Howzit, South Africa. Long time, no see.
It’s been a whole year away, can you believe it? Needless to say, it wasn’t the year we had anticipated…
To our surprise, we travelled more than we ever thought we would during such distressing times. Scrolling through our Facebook and Instagram we have seen so many new places and so many ‘old places’ with new eyes. You see, your scatterlings are everywhere now. There are so many of us planting new roots in different soils. To be honest, more than we thought there were.
Sometimes I felt like the one who couldn’t let go of us. I joined expat groups (mainly South African ones) on Facebook. Why? For the advice, to learn from others experiences, but mostly to connect with other Saffas. To have the humour and sense of home (even if it’s only through words on a screen). There are some people who love to hate you, others who hate to love you, and others who are just trying to make a better life. It’s hard to define the rollercoaster of feelings this voyage has taken us on.
Germany offered me a place in an Integration Course. But I am a South African: I grew up in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-belief country. I know what it means to embrace and love diversity. Thank you for teaching me that.
During the course, we had to do a presentation on something – those annoying broad topics. Naturally, I spoke about you. I made a presentation and made up a travel show, taking them along the coast from east to west. Oh, how the pain of missing you brings tears to my eyes on some days.
Then Jerusalema took the world by storm. And my classmates loved it. They were researching South Africa more, watching videos of dancing petrol attendants and learning how to say Sawubona / Molo, unjani? I loved sharing about you, even though I had left you.
I find myself saying shame and sorry in situations that others don’t understand. No, I’m not shaming anyone and I know it’s not my fault. My teacher asked me a question in class and I responded with ja, nein, definitiv. You should have seen her face. And then mine when she asked me if my answer was yes, no, or definitely. Ag, these people.
Here, they mark where the produce comes from. We always buy South African produce, supporting you in a small way. We miss braais (not grills as they say here). In a country where punctuality rules, I miss being understood when I say now, now now, just now, later. I say eish and sjoe more than I realised. And eina too.
With all that said, while we miss you and our people there, we are happy here. There is a precious sense of freedom and unimaginable security. There is charming snow and enchanting forests. It’s a comfortable contentment we never thought we would feel so quickly. Daniel is thriving in his new work. Our home is a sweet haven that has us dreaming and planing beyond what we thought would be possible before.
One of my courses was in the afternoon. Being winter, it was already dark when I left school. I walked home in the dark, alone. You taught to watch my back. To know who was around me always. Am I still hyper-vigilant walking alone? Yes. But I also found myself looking up at the moon and stars more. I cannot explain how liberating it was to walk home, alone, in the dark, and not be so fearful. It’s pretty hectic and I wish it for your people.
When we really think about it, Germany and South Africa are so similar in so many ways. Both have tragic pasts and new beginnings. But, it breaks our hearts to see the difference in current affairs.
Anyway, we tried calling but with load shedding (rolling blackouts) the phone was dead and we couldn’t get through. So instead, I wrote you this letter. We miss you, always. Our hopes and dreams didn’t align with what you could give us. We know this move was the best thing for us. Just wanted to check-in.
All our love.