Tuesday, November 21, 2006

2006: In Review

I’ve been in South Africa just over a year now. What’s it been like to be back in Bloem after 4 years on the other side of the planet?

Well, I remember New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Clarens, and thinking, with some trepidation, about the year ahead. It’s proved to be a good one.
It’s certainly been a few steps up in comparison to last year in Korea. It was not only more colorful and lively, but also filled with plenty of unexpected experiences and adventures.

Things didn’t start off that great, of course. I was staying at home and getting on my dad’s nerves, and things seemed bleak (and unlikely to change). I went on a trip to Lesotho in January, which was an amazing adventure in itself. As a result of that trip, I wrote and published 5 stories in Heartland magazine and found a plumb job for my sister, working on a nature estate. Then there was the Argus in March, a little disappointing in 3:18, but nevertheless by far my quickest time.

And then I went on the cycling tour, from Ficksburg to God’s Window. That was a stunning experience, and while away I received word that Brebner High School wanted to hire me as a teacher. Then followed 6 very, very hard months. In that time I moved into the hostel, continued with university studies, attempted to continue training, coached hockey and most difficult of all, taught extremely badly behaved classes, 30-something energy sapping mobs, about 5 a day. This was a period of profound energy expenditure, and I often didn’t have any time to rest or relax.

One exception was an especially memorable trip to Fauriesmith, with Fransa, where I finished 8th or 9th in a 100km cycling race. A not so good result was in PE, where I rode dismally in a 30km timetrial, and burned packets of moolah in the process. The trip to J-Bay, with the rainbow, made up for it to some extent.

Then I received my marks for the first semester at university (taking 2nd and 3rd year English: I managed a distinction and 2 x 71%. Not bad. I also stepped up a gear with my writing, churning out 2 stories a day for reporter, and working on two more articles for magazines. Early on reporter awarded me with two prizes for best photograph in two separate competitions. Several months later go! and Shape published these stories, and soon after that I was selected to represent reporter at a blogging conference, all expenses paid, at Rhodes University. The trip to Rhodes (where I upgraded my pre-paid contract to a contract, and got a Samsung D900 phone + DVD player), and to Cape Town afterwards, was another enjoyable excursion, despite an episode of vomiting and nearly dying in Rhodes. But I also suddenly found myself out of a job in mid-September: after two terms, Brebner didn’t offer me a third temporary contract. I had intended to try to last one more term, and then possibly throw in the towel.

When they didn’t renew, on the one hand I felt incredibly relieved, as I was burning out at a geometric rate. But on the other hand, it felt like a kick in the face. After all, I’d been determined to tough it out and survive, and I had just begin to figure out the names of my kids.
Subsequently I felt the walls closing in. I felt like I’d been voted off the island. But fortuitously, I found a nice spot to move to conveniently situated in Westdene, my father made the surprise gesture of giving each of us kids R20G, and I immediately landed a plumb job teaching at a Chinese school. Instantly the huge amounts of stress were erased, and significantly, the energy surged back and I was able to train. I did the OFM in October, in 2:56, which is a significant improvement on the Argus, a race almost as long.

My second semester results have also just come out: 67%, 70% and a distinction. I’m pretty happy with these results, especially given the problems I’ve had finding classes, getting sick, and also missing lectures around the time of my visit to Rhodes.

Joining Tokkie Wheelers, training with people like Barendine and Hennie, and with JP, formed a backdrop to much of the second half of the year. In the last few weeks I’ve done a few triathlons, and now almost every weekend, there’s a cycling race to sharpen the muscles even more. I’ve also started swimming at the stadium pool again.

Meanwhile I am contributing stories daily not only to reporter (over 200 stories sent in, of which about 95% have been published, along with plenty of pictures), but also ohmynews. I want to raise my earning there to about R2000 a month. I’m currently at about R1500, with about 50% of stories published. The problem with ohmynews is that they publish only one story a day, and often write back to me asking me to make one or two small modifications, which means one story might take half a week to get published.

So it’s been a very rich year, in various areas, and I feel quite blessed to have come through it so well. Things could have turned out worse, a lot worse.

My relationship with Fransa has taken a lot of strain because I haven’t had a car this year, and for a few other reasons, but we’re still together and today is one of those days that I’m glad we’re still a couple. I believe one of the reasons this year has been so good, is because she’s been supportive for the most part, and her love and kindness have been important inputs this year.
On the family front things aren’t so great, although my sister did start a new job in Mooi River (a dream job really) thanks to me scobing out the place, and my recommendation of the place to my sister, and my sister to the owner. I haven’t seen my father much this year, nor my brother – but at least that’s allowed me to focus on getting my house in order.

I’ve achieved more than I expected to this year, in almost every facet: work, sport, relationships, studies, writing – the whole gamut.
I’m disappointed about the time trial at SA’s, and the 94.7, and some of the stuff going on in between, at Brebner, at university and so on. I’m also disappointed in Heartland, and Justus, since they still owe me R8000, and it’s reasonable to say if I had that money I’d probably have felt slightly more comfortable about having a car by now. Not having a car has been what’s weighed down my enjoyment of this year the most. By far.

So my goals for 2007 (in no particular order):
- Argus under 3hours
- SA Cycling Champs Time Trial (average 40km/h = 45 minutes, faster than Alex and CJ))
- Kimberley to Bloem: 5:15
- OFM 2:35
- 94.7 2:30
- Free State Colors in Triathlon (and to beat both Vic and Benedictus on the day)
- Under 2:15 for standard triathlon (SA Champs)/Under 2:05 in 2008
- Improve Salary (either by teaching privately, working at Quintiles or getting paid more for writing, or photography – including photographing weddings)
- Photo exhibition (by end of March 2007) and 2nd one by end of July 2007.
- Being published in one of the big 5: FHM, Men’s Health, GQ, Sport’s Illustrated or go!
- Finishing: The Sunburnt Soul (by March 2007)
- Buy a Sony Playstation 3 + games
- Buy a Toyota Ay-go (or at least buy a car before end of May 2007).- Buy a mountainbike
- Buy Zipp aerobars
- Join Supersport Gym
- Upgrade Video Card of Desktop to Nvidia
- Draw (tennis, swim + cycle in graphic art)
- Travel to: Swakopmund, Swaziland
- Weigh 75kg by end of March

*** I seem to have gotten to a cracking start (from certain perspective anyway), since I bought a Chrysler Neon today. Quite a good deal, since I got it for a few thousand below its retail value, but it's a bigger, flashier and more expensive car than I had in mind. But like the guy said who sold it to me: "Buying a car is an emotional business."

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