-of-control, somewhat angst-ridden and not-always-trustworthy hands. Am I advocating going tattoo-crazy? Not at all… I’m simply telling the story I’m living…

Saturday, October 11, 2008

When to Stand, When to Walk Away…

This is a thought going through my mind at the moment. When is it worthwhile and/or the best choice to stand up and challenge something (perhaps even get ready for a fight) and when it’s simply not worth the effort and just learn to live with things as they are? For me, this is the kind of question that has plagued me regularly over most of the past decade or so and recently it has come to the fore once again – but for now I’m not going to go into the details or the context.

So is there a simple answer to this conundrum? More often than not I’d say no there isn’t. There’s a saying I heard somewhere along the line that suggests that sometimes the only thing you can change in a situation is you, even it’s just your attitude to the situation. I guess that could be the kind of situation I find myself in, but sometimes I struggle to just leave things alone. If I see something I don’t agree with I want to know, understand, question and where necessary uncover. But perhaps that’s not the best approach here…

Then again, perhaps I’m just looking for a reason not to make the effort… That’s definitely another way of looking at it… Anyway, I’ll leave it at that for now… I’d like to hear your thoughts…

Friday, October 10, 2008

Adventures & questions…

I just finished reading ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho and by admitting that I have evoked some strong reactions – some positive and others negative. But, I’m not going to be writing about the book, but merely using it as a launch pad. The book is about a shepherd named Santiago who goes on a long journey from Spain to the pyramids in Egypt to find a treasure he dreamed about while sleeping in an old, abandoned and roofless church. After going on a long and arduous journey to the pyramids he eventually finds the treasure buried under a tree in that same church where he first had the dream…

So what’s my point? I’ve been asked numerous times when I’m going to return to Cape Town and my usual response is that I don’t know if or when that will happen. Some friends have correctly pointed out that when I first left South Africa back in 2006 escape or running away was definitely a major factor, although I had long held desire to see the world. Because I’ve been away from those who knew me in Cape Town for such a long time they have not seen the changes that have taken place – one of them being a change from running away to decisive exploration, adventure, learning and growth. This is understandable.

Coming back to the (former) shepherd named Santiago, I realise that like him I may already have found a place to call home or where my dreams will be fulfilled. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop the journey any time soon. Even if, like Santiago, I find myself back at a place where I have been at some point in the past I know that, like him, I will not be the same person when/if that happens. That said I’m focusing on adventures and questions at the moment, rather than destinations and answers. The latter destinations and answers will come but as I have learned questions (and I’d say adventures too) are more likely to encourage and catalyse growth, learning and development.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Where do I go from here?

I’ve been in South America for about 13 months now and I’ve had a real rollercoaster ride of a time – so I guess by most standards it’s been a normal year. That said though some of my circumstances combined with the locations (not to mention he 3rd language thing) have made it an interesting and eventful year. Additionally I have felt for a while now that the time was coming when I would be leaving this beautiful, exotic and passionate continent. That said I have had a number of ideas running through my mind and some of them have been posted on this page – the most frequently mentioned one being new Zealand.

Something changed in the past few weeks and it has had an interesting impact on the way I’m seeing the road forward from here. I’ve come to realise how much I have been looking over my shoulder over the course of this adventure I’ve been on and how that has meant that there were time that perhaps I didn’t realise how great my opportunities I was experiencing really were, as well as that there is so much more that is possible. I came to realise that at least in part my interest in New Zealand was because there I could find or make a comfortable living for myself, but also that it would be (seemingly) safer and more secure. When I realised this I also realised that I want more of the adventure and that with all I have been through and seen I don’t want this journey to end with some mono-cultural and suburban existence right now. I don’t mean to knock that kind of existence, after all that’s where I guess I could find myself at some point, but I guess I’m realising that my passion to know and see the world is not going to be satisfied by the Discovery Channel and/or a DVD Box-set from National Geographic.

So what does this mean? And where does my (essential &central) faith issues fit into all this? Well I’ve come to realise how afraid I was at times of messing things up, going down the “wrong road”, of disappointing my heavenly Father. And all it took was remembering that he promised to have my back and that this journey was also about my choice along the way. So I’m planning on going to Taiwan to teach English. I don’t have a job guaranteed just yet, but I’m putting the plan into action. I’m hoping to start 2009 in Taiwan, although at this point I still need to confirm what I’m going to do with the time between now and then (watch this space for more info)…

That’s all from me for now… I’m going to log off now. I’m going to a drum show tonight and hope to find some tango lessons later this week… Life goes on and I’m going to get going with it I guess…

PS: OK, so the tango lessons are going to be a bit too ridiculously expensive but life goes on...