Is the grass greener on the other side, away from South Africa?
Sometimes when the grass appears to be greener on the other side, when you get there you find that what appeared to be lush green grass is nothing more than toxic weeds.
While cutting up breadrolls on the morning of International Day at our school on Saturday morning, I was pondering the question, "Why do South Africans turn their backs on the country of their birth?" I suppose, when you are the only South African on the staff of the school who is prepared to admit they're South African, and you're faced with 200 breadrolls to cut open, this is the kind of thing you think about. As I cut open each breadroll to make boerewors rolls with my homemade boerewors (as you can't buy anything like that where I live), I felt myself becoming more and more patriotic. I'm proud to be South African. I'm quite happy to single-handedly represent my country and do all the work and man a stall by myself on International Day. I can't understand why the other South African teachers on our staff helped at the New Zealand stall. It pains me when they mock the Springboks and support the All Blacks. It kills me when I see their Afrikaans sounding names on our school website, with the New Zealand flag next to it. It hurts me no end when they tell all the other staff how bad South Africa is, how bad the crime is and that the country is going to the dogs. It upsets me when they make fun of me for staying a South African. I find it amusing, that these so-called Kiwis only stayed in New Zealand long enough to get a New Zealand passport.
South Africa has many positives and so much potential. It is a beautiful country with amazing scenery and vibrancy. Whenever I arrive at the airport in South Africa, I nearly cry with joy. People are friendly, helpful and smile at you. You feel welcomed. We did bad things in the past, but so did many other countries. We moved on from it. Other countries are trying to learn about reconciliation from South Africa. Where else can you fire a president and have a smooth transition a few days later.
I have found that many people who are negative about South Africa, are only doing it to try and justify why they ran away. They'll tell you the same horror story about a friend of a friend of a friend who was carjacked, that you heard three years earlier from somebody else. The same email about a baby being raped 8 years ago is still doing the rounds. South Africans are their own worst enemies and aren't doing a very good job of promoting South Africa to the media.
So, is the grass greener on the other side? After a messy divorce, I wanted to put a lot of distance between my husband and myself. I packed up everything and headed to New Zealand with my children. I left a vibrant country to enter a grey world. New Zealand, especially Auckland, gets a lot of rain. People wear grey and black. They call South Africans Jaapies and mock us even though we won the Rugby World Cup and they are the chokers. The children are rude and obnoxious. Teaching in South Auckland was one of the most horrible teaching experiences of my life. The standard of education is not good. Compared to South Africa, the cost of living is very high. Both partners have to work and you can't afford a mortgage on a single income. People are surface-friendly, but prefer to stick to their own, resulting in pockets of South Africans living close to each other and socialising mostly with each other. The houses are leaky wooden boxes that your furniture you bring with you won't fit in. I stayed there for six years as I didn't have the money to pack up and leave. Longer than the other South African family at our school. I have to be honest, I did get the citizenship forms. I couldn't bring myself to fill them in. I will always support the Springboks.
If you think you are safer elsewhere, think again. Every lawnmower I ever owned in New Zealand was stolen. I had my first break in after I had only been there for two weeks. They stole all my sons clothes and the TV remote and left behind the TV. The big burglary, the year before I left, they cleaned the house out completely. I opened my front door and all that was left was the dust that had collected under the furniture they removed. They have huge drug problems, domestic violence and you read about babies being beaten to death with toilet brushes. Crime is increasing. I was never a victim of crime in South africa.
Now I live in China. People are generally unfriendly, push you all the time, hoik and spit right next to you. I've had 2 cellphones pick-pocketed, a camera pick-pocketed, a laptop snatched while I was having lunch at Burger King, and a break-in where they stole my new camera, laptop and cellphone from next to my bed while I was sleeping. Oh, and they stole three meat cleavers which the police say they would have used on me if I had woken up. So, is the grass really greener elsewhere?
I know people in the UK who battle to make ends meet as the cost of living is so high. I've met many South Africans in New Zealand who want to go home but can't afford to. I know of South Africans in Canada who want to go home. I'm not sure about Australia, but then, they are clamping down on immigration. With this current global crisis, I think home might be the best place. So, is the grass greener elsewhere? I definitely don't think so. Every country has its problems, maybe South Africa has more than others, but why don't you rather work at helping to improve the land of your birth, rather than running away to a life that might end up far worse than you've got now.