Thursday, 4 March 2010

Fragment - picture of a moment

I sit at my desk in the communal 'teachers' room'. I listen to music. I always listen to music. I never used to. I used to want to hear the world. Now I turn up the volume and block out everything around me, but mostly block out the sound of everyone and every radio station and every shop speaking Korean. I miss my languages a lot. Often the music I used to block out the Korean is Afrikaans. More often than not, it’s South African. Today it’s ‘Round Here’. It seems an appropriate sound track as I write this, looking out of the tiny little bit of window beyond my desk that is not covered with advertising or hidden the desk and the book-case. Outside, the world is grey. Rain, like mist that all happens to be moving in the same direction, is softly falling. The shop across the road is a bakery – Master Baguette (in both English and Korean). The large grey and mustard name-sign is rusted around the edges. The shade-cloth-type roof around the edge is dull red and dirty grey, and old. I can just see the edge of a vegetable-seller’s umbrella, a camo-coloured attempt to keep her slightly floppy spring onions and lettuce and her aged body dry. She sits at the end of an alley that runs between the bakery and a pharmacy next to it. The alley is full of things – a broken beach umbrella, an old table, piles of the plastic basins the vegetable sellers use to show off their wares. I know the alley leads to the little covered market a little further into the maze of buildings, with a main entrance on the bigger road to the left. I walk past the fish-seller at that entrance most days. The music has moved on... “this time, kindness falls like rain, it washes me away…”. I watch the vegetable seller as she steps from foot to foot, trying to keep warm. Inside, the harsh light of fluorescent light-bulbs reflects off the dirty-lime-green walls and the horrible green and brown and pink wall-paper. Most of the teachers are here. They sit at their computers, preparing lessons and listening to exercises and marking tests. In a room full of people, each one wears headphones and works and thinks and lives in his or her own world. There is no sound. I remember past communal workplaces that buzzed with laughter and voices and music... “take the way home that leads back to Sullivan street”. I turn off my computer and open my own books to do some work. With the music in my ears, I block out everything and drift away in a world of my own.

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