I’ve finally begun to remind myself that while Japan was indeed incredibly awesome and fantastic blah blah fishpaste, there was always a downside, be it the incredible solitude, the job or simply the lack of good beef. It’s so easy to think back on Japan with rose-tinted glasses because it’s really the kind of place that makes you forget the bad things so very easily. It gets lonely, sure, but then the weekend arrives right before you’re about to beat up things with a baseball bat and you go snowboarding with some very good friends or grab some incredibly fresh sushi in Wakkanai which would make those mainland ALT’s cry at their inadequate failfish. It’s a very up and down kind of existence, and that’s pretty damned ok by me. At least now I can sorta think back on Japan with extreme fondness rather than remorse.
South Africa, on the other hand, has thrust me arse-first into the frenzied realm of Johannesburg, where reality firmly grabs you by the scruff of your neck and forces you damned-well face the (African) world in all its wonderful exultations and excretions. I put the ‘African’ as an aside for the simple reason that one can be confronted with brutal and frank honesty in other countries, it’s just that SA is what I’m used to. It’s what I expected, it’s what I wanted, and while I still miss snow like a crack addict misses that $5 bill, it’s all the challenge I had hoped to get back.
I find it very difficult to articulate this kind of mentality to friends, particularly foreign ones, as I have so often been painted as the soulless Bush-loving neo-con warmonger that would spit in a hobo’s eyes and pee on the flower garlands of baby-eating hippies. I can safely say only half of this is true. The rest… well… I’d have to say come here to SA first and see just what a trip it is and then we can see how much puppy-dog idealism is left, as well as how much true compassion and empathy one can contain. Anyone living in SA can safely attest to this phenomenon. SA leaves precious little space for non-grounded feelings. Everything we know has been thrust into the molesting eyes of reality, be it by the government, the press or the beggar at every traffic light you drive past. From the hobos living under every bridge to the guy cruising in his bantam, this place, to quote Syd Kitchen, is not for sissies.
I really wouldn’t have it any other way! Living in rural Hokkaido was important in that it showed me a world in which we don’t have to exist in such a brutally-frank society, and urban Johannesburg has shown me in no uncertain terms where I belong; the harsh, the beautiful, and the absolutely honest lowveld.