January & February in South Africa
I spent a great part of January and February in South Africa, enjoying time with friends and family.
It was good to spend time with my older brother Tiny and my younger brother Nethan. I especially enjoyed my visits with Joa and other Natal friends; Howard, Natasha, and the girls; my Taekwon-Do family; my “other” brother Michael, and my younger “brothers,” Ruan and Franco; my cousins Gavin and Irma.
Franco and I started the martial art resource website Nova Martial Arts.
In February I started teaching two great classes: 19th Century British Poetry and British & American Essays. Both classes made me feel really privileged. Few people get paid to read such great literature.
I saw and was touched by The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
The actual day of my birthday was probably one of the worst days I have had in years. The previous evening I had an argument via email with my oldest brother, which left me feeling awful the next day. I just could not get the incident out of my head. While I have tried to make amends, I don’t think our relationship has fully recovered. Another unfortunate thing that happened on my birth was that I hurt the assistant-instructor at Taekwon-Do during a sparring session. As I came up for a kick, he rushed forward, and my knee hit his head full force.
During March I received the greatest compliment a university lecturer can receive: “You teach us to think for ourselves.”
Read The Watchmen, just in time to see the movie, which had me thinking about the value of phallic symbols. I also saw The Wrestler. One of the greatest movies I saw in 2009.
For some reason I was very forgetful during March; I managed to lock myself out of my apartment twice.
Went to Gyeongpodae, a town on the East Coast of Korea, known for its beautiful cherry blossoms and stunning sunrises. It was a great getaway, although I didn’t get to see a sunrise. A also drew a nice picture. Probably the only proper sketch I drew for the whole of 2009.
Attended a Gustav Klimt exhibit and was especially impressed and inspired by his use of negative space.
Discovered the music of Regina Spektor, which now have become a regular on my playlist.
Read, and was inspired by, Joseph Heller’s Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man. I also read The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis, which just helped to confirm my own ideas about the Tao.
I had a traumatic dream.
Lost my wallet, but fortunately found it a day or two later, money and credit cards still intact. (Only in Korea…)
Saw a recording of the musical “Spring Awakening.” There’s a Korean version, which I hope will still be playing next year so that I can go and see it.
Daegu with my Taekwon-Do club, as an umpire during an ITF Taekwon-Do tournament. The road trip was quite enjoyable, and spending time with the Korean officials was also memorable.
Went to the DMZ again – this time with my Taekwon-Do instructor and other Taekwon-Do friends.
Submitted a report on my stagnant PhD progress, and was surprised to receive quite positive feedback on the report.
An uncle committed suicide. I found it quite disturbing as I never thought him to be the “depressed type.” It is also disturbing as he is the father of one of my favourite cousins and while I felt like supporting her in some way, my great distance from South Africa made me feel terribly impotent.
I felt frustrated by the seeming clash between the goal of my students (merely memorising information and then regurgitating it back to me, and then forgetting it…), and my goal of facilitating the acquisition of skills, rather than merely pouring information into them. I really became very conscious of the cultural difference.
Young, Angelina, and Laura – who would depart for America later in July or soon thereafter.
Was stalked by an old Taxi driver. I’m still not sure of his intentions, but it started to get on my nerves. I eventually had to change my mobile phone number.
Lost a really expensive book by forgetting it on a subway train.
Read and was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. It taught me that some battles are worth the fight, regardless of the end result. In fact, sometimes it is worth fight it in face of the looming defeat.
I spent some time with my Taekwon-Do instructor and friends, and also went to some of the tourist places like Insadong and other palaces again.
World Jazz concert with Young and Angelina, and later a classical concert focussing on Peter & the Wolf.
Was co-opted into ITF-Korea’s national executive as International Liaison Officer.
Researched the history of (ITF) Taekwon-Do in South Africa and was able to prove the claim that ITF Taekwon-Do did indeed start in the Vaal Triangle (where I started my Taekwon-Do career).
Wrote a lot about the Gospel during a series of exchanges with a friend. The Gospel just continues to be ever fresh and beautiful.
Had a wisdom tooth removed! It was not a nice experience. The dentist worked quite roughly with me, and I even got my jaw dislocated during the ordeal.
Completely missed my bus stop while reading and so spent a night in a “foreign” place, sleeping over in a motel. It turned out that the name of the place is Toi Gye Won 퇴겨완.
Saw and was impressed with the movie Unbreakable (2000).
Moved accommodation to a better apartment.
Started teaching a really interesting class on Music Appreciation and the History of Modern English Music. I also started teaching a module on 19th & 20th Century American Poetry. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as 19th Century British Poetry, it was still quite pleasant. While Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” is still my favourite English poem, I must say that I really enjoyed spending time on T. S. Eliot again.
I had my Taekwon-Do club over for a house warming.
I saw the great musical “Rent.”
Hoengseong 횡성 where I tasted (according to the locals), the best beef in Korea. It was quite juicy and flavoursome, but since I’m mostly a vegetarian, and therefore not a connoisseur, I think it was wasted on me. The outing wasn't wasted, however, as I got to take some really nice photos at the traditional food market.
Read Of Mice and Men and Lord of the Flies.
I took up Brazilian Jiujutsu again.
Gochang Fortress Festival and attended a Jiujutsu tournament – all in one weekend.
Went to the Ssamzie Sound Festival – it was excellent. Two bands that really stand out are the Japanese band Sakanaction and the Korean rockabilly band The Moonshiners.
Caught up with a South African friend (Mark).
Experienced anxiety about world events that would continue until late December.
Got ecstatic about the beautiful autumn colours.
Had many social outings (birthday parties [1 / 2], Thanksgiving lunch, Bling Flea Market, etc.).
Had a “difficult student” experience.
Ate duck meat for the first time in my life.
4th Dan in ITF Taekwon-Do. Getting my 4th Degree is a definite highlight for 2009 as it has been a long time (life) goal and a new year’s resolution.
Went snowboarding. I’m still quite bad at it, but at least I’ve improved from my first snowboarding experience in 2007.
Although 2009 was not as life altering as 2008 during which time I fell in love, had a serious relationship, broke up, changed jobs and moved to a different country, 2009 was still a fairly “full” year. Since I believe that life is merely a series of experiences, I think I had enough disparate experiences to attest that I “lived” this year.
Next year will start with me going to Hong Kong; I guess that’s a good way to start a new year. I have a positive feeling about 2010. I really feel that it will be a good year for me on a personal level, although I can’t quite qualify the reason for such feelings. Globally I do not think 2010 will not be so great; I would not be surprised if we see more terror attacks around the world, which is unfortunate as there is already too much suffering in the world. We’ll also see the American Dollar continue losing value. My ill predictions are based purely on watching the trends (something that caused for my angst towards the latter part of this year). I agree with Gerald Celente: “Current events, form future trends.”