This is a story of me and my families experience. It’s based on MY feelings and MY POV. Please if you are from Africa, South Africa especially, do not take offense it is not meant that way. This is about me, my journey, my experiences, my fears, and my perspective.
“When you have been born in Africa you are marked by Africa and wherever you go, you are a displaced person, for you have two identities.”
I feel that before I tell my tale I should make one thing very clear.
I am white, I am European turn lobster red in the sun white, but I am also and most importantly, an African!
Six years, 2190 days (maybe 91 – leap years’ and all, seventy-two months, seven summers and Christmases, six winters, birthdays and Easters ago, we left ‘home’.
By ‘home’, I mean South Africa.
A droplet of a droplet in the ocean of time.
A chunk of my existence none the less.
Recently I re-read a short piece I wrote about leaving South Africa for a better place. I had to remind myself why. In those long ago written words, I saw a piece of myself — like a Horcrux, minus the evil wizard stuff. A piece of written me, which was all about me making peace with the fact that I did not and probably would never return to Africa.
It clearly showed how I felt and why returning for a visit would probably never happen. I was done with Africa, its corruption, its terror and its hatred of my skin color.
In those painfully penned words, I convinced myself I was just fine with going away, with making a new home for my family on strange soil, beneath a strange sky. It was me digesting the fact that I had given up my Africanism to become a full-fledged Australian. By doing so I had also said goodbye to family and friends allowing myself to make peace with the fact that I would never see them again, ever.
Unlike my husband, who kept up with the news and still gets upset when the South African government stuffs up, I didn’t give two hoots – except for my family.
Well, the joke was on me! I woke up one morning, literally snapped up as straight as a cursed corpse in a coffin (ugh terrible image that) and I knew it was time to go home. My nostrils burned with a need to sniff smoky African air and my skin itched with longing for the dry African sun.
Now, when you read this,
you’re going to wonder why I say home is where my heart is and that I mentioned it was here, where I am, in Australia.
It turns out not all of it is; my heart that is, it probably never was, or will be.
In that moment of awakening, I knew I had to go home. The desire to dig my bare toes into the dry African soil was akin to that of a drug addict longing for their next hit.
But, like everything else in life, it wasn’t that simple.
It costs a lot of money; money we simply did not have. Hubby felt the urgent tug to go home also. So together we sat and brainstormed.
We were going back for a visit!
I was going home! The Scatterlings were to return and I was glad for it.
The first few days after our ticket purchase was confirmed, was glorious. I got to contact all our family and friends and let them know when we would be where – except for Dad, (I hadn’t seen him in 6 years).
I called his wife. We would surprise the old man!
I literally (Yes, I used that word) walked on clouds. Nothing could dampen my spirits and no amount of Philistine (that’s my boys) behavior could bring this woman down!
And then the excitement gave way to fear. My little ‘happy balloon’ didn’t pop, it went BOOM!
Memories of the darkness we left behind flooded my neurons and I swear they very nearly short-circuited. The cold realization of; what have I done? Will my boys be safe? Rushed my body and my husband looked on as an anxiety attack, the likes of a 9.9 on the Richter scale, shook my world.
These were the emotions roiling around, causing havoc in my life as we counted down the ‘sleepies’ until our departure.
Elation at spending time with family and friends, booking a safari so the boys could walk with elephants and pet lion cubs (oh Gawd!) almost lightened the anxiety, but….
The thought of six-foot barbed wire walls, burglar barred windows, no parks to play in, no driving after dark slipped into my mind and snaked their way around my insides choking my diaphragm – I couldn’t breathe!
News of protests in the cities, the burning down of universities, not to mention unnecessary and brutal murders, shadowed my happiness. Rolling blackouts and water shedding had us biting our nails. A darkness only the unfortunate of this world have met, threatened to swallow my joy whole.
I had to remember to breathe, deeply …123 in… 123 out….
Forced to dig deep, I was reminded that I asked for this holiday. Goodness, I went down on all fours and begged for it and my prayers were answered, so I simply had to deal.
I looked to a force greater than me. All the magic surrounding us, those intense prayers and manifestations which made it possible for us to afford the tickets would not have happened if this was not meant to be.
We would be safe. We would be okay and we would return, undamaged and happier for seeing the family. I had to believe it; I did believe it!
I will be honest with you when I say; as I wrote this I sobbed. I wailed like a baby. The sheer joy of going home, mixed with the fear of the unknown, bubbled over and overwhelmed my senses.
We arrived safely, yet shaken in South Africa.
The flights were looooong!
One of my boys got air sick, and landing at OR Tambo was horrific. The pilot had to fight his way out of a storm on our approach and turn the plane around. The turbulence was right out of a horror fliek! Eeeek! I have NEVER experienced a plane falling so far and so fast like that in my life!!! I ended up with three petrified boys, all vomiting — joy!
We spent a panicked hour circling the airport until the freak storm moved on to terrorize somebody else. It left every single passenger pale and quaking in their undies.
All in all, I put it down as another exceptional (though daunting) experience to draw on!
It’s funny how life can form its very own time capsule.
You see a friend and her toddler then lose touch, only to run into them some years later. It astonishes you how that small toddler has morphed into a teenager with a nose ring and an attitude the size of the pacific overnight… except it wasn’t overnight.
In our minds, things seem to remain the way we need or want them to. They never change or grow.
I left South Africa six years ago. It was bad back then, but I never expected it to have changed this much. It is now a teenager with a nose ring and a terrible attitude and no longer the teething toddler I left half a decade ago.
The small issues are now very, very big issues. The small potholes are now donga’s and the poor are… well, can you get poorer than poor? But, there is still good. Thankfully it ain’t all bad.
We hit the ground running. With barely a day to ourselves, to settle in and acclimatize. We were hungrily annexed by all who missed us. Overwhelmed with phone calls and invitations, demands, and love – yummy!
I was no longer used to spending every moment of every day surrounded by people. Exhausted, I found myself yearning for the quiet of my life back in Australia. My study and the small pockets of time where I could sit and read and write – how very selfish of me.
I was no longer accustomed to the aggressive, frumpish attitude of the people here. The way they drove, as though no rules applied to them. The unkind glares from the staff in the supermarkets and the way one had to cling to one’s handbag and children in the Malls.
The time spent with family and friends in my old country was bittersweet and I will admit to enjoying every moment with them, but hating every other minute on the roads and in the shopping centers.
It was the sitting down and laughing over a gin and tonic with mum, or having a BBQ with awesome friends while speaking my second language, which kept my sanity in check.
The reminder that there was still some good around, somewhere, while noting the blatant poverty and corruption sitting on the sidewalks. The unabashed begging at traffic lights. The divide between those who have and those who do not have, grows every hour.
Blatant lies spread by the government, using the media as their tools of control and destruction. The fear of hijacking, mugging and hate crime which lurked in every dark corner. Manipulation of the uneducated and ignorant through careful word choices which accentuated constant negative thought patterns.
The filth which blanketed once vibrant bushveld and streets; because the municipalities are bankrupt. The dilapidated roads and the policemen who live off bribes. The lawless driving of Minibus taxis and the necessity to lock doors all the time.
My cousin’s son who has to lock his school bag to prevent his books from being stolen — seriously?!
I loved the sunrises. The call of the Tarentaal (Guinea fowl). The smell of the tall grass after a thunderstorm and the genuine sense of togetherness no matter color, creed or religion.
On the street, down there where the messages of separation and dissention did not reach or were ignored. A sense of Ubuntu, which survived no matter the government’s desperate attempts to annihilate its existence.
Nostalgia and longing ignited a long-smoldering fire in my belly. My mouth watered at the smell of meat on an open fire. The laughter of good friends. The feeling of, I belong, when I walked barefoot on the red rain-soaked soil of my birth.
My gorgeous boys were spoiled rotten by their grandparents. We safaried and went horse riding, zip-lined and ate waaay too many lollies (candy/ sweeties) and Spur burgers.
And soon we were drawing to the end of our African holiday.
All that put aside, it’s been a good holiday. Spending time with family; mom and dad and siblings, cousins and friends. To sit down and watch the boys enjoy shooting pellet gun with their Grandfather, building a Go-kart with Oupa, zip-lining with Lili.
To laugh around a fire while meat sizzles on the flames.
The nostalgic taste of good old fermented Cape grapes, tickling one’s palette as you watch the setting sun light the bush up with fires of red and gold.
My ears zing in delight as the languages of my youth topple from mouths and my tongue hugs the eccentric slang known only to South Africans. My heart beats to the rhythm of our African songs and tears shyly wander down my cheeks as I sing along in Afrikaans.
My soul aches to think I must say goodbye a second time.
How is it a person can be homesick for two places at once?
I long to go back to my home in Brisbane at the same time as I yearn for my family and Africa.
It is true, I will always be a displaced soul, never again will I truly belong to mamma Africa nor will I ever feel truly at home down under. Perhaps I should turn my woe into a blessing. It is a blessing… isn’t it?