On a ‘considered’ whim writer Karin Cronje packs up her life and flies across the world to teach English in a small Korean village. The result is a poignant, heart-achingly funny, scandalous, and deeply moving account of incomprehension, awe, dislocation, belonging, the sticky business of identity and the loss of it, sanity, and the loss of that.
Characters like Dae-ho, her guru man, who reminds her to breathe; dazzling Mae and her bar, Goldfinger; Leona with her rattle snake tongue, and all the others she can’t understand are now the people in her life.
Back home is her son who has fallen in with a suspect character and her friends who now seem like dung beetles each rolling their own ball of muck. They, together with the tip of the African continent, are about to disappear into the sea.
She has only herself. And that sure as hell feels inadequate.
With her inimitable voice Karin Cronje shocks and delights as she digs deeply into the full catastrophe of being human.
“For years the story of teaching English in Korea was begging to be told. We are fortunate that it is now being told by a voice as skilled, funny and self-ironic as Karin Cronje.”
– Antjie Krog
Coming here to Dae-ho is intense happiness. I never know what’s going to greet me. He may be sitting on the floor treating someone or making tea at his low table. The tea business involves a lot of pouring water from one container into another. Today is Buddha’s birthday so we have endless time. I’m lying on the floor in the winter sun with Dae-ho sitting right beside me.
“Do you believe me?”
“Trust? Yes, I believe you.”
“Tell me about your home.”
“I have a beautiful home in South Africa. An ancient oak tree is in my garden. Golden light rolls down from the mountain and falls through its leaves. I have very good friends. And my son is there. I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
“Perhaps to meet me,” he says.
He has a needle the size of a crowbar approaching my sternum. And in it goes.
“Now your tears will come.”