This time last year I had just arrived back in Durban after a fantastic year at Wits in Jo’burg. It was basically a time to see old and familiar friends and family and sorta rewind a bit and decompress from the constant hustle that characterises Jhb. What’s more, the holidays in Durbs meant a time for me to figure out just what on earth to do during 2007. At first I was presented with one clear and obvious way forward: The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). They have a remarkable ‘cadet’ programme where young graduates like yours truly get educated on the art of being insincerely sincere and sipping one’s cocktails in the correct fashion for a year. Well, ok more like a year of learning how to write reports in government-friendly (read: droll and simplified) format. From there the programme serves as a launching point into a dynamic career as a junior diplomat, changing desks every four years or so. By any stretch a great career path to go down. So of course I turned it down when I got the call to attend the final stage of the process (the last of four.) I was pretty confident I’d get the job. Not only I am exceedingly intelligent and eloquent, but my stunning humility serves as a beacon heralding the modest magnificence that is South Africa. Also, more realistically, I was the only white kid applying, so by the own BEE standards of the government, I was virtually guaranteed a spot because, ironically, of my skin colour.
But I turned it down. And now, almost eight months later, I’m not one bit sorry that I did. To be sure I thought long and hard about my decision. A safe and cushy career path in a field-related position that’s relevant to my academic interests is indeed a tempting carrot to bite. But on the other hand, I realise that I’ve really done nothing but academically-relevant roles since high school, and how can I be certain that this is really for me? Furthermore, I’m young. Being twenty-three grants me the time to take a year or two off and do something else, see somewhere else and not worry overly much about performance ratings. So I turned down the DFA in favour of the JET programme, and I love it! The DFA will be there when I’m done with my roving, and perhaps other opportunities will surface, but if 2007 has taught me anything, it’s that wherever you need to be, there you are.
It’s been a totally polar year for me. The first six months was spent in absolute mind-numbing boredom as I sent out my CV and covering letter to just over a hundred companies, receiving replies from less than ten, and generally being an unproductive lout. After flying out of Jo’burg, however, my world has been rocked, and it’s still shaking. I’m not ready to leave Japan, and I’m not sure if in six months I will want to either. But I must, before I begin to tire of the whole affair. Much like my holiday in Durban, you can get too much of a good thing. As I told my mother on the phone the other day, I’d rather not recontract for a second year here and leave Japan absolutely loving it than leave in two or three after growing disenchanted and thoroughly bored of the exercise.
So where am I now? I’m about to leave for Thailand, Laos, perhaps Cambodia and Vietnam, the latter being a country I have wanted to visit since childhood. And just like this time last year, I shall be rejoining some very old friends (Kelly, whom I’ve known all my life) and family (my brother, whom I’ve also known all my life.)
Certainly an entirely different country, with assuredly different experiences, but with some old and familiar friends and family. The more things change…
My picture for the week. Hokkaido may be predominantly Buddhist and Shinto, but they still love Christmas for it’s purely aesthetic charm. Much, I suppose, like the rest of the industrialised world…
As mentioned above, I will be away on holiday until the 11th of January or so. Johnstupart.com may well see some “dispatches” from my travels while away, but don’t count on it!