Saturday, January 17, 2009

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now...

Another Saturday, another birthday party.
And again the topic of leaving South Africa came up in the conversation. somewhere between the best age to stop breastfeeding and the anticipation of the new school year beginning this week.
It seems to crop up every time a group of thirty-something suburbanites congregate and appears in at least one newspaper or magazine a month.
Being the mediaphobe that I am I seem to panic less than some of my friends and acquaintances, although Jacob Zuma's latest announcement that he plans to banish all "bad" (can't recall his actual words) women to the fringes of society has me a little concerned because I think I may fall into that category; I have been known to wear the odd mini skirt.
It is sad to be losing so many good comrades to more stable countries where one can actually pull into one's driveway without fear of being mugged. (I kid you not, this is a regular occurrence.)
This afternoon alone I found out that one family's plans to explore life in Austria are coming along and another good friend's application for a scarce skills visa for New Zealand is pretty much in the bag.
I personally am torn. I had made the decision ten years ago to leave South Africa for a number of reasons and find a home in a country where I had to grapple with fewer issues of History, racial identity and good old fashioned middle class white guilt. I enjoyed my time in the Northern hemisphere and could quite happily have settled in North America or Europe. But with the arrival of our first child we decided to return to South Africa for the usual reasons; family, friends and the outdoor lifestyle of Cape Town.
When I went back to work I decided that the only way I could stay in SA was if I made my work trying to be part of the solution for some of the social ills caused by our past. I have been fortunate enough to be able to do so thus far, but constantly have to remind myself that I cannot singlehandedly repair hundred's of years worth of damage. And try not be overwhelmed by the suffering of the children of Africa.
I do wonder whether I am doing my daughters a disservice by staying in South Africa with all its social problems, seemingly immanent political violence and over the top crime rate. I also struggle with my constant feelings of being at a party to which I was not invited and where I am not really welcomed. But then I climb as far up Table Mountain as a two year old companion can manage, or zip to the beach for an hour before work or see a child getting a wonderful education because I sat behind a desk for six hours and worked on her bursary application and think that I really can't imagine living anywhere else.
Well, unless anywhere had a Michaels and a Starbucks...


Debbie said...

I am so glad you stopped by my blog. I am thrilled to find you. I had a dear friend who had grown up in South Africa so reading your post is a lovely reminder of her. I can also understand your dilemmas. I'll be interested in seeing you work through them.

forever folding laundry said...

What an interesting peek into your life! Thanks for sharing some of your struggles - I'll be back. Thanks for coming over to my blog.

Alan said...

If you are interested in advice from an internationally wandering, save the world cynic, keep reading...

The needy are everywhere. If you want to help there always people who need help. SO, do what is best for you and yours. Go where you can be free enough to blossom, and your kids can have the future choices you want them to have. It won't be perfect, we are pretty crappy with each other every where. But, if you are comfortable and happy, your kids will have a chance at rising above the fray. If you hate where you are (even a little bit) you transfer that attitude to your kids and they are stuck with it for the rest of their lives.

Dealing with that now in my world.

Sending you lots of energy and love. A./AFoB

Fioleta said...

Nowhere on earth can be perfect, and yet I believe it is possible to create own happiness wherever one is as our feelings depend on our perception of the world around us. One person may only see the bad, yet another will find the good in the same place/situation.

I find it hard to be away from my family and friends, specially because I feel much more comfortable, outgoing, confident in Oz than I do in UK. But things being as they are, I just have to look at the bright side of life.

Hope you'll be able to make the decision that will be the best for you and your family.

Annie said...

Well....I would hate to fear being mugged in my driveway, but have the feeling that otherwise your life sounds far better than that I have here in the US.....where there is nothing but news of lost jobs, shortened hours, reduced pay, foreclosed houses, etc.

I decided to go blog hopping for ten minutes to salve my ruffled nerves after opening the notice from our credit card company that declares we have a new interest rate! A variable 26%-29%! I'd just love to go have tea at someone's home with a bit of sun thrown in for good measure.

(Visiting via Fioleta's blog....)

Kinsey said...

There's no Michaels, but you really ought to come help us start a lovely goat farm in Spain. Or Wales. We haven't decided yet.