Monday, December 10, 2012

Guest Post Series: Conrad Odendaal

Guys, this is my very, very good friend Conrad.  We met in our church cafe one winter Sunday.  I heard him mention something about The Avett Brothers, and we've been 오빠 and 동생 (older brother and younger sister, though we like to call it BFFs) ever since.  When I'm around Conrad and his South African accent, I start to speak with my own foreign accent, but it doesn't sound anything like a real dialect.  Conrad picks on me for it, and we both laugh.  In our more sincere moments, Conrad and I share ideas, pass around counsel, and talk like philosophers on the topics of culture, love, and Christianity.  He's written articles for a newspaper in Seoul, and now I get to host his writing here!  I'm very excited to introduce you guys to my trusted friend and brother, Conrad Odendaal!

"The Curious Case of a Homesick Heart"
by Conrad Odendaal

I am not a blogger. Thought about it many times, but still somewhat apprehensive. So, when Lindsay offered the opportunity to write for her blog, I hesitantly jumped at it. The ideal practice run, so to say. She has always encouraged me to start writing again.  Though I could sometimes see her raising her eyebrow at some of my musings, she is kind enough to not say anything. Basically, reader, I am trying to soften you up and appeal to your kinder side that's friendly on the critique. Here are my thoughts on "home".

My family.
1. My dad and I
2. My mom and I
3. My brother in law, sister and I.
4. Our pup. His name is Marmite.
5. Table Mountain
Talk of "home" is one sure topic to elicit a wide range of emotion from anyone that you engage in any type of conversation. What one would think is an old car whose engine has been driven past bolt breakage and rattling death soon gets some oil poured down the pipes, fire combusts, and the motor finds new life. Maya Angelou once said that "the ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned". Thinking about the idea has always cast a faint but relentless shadow amongst my synapses. Doesn't matter how hard I've tried to suppress, part from, or run from it, my heels just couldn't lose it. A pressing deeper sense that there is more to all, that something's amiss, that home is not where I find myself. The truth is that I have felt homesick my whole life.

I come from a fairly large city in north suburban Cape Town in South Africa, called Bellville. The Afrikaans culture was wonderful to grow up in. Back then, we could still play outside in the street or on the neighbor's front lawn past sunset with no fear of safety as all the homes could leave their doors invitingly open. We would have a braai (South African bbq) at some family members' house, watch rugby, and listen to stories of our parents' childhood. My 6-year-old self could walk with my younger sister three blocks to the cafe (corner store) and buy bubblegum, sweets (candy), and cooldrinks (soda) for less than a rand (about 15¢ US today). Then we usually went to play on the swings and slides of the local park, all on our own. After school, I would arrive home to find my beloved pavement special puppy (a mutt) waiting on the front porch, tail wagging with anticipation. We would then have a peanut butter and syrup sandwich and watch He-man and Thundercats. "Thunder, Thunder, Thundercats! Hoooooo!"

My house where I grew up in and my parents still live today.
1. 1980
2. 1989
3. 1999
4. 2012

Today it's a totally different story, placing a huge damper on the notion of "home". My beloved country of birth is slowly being choked by a corrupt government, an awful reputation for crime, a prejudiced application of affirmative action, and an economy that is daily circling the bowl. It resurrects, for different reasons, the title of Alan Paton's 1948 book; "Cry, the Beloved Country". All this withers away, though, every time I return and peer from the plane's window at that beautiful mountain with its table top and its foot in the sea. Memories of building sandcastles on Blaauwberg Strand and the smell of Cape Fynbos after unusual summer rain light up my heart. It's somewhat like Eddie Vedder's elderly women behind the counter who changed by not changing. When I get to hold my hero father again and slap a kiss on my dear mother, I feel "home". When I get to exchange stories with my sister and her husband again, telling old jokes that we still find funny, I feel "home". But soon, the moment passes and I find myself in need to keep moving on. Something is missing from "home".

After graduating varsity, where I never felt at "home", I moved to London for a year, in search of all the world offers to see and experience, maybe to find more of an appreciation for "home". After that, I moved to Korea, which I have called "home" for over four years. The seasons past have been amazing. I learned and experienced more than Webster can dictionarize (yes, I just did that) and met friends that will last me a lifetime. I found a community at Jubilee Church (where I met the awesomeness that is Lindsay McKissick) that exemplifies Jesus love, an enriched perspective on life, and a band of brothers that I would not trade for all the riches that Solomon possessed.

Amidst all my travels, I have always found myself in a curious bewilderment when the fellow travelers I meet turn the conversation to "home", as they inevitably do. Sometimes I want to hack out my own eardrums, and other times I hang on every word their vocal cords vibrate.  The views and stories are as numerous as the stars in the sky and as colorful as the Aurora Borealis, but somehow somethings stay the same. I myself have always felt homesick and yet experienced "home" time and time again.

I felt "home" on the balcony of the Alhambra as I overlooked the greater city of Granada and ran my hands through its flowers as I walked the royal garden. I felt "home" when I sat outside a coffee shop in a Parisian street and watched the Sacre Coeur being lit up in the night sky. I felt "home" when I drove with my friend, Christian, who has become like a brother, down the Toroko Gorge road in Taiwan on bright red scooters and marveled at the indescribable beauty. I felt "home" when I walked through the forest in Vietnam with the Cu Chi tunnels below us and listened to old stories of the war from Lim, a very kind 71-year-old tour guide. I grew up without a grandfather, and that man will never know what he did for me that day. I felt "home" when a few friends and I did a roadtrip of New Zealand's North Island, nonstop laughter with every passing hill and valley green. I felt "home" when I walked the cobble stone of the parting ocean at Jindo Island. I felt "home" the day I walked into Jubilee Church. Every time I've had fellowship with my four brothers, I have felt "home". And when that beautiful girl took her soft hands, placed them over mine and earnestly prayed for me, I really felt "home". But the moment passes. The person goes their own way. Time ticks on. Something is missing. Keep moving on. Something is always missing.

Some travels
1. Valleys and hills in NZ
2. The Sacre Couer at night.
3. The inner court of the Alhambra (via Trippinn.comhttp://tienda.trippinn.com/en/day-trips/38-sevilla-alhambra-granada.html)
4. Christian and I in Taiwan
5. Lim, the tour guide in Vietnam

And then I met Love. He spoke of many rooms in My Father's house (John 14:2) and how He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more (Rev. 21:4). Of living water (John 4:10) and mercy and goodness that will follow me all my days (Psalm 23:6). Of a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1) awaiting my arrival. I finally found the reason for my homesickness. The world can be a terrible and ugly place, where the beauty and joy stays fleeting. The realization dawned. My "homes" are mere shades of my real home.

So, until the day that sweet chariot comes followed by heaven's fiery host and I can fly away to God's celestial shore, I will embrace, appreciate, and cherish every moment, place, and person as a beat of my homesick heart. For on that glorious day, I will be able to let go of the longing and voice my own modified version of that old negro spiritual with the same sentiment as Dr Martin Luther King once did:

Home at last, home at last, thank God almighty, I'm home at last!

As you read earlier, Conrad doesn't have a blog, but feel free to share your thoughts and give some love here in the comments!  Isn't he great?


  1. Life is like a never-ending bus ride. Sometimes you break down, but you'll get back up running again soon

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  2. I really enjoyed reading this, Conrad. Well written and so obviously from the heart :).


Thank you for sharing your thoughts! If there is something you want me to respond to specifically, feel free to send me an email; I'd love to chat.