I’ve been in and out of South Africa quite a bit these last few years, but going back after two years was all new to me. It felt incredibly strange if I’m honest with you. I flew from Amsterdam to London, and after a semi-short wait in London, it was off to Johannesburg. As I couldn’t book it all in one go, I then had to go through passport control, get my big luggage bag, go back to the departures area, check-in for my next flight, have my bag checked in again, go through the gates and passport control before finally sitting down for my last flight. Fuck me, that’s a horrible sentence. You would think I’ve gotten the hang of this already but nope. You get this mess. It was quite a crazy travel which is absolutely nothing compared to the true nightmare travel back to the Netherlands but that puppy deserves a blog of its own…that and I kind of want to wait for the airplane company to come back to me with their compensation check before I say anything. I’m getting slightly of track.
The days leading up to flying back to South Africa felt strange. I booked my tickets a week before my flight, but I knew in the back of my head that it’s time. It’s been a traumatic year and we had a lot of scares with my father. I needed to see him. I just didn’t know when. It was hard to decide when it would be the right time. These last few months, there was a good three times (that I can remember at the top of my head) that I oh so desperately wanted to hop on a plane and see my family.
- When my dad had his heart scare
- When my dad heard he was losing his leg. He had a goodbye leg party and I really wanted to be there for him.
- When my dad had the big operation (amputation) which turned into a massive health scare when a piece of his colon died. He was incredibly close to death. It was terrifying. A part that truly makes my blood run cold is that even if I hopped on the plane the very second we heard things took a bad turn, I never would’ve made it back in time. That’s not something you think about when you move to the other part of the world.
It’s been a rough year for my dad. His strength is truly inspiring. When life throws him curveballs and forces his face in the dirt, my dad finds the strength to lift his head, push his body off the ground (against the weight that is the disabled life), get up and fucking walk. I get that will to just push through no matter how bad it gets from him.
It felt surreal to prepare to fly back to South Africa though. I was incredibly excited to see my family and my best friend before she is off to the other side of the world again. I was excited to buy some clothes (it’s cheaper so I splurged and bought a lot of underwear) and get tattoos (again, it’s so much cheaper). I was excited, I truly was…but fuck me, it’s felt so strange. The second I landed in Johannesburg, it just felt so weird. Suddenly I was hearing Afrikaans all around me. Suddenly I was between those familiar shops and able to purchase my favorite candies from my childhood. It felt so strange. Oh, and suddenly I was pushed back into the not so great parts of South Africa. I don’t want to shit on my country too much but it would be foolish and reckless of me if I don’t stress just how dangerous things are now. Please proceed with caution if you happen to visit South Africa. So, well someone tried to rob me the second I stepped out into South Africa. Yeah. Welcome home, I guess? I literally walked out of the gates, someone immediately flanked to my side (one of those taxi drivers but who knows if that is his actual occupation) and quite forcefully tried to get my bags off me. I shrugged him off, looked him in the dead in the eye and told him I don’t need his help. I will fucking scream like a banshee if he pushes this. He backed off, and I went on my merry way. It’s really sad but I would be lying if I said I didn’t chuckle once I was back in the hustle and bustle. It was a reminder you know. Oh, this is why I don’t want to live here. It’s not safe. The lack of basic safety is something I revisited with a second-hand book owner. She had the normal security gate at the front of her shop to buzz customers in and well…I don’t see it very often in the Netherlands so it was a shock to the senses. It all came back to me. How limited you are in South Africa, especially as a woman. You can’t drive around at night. You can’t walk by yourself (not even with your dog on the beach). It’s even fucking dangerous for you to be at your own shop, in the public with an open door. That’s horrible. It’s not like I’m being a paranoid nutcase either. My mom alone is a prime example of two of those icky things I just mentioned. While dropping off a friend in front of her house at night, someone bashed through the window and tried to rip the car keys out of her hands. She came back with bruises and a fear – a deep-rooted fear that only grew. Not that long after the attempted car high-jacking, my mom was stabbed and robbed on her way from work. I’m not saying the Netherlands is perfect. Crimes happen here…but it’s not a supernormal occurrence. It’s not something almost everyone can say, oh this and that happened to this person I know.
I love South Africa. It will always hold a soft place in my heart…but I’m grateful to no longer live there. The life quality is just better here in the Netherlands. My future and my children’s future are brighter. You can’t fault someone for wanting a better life. But…let’s move on to the main point of this blog. Or why I started writing it in the first place. You’ve seen this in the title but I’m going to say it anyway. I felt like a stranger in my home country. Everything felt strange. Things that were normal to me for most of my life now felt strange. I’ve forgotten so many of those little things that it caught me off guard.
- At the shops, when you want to pay with your card. You give your card to the cashier.
- Someone also packs away all your groceries or well anything you’re buying in plastic bags for you.
- Driving on the other side of the road…I quickly fell into the typical European role by driving on the wrong side of the road. It was scary and stressful.
- The Netherlands is a flat as can be where South Africa is rich with mountains. I grew up with a mountain in the background. It’s one of the things I miss most but where it was absolutely wonderful to have it around me again, it felt strange. Foreign almost. I’m not used to it anymore.
- The language…I almost never speak Afrikaans anymore and since I’ve started to speak Dutch almost every single day…well, let’s just say my Afrikaans is horrible. Beyond horrible. What felt weird to me was hearing it around me again.
- Just daily things. The traffic lights, the stop streets, the cars, the town layout…everything.
My home country felt strange to me. I felt like a stranger…a European tourist visiting. Although it was something that has crossed my mind before, this trip really installed it deep inside my mind. South Africa is no longer my home country. Yes, it was where I was born and where I spend most of my life…but it’s not my home. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I no longer belong there…but I’m no longer pure. I don’t know. I’m still a South African but after being abroad for so long, I have learned new ways of life. I’m a Dutchie too. It’s a really weird feeling to explain and I’m probably doing a shit job at it too. I just wanted to get this off my chest.
It’s not something you really think about too much when you make that massive leap. I sometimes don’t give myself enough credit. I left everything I’ve ever known, everything normal to me, and moved to a new country on the other side of the fucking world. It’s really fucking big. It’s also really hard. You’re far away from family and friends. You can’t be there to support or hug them on special occasions…or in difficult times. It’s a big move. I don’t know what else to say. That’s all I can say for now, to be honest. Maybe I will think and feel different after my next visit in a few years. I don’t know yet but what I do know is…that I’m not alone in this. My best friend who has spent quite a few years abroad knew exactly what I was talking about. You’re just not the same after experiencing a different way of life for a long period of time and coming back…it just feels strange. Fuck, I’m a great blogger. Anyway, let’s end my (and probably your) misery and wraps this one up.
Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!
PS I can tell you now though, my Dear Diary blogs is probably always going to be like this. All over the map and a bit chaotic. Just like my life.