Tuesday, 17 March 2015


One day last week was filled with my people. My far-away people. Somehow it lined up wonderfully and I caught up with various friends and family, hearing about their everyday, chatting about silly and not-so-silly things. These are the moments where I think: hmm, maybe, when the end of this M comes, you should go back. They are all there. You could make something of yourself there.

I should probably get rid of the binary oppositions that I see as 'here' and 'there', as being 'far' or 'near', since they aim at differentiating emotions into clear, definable sets of rules. But this situation is not so clear. It is not so easy. Everything changes, evolves, into a different beast, but the same heart beats at the centre of it all. 

I read Why I’m Moving Back To South Africa by Jonny Steinberg, and could relate very well to some of his reasons for returning to the motherland. South Africa is hands coming from the earth and grounding you, keeping you, irrespective of where you might go. Despite the violence, the corruption, the load shedding, despite everything that is bad and that makes you want to love it less, it always pulls you back in. We leave to build lives in other places, safer places, and yet I feel as though elsewhere it is precisely this safety that frustrates me. 

Of course it is wonderful to walk home by myself at 4 in the morning. Public transport is a blessing. The currency having value equally so. But nothing is risked. Life consists of insuring yourself against the possibility of something bad happening. Everyone has their own hardships to deal with, and I realise that here all I see is the exterior of a house that I did not build, but it seems that people live such comfortable lives. They are afforded the luxury of not having to worry about survival since all the insurances are a bubble wrap for bad times. And yet they still worry, still bicker, still constantly criticize a system that to a foreign eye seems to work despite it being a bureaucratic nightmare. 

Steinberg writes: 
I can take in the washed-out light and the expanse of green and I can feel melancholy or light or get lost in private thoughts. But the people who pass are wafer thin. I cannot imagine who they are. It doesn’t matter enough. There is too little at stake. I am in essence alone.

This is complaining at a higher level, I know this. I know that I am privileged to be able to study here, to receive support from the government, to live unafraid and not be as suspicious of strangers. I know that my friends here are good people; I know that this is a good life. And yet there is an undercurrent of not risking anything. I need risk to know that what I am doing is worth doing. If there is no chance of failure, how will you know to work as hard as possible at something? It is asking "what sort of life is worth living".

 Steinberg concludes:
That is what going home means for me. It is to stand outside myself and watch my bourgeois life prodded and pushed and buffeted around by lives quite unlike my own. It is to surrender myself to a world so much bigger than I am and to the destiny of a nation I cannot control. In this surrender is an expansion, a flowering, of what it means to be alive.
At this moment, I am not returning home. In 6 months, perhaps. Or in 4 years. But at this moment, I also know that not going home is not an option in the search for a life worth living.

(The irony of me posting an ad by an insurance company that exemplifies SA when I complain about Germany being over insured)

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