I’ve been a liberal person all my life. Perhaps, growing up, I had not been as liberal as I now know I could have been. Perhaps now, knowing my upbringing, certain things still hold me back from being the liberal person I might have been.
Creating SAFFA Abroad had sprung from a few dualities in me—my love for Afrikaans as my home language and the knowledge of its violent heritage, my love for travel and seeing places which had always been out of reach, my profession which had put me in line with demographics whom I’d hoped to disassociate from and others which I’d never had access to—many, many things.
So I thought I need to share another tidbit. My story of why I want to leave South African shores.
Having spent much time immersed in the history books and blogs of my country I know my privilege. Still, I have to start with that “but” so many people dread to hear. My but is that I’d grown up impoverished (as much as a white person could in apartheid years) in a white Afrikaans community far removed from the truths of politics, and yet had another family in Johannesburg who were very much immersed in politics and higher middle class—a home where I had to speak the Queen’s English with my stepmother and siblings. I grew up in two environments: both of which loathed each other. It had taken me years not to loathe myself in their stead. To this day I can understand how much of the Afrikaans populace has not dealt with apartheid nor fully understands it. And I also know the degrading stares Afrikaners have been bombarded with by English and other cultures in the country. We lived censored lives in the Afrikaans community. People thought they were doing their maids favours by giving them a room to sleep in. They never questioned how the government had forcefully split up families. They never questioned the long-term effects of emotional abuses and atrocities. To this day I hear people saying “but it’s been so many years” and then I wish I could ask them how many years it takes to undo the effects of abuse? My English family look down on Afrikaans people as simpletons and abusers, all the while ignoring their own colonial roots and own prejudiced treatment of others. I stay mum though. Not because I don’t want to fight, but because I have learnt that I am fighting brick walls. With my POC compatriots I am also told to remain mum. I understand this. But it is hard remaining mum, ever sitting on a “draad”. Speak out and you are lambasted.
I’d learnt from Sun Tzu that this type of warfare is meaningless. One wants to partake and is told to—but what if the war is fabricated?
As I’d learnt from the I Ching and the Bible—the two books found on my father’s nightstand at his death. My father was buried on Nkosi Sithole’s homestead as an honourary chieftain in KwaZulu Natal, in a full suit of armour as appeased my pagan brother. We slaughtered goats that day. And taught locals about potjiekos while they taught us to laugh in the face of death.
So what is someone like me doing on a South African expat website? What do I wish to achieve? Outrage? Surely not. I have seen and felt enough outrage to last a lifetime. What I want is an alternative. I want others to see that there is an alternative to all modes of life and all ideas of travel and emigration. I want to see people succeed and explore and learn to know the nature of nature and humans all at once.
I, too, have long wished to leave these South African “vellies” behind in exchange for some klompen, getas or cowboy boots. I, too, have wished for all my life to experience and see the entirety of the world. But I wish to see it without having to substantiate my leaving. I wish to experience a borderless world far removed from Trump’s ideas of borders and immigration and far removed from the ghastly things my fellow countrymen and women spew at each other in hate. My feet would find solid shores abroad because it is the person I am and not because I am desperate and fleeing. I am fleeing nothing. I love my country. South Africa has many statistics and realities I would much rather not share here. These are the things which drive my compatriots across borders. It is not true for me.
I have connected with fellow South Africans and foreigners in person and digitally and there is nothing which convinces me that our cultural walls are too high to scale. We are all one humanity and we are all in search of peace. We are all just in various locations where peace is in various finite stages. Seasons which bloom and die. Oceans which ebb and flow. I have met many youths who wish to explore the world but still maintain ties with their home, and who could blame them? Who would? Why is our nation even more divided across distant shores?
I want to emigrate, yes, I want to immigrate, yes—to Canada, USA, Argentina, USA, Russia, Japan, Germany, Ireland, Vietnam, Botswana, Malta… my options are a neverending horizon which is (as yet) out of reach, but I will go one day. And I will come back home to South Africa—to one of many homes. And there is nothing wrong with it.