Uprooting

table-mountain-sunset-cape-town-night-lighting

My Weekly Musings # 9/2017

Recently, we have been visiting our friends who now live in New Zealand. They might or might not stay there forever. Or they might. I don’t know. They don’t know either. They live in an area to where a lot of Asians had emigrated to. And a lot of South Africans too. (I think for the South Africans, the choice has to do with the weather, because the north island’s weather is much warmer than the south island’s.) They live in the Auckland area which looks a lot like a mix between the Western Cape and Mpumalanga. That might have something to do with it too. In recent decades a lot of South Africans have immigrated to especially countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Canada. Very few had returned to their ancestral countries of origin, which were mostly The Netherlands, France and Germany.

The reasons for South Africans emigrating is mostly the unacceptable crime wave which are causing people to look for safer places to calm their nerves and also because of work opportunities, due to many people being laid off after becoming BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) victims. It is not only white people who emigrate though. The world is full of young black South Africans making their mark elsewhere in the world too.

We South Africans had become used to ‘losing’ friends to emigration. It is a touch phenomenon to get used to, because parents have to let their children go, adult siblings get separated and, with young children and new-borns growing up in a foreign country, young South Africans become estranged with their families back home. It is indeed a challenging situation. But, thinking about it, I also realise that migrating is sort of a ‘natural’ thing throughout history. It was after all how we got to South Africa. Our ancestors from The Netherlands sought new trade opportunities and the Christian French Huguenots fled from religious persecution, just as some South Africans now leave the country’s shores in fear of their lives and/or looking for jobs.

And of course the uprooting of families is not unique to South Africa. South Africans are at least still doing it by choice (although I blame no one who emigrates due to the fact that they had been high jacked in their own drive-way three times, or whose parents were brutally murdered on a farm or in a city house or whose daughter were raped and murdered when she went for a jog.) Our TV screens are filled daily with displaced people who flee for their lives from places where the blood hungry murderous make it impossible for them to live. One of the drivers we use when we go to Jordan told us that he is Libyan. He spent a few years working in South Africa (nogal!) and then ended up in Jordan. His brother lived in a few other places and currently stays in Israel. Across from our house in Cairo is a small Catholic church. The congregation is made up of expats working here, Egyptians – I presume and Sudanese and various other refugees. The international working force of Egypt is from all over the world. We lived in a displaced world full of displaced people.

So back to my pondering this week after a very long start. While we were in New Zealand, we saw lots of Afrikaans speaking South Africans in the streets, malls and on the beaches. Within ten minutes’ drive there are three shops selling South African products. We had wonderful boerewors (sausages) and biltong (dried meat – like jerky, but better)! The South African numbers are so many there that Browns Bay is referred to as ‘De Bruynsbaai’. And all the time we were there, I tried imagining how it feels to uproot yourself – knowing that it is going to be forever – and go and live in a strange place, building a new life so totally different than the one you had, away from your family and your friends.

We are only temporary living abroad. We are now here in Egypt for three out of a four year period. It had been wonderful and crazy and difficult and frustrating and emotional and a lot of other things too. I really miss our pets, our country, our food, our language, our culture, our ways and especially our people. Whenever we go through passport control at OR Tambo, I want just want to hug and kiss the person behind the counter, but I know I would probably be arrested for it, so I refrain from doing it.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone deciding to emigrate to New Zealand – just because it was the country many South Africans choose and we were visiting it. It is a wonderful, first-world, effective, beautiful place with nice, warm, down-to-earth people. It is also a very, very, very expensive country where some of the products are just plainly over-priced. I think it must be difficult in the beginning especially. I wondered if you ever stop missing the rugby fights, the fact that there is a joke minutes after any bad thing happening, the Nando ads, the excellent and the poor Afrikaans songs, the biltong, the South coast beaches, the clean, unique smell of Cape sea air in your nostrils, the shenanigans of politicians (okay, not really that, because now the rest of the world had caught up with us too) or the smell of fresh beskuit and bread of your aunt’s house. I wondered.

We met a young South African girl our son’s age who worked at the supermarket we went to. She heard us speaking Afrikaans with each other and immediately started a conversation. While ringing up our things, she told us that she was living  there with her parents for twelve years now. I commented that she must be full blown Kiwi by now, seeing that she was so young when the moved and probably didn’t remember ‘home’.  Her smile vanished and in a soft voice she said:

“I dream of Cape Town all the time.”

We met with quite a few emigrants from different countries. They told us that the divorce rate under uprooters is quite high. Listening to them a few things came out for people to consider before they make the decision to emigrate. These are:

  • Don’t emigrate to run away from your personal problems. If your husband has a wandering eye, it will be going with him. If he is an alcoholic, he will still be one on the other side. If your wife has a money spending problem in South Africa, you’ll have bigger problems living in a country where the currency is ten times (yep!) stronger.
  • Sort all medical stuff out before you leave. A lot of medical issues can get your visa delayed or even cancelled.
  • Don’t lie about anything on applications.
  • Plan. Plan. For everything.
  • You need a lot of initial capital to move to and settle in another country. (Hundreds-of-thousands-a lot.)
  • Moving countries causes immense stress – for every member or the family. Don’t underestimate that factor. Prepare for it. Change is never easy. Uprooting is up-there on the stress list. This counts even for ‘short’ stays abroad like ours.

My hope is that we will always have the choice to live in South Africa. I love my country. I miss my beautiful country with all its ups and downs. I hate the violence and the corruption. I hate it to be scared at night. (I sleep like a baby in Egypt – and everywhere else we go.) So, I know I will have to face my fears again. I will worry about Michael driving alone at night. I also realise that he might be forced to seek greener international pastures and leave us behind.  I’m not blind for all the challenges. But I miss the good of South Africa. The good things as well as the good people. And for that I hope to stay.

We will just cling to our Protector and remember that ‘Elohim has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power and of love and of self-control’. I hope our faith and love and self-control will be enough in the end.

 

©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.