On Carnivals and Gardens

The Oresund Bridge which takes me home to Malmö and home to Cape Town.
The Oresund Bridge which takes me home to Malmö and back home to Cape Town.

When you live in a country like South Africa, which has experienced – and continues to experience – change on a massive scale and where the disaster zones of many other African countries ruled by liberation governments hang over us like a panga ready to strike us into economic oblivion, conversations about where it’s good to live versus where it’s not so good to live become commonplace. And even more so for those of us who are thinking about leaving or thinking about coming home or have come home already or never want to see South Africa and Mrs Balls chutney again. And these debates go back and forth led by words like ‘lifestyle’ and ‘crime states’ and ‘education’ and ‘future’, and they are discussions which can go on endlessly without ever reaching conclusion because fundamentally they are personal and emotional, and more often than not our decisions are based on instinct and circumstance and what feels right for us versus what doesn’t.

But something I have been thinking about lately, and which is not often taken into account in these conversations – but which I believe to be true – is that different places/countries have a different energy (to be a bit shoo-wow and tie-dyed of a morning) which either resonates with ours or doesn’t. And we’ll insist on being practical and citing ‘facts’ as to why we live here versus there or there versus here but I think it boils down to something else. Like we pick partners and friends who ‘click’ with us, we choose the place we call home in much the same way. I have only lived in South Africa and Sweden, but since it would be hard to find two countries more diametrically opposed, I think they’re pretty good examples to use. I’m negative about Sweden sometimes because I was unhappy there, but I also love the country and larger Scandinavia in the way one does when a place has been your home. You can’t live somewhere for a long time and not have it become a part of you.

And I’m also more critical of it than is fair – out of defensiveness – because so many people are aghast that I left a place where everything is ‘perfect.’ And it is kind of perfect in a lot of important ways, but it wasn’t perfect for me. To employ a metaphor, Sweden is like a magnificently manicured garden full of beautiful flowers. There are water fountains, comfortable places to sit and good things to eat. People speak politely in muted tones and the air smells of freshly brewed coffee. You’ll never get lost because there are clearly demarcated paths, and the garden is ringed with stylishly decorated, very high walls that you’d never be able to scale. You are safe and you are secure. You are also walled in. For some people, the walls are a small price to pay for all that comfort. Why would you need to leave when everything is right there at your fingertips? It’s very nice there; very nice indeed.

South Africa is more like a huge, gaudy amusement park where nobody has checked the safely standards of the equipment in a long time. People climb on the rollercoaster and they feel the sun and the wind on their faces and it fills them with a delicious kind of joy, knowing that an any given moment the little car they’re strapped into could careen off the tracks and go sailing into the ether, taking them with it. But, damn that ride is fun. And it seems to go on forever. And everyone is smiling as they go around and around, and life is uncontained and open-ended and there are no barriers and the possibilities are endless. The amusement park smells of dust and oil and boerie rolls and beer, and clowns fall off barrels and people laugh and it’s colourful and in-your-face and totally unpredictable.

And I can understand why people choose the manicured garden. It’s a great garden, as gardens go. But the amusement park has a wildness which can be quite irresistible. Because you might fall off, but you also might not, and in the interim you are having such a damn good time. And objectively, it’s impossible to say which place is ‘better’. South Africa is awesome for some things, and other places are awesome for others. It’s just about what works for you, and where you feel comfortable and ‘right’. Once, about half a year before we moved back to South Africa, I was given a voucher for my birthday to visit an astrologer/healer. He was an African-American who must have been close to 80, and he’d been living in Sweden for most of his life. From his small, warm apartment in the suburbs he read to me my chart, and then out of the blue (not knowing I was leaving) he said something interesting and surprising. He said, ‘I have to tell you something – if you stay in Sweden you’re going to get sick.’ And I knew exactly what he meant. The country’s energy and I were not a good match.

Now when I go back on holiday I’ve learnt to wear one of those ‘balancing’ bracelets (whether they work or not is anyone’s guess) because, even though I’m really happy to be back and seeing good friends and swimming in the warm sea and enjoying the long days of summer, I experience odd physical symptoms – dizziness, disorientation and a vague sense of not getting enough air. I never feel this way in South Africa. And maybe it’s psychosomatic, but I think it’s something else. It’s the walls and the safety and the lack of spontaneity and madness. I’m just more a clowns and rollercoasters kind of person. And we’re all different like that. And sometimes I envy the garden folk their sense of belonging and wish I shared it because all that tinny carnival music can get noisy when you’re feeling tired, and you’re so busy dodging coloured balls there isn’t much time for reflection. But mostly I love the chaos and the freedom it affords. And that, if the mood takes you, you can fly right up to the sky.

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82 thoughts on “On Carnivals and Gardens

  1. Love love love this…. especially the ‘not getting enough air’ in the wrong place… I lived overseas for more than a decade, and only since returning home do I feel ‘grounded’

  2. You describe the energy of South Africa so perfectly. It really resonated with me as it is always so difficult to describe to others. I have visited Australia and found it like the neat and tidy garden but so without life. The energy in SA is just so vibrant and I miss it enormously when I go elsewhere. Thanks, always love your posts.

  3. I can absolutely relate to this. I have the same feeling about coming back to South Africa from England where I now live. I still love SA with all it’s untidy stuff. All I have to do is listen to some South African music to feel as homesick as hell – even after 18 years away.

    But at the same time, I love the gentleness of the English countryside, and yes, some of the order and sensible stuff over here.

    You post came at an interesting time for me – I’ve been coming back to SA more and more for work and am about to come to Cape Town for a month. For the past couple of weeks I’ve had the strange combination of excitement about being in SA again for a while, and knowing that I will miss the quiet sanity of home in England while I am away.

    Sometimes it’s difficult – but generally, I think I’m incredibly lucky to have grown up in South Africa and got to love the energy of Africa, and also have the opportunities I get from living on the doorstep of Europe.

    I know there’s a tendency to be hypercritical of the place you left in order to justify your emotions about leaving. But you are quite right, it is impossible to say which place is better. I try where possible, to enjoy the best of each whenever I’m there.

    Thank you for your coffee shop recommendations, by the way. I plan to try some of them when I am in Cape Town next month.

    1. I know exactly what you mean, Vandy. Sometimes I long for Sweden in a way that surprises me. We didn’t go this year, and I can’t wait to go for the Summer. And yes, we are enormously privileged to be able to have experienced both. All the best x

  4. Yes South Africa is a wonderful country. Unfortunately it is also a country where a four year old can die going to ‘the toilet’ at ‘school’ nwhere you don’t get into medical school no matter how many distinctions you have because you are a white male, where your children must keep their eyes open while you drive your car into the garage incase you are suprised by a gun through the car door. Where it takes a month to renew a car licence disc because the system is offline everyday and you can only use one post office. At this time I fail to see how wonderful the vibe is. And unlike you I have no where to go. When you don’t have the choice it doesn’t feel so liberating at all.

      1. The point is Susan no one who is born here should have to live abroad. This is my country. Why do we have to live here wishing we didn’t? How many of those who live in poverty get the chance to see life here from another perspective?

  5. Susan I love reading your posts, so much of it resonates with me but this one really hits the spot, I’ve just returned from living abroad for around a decade and I felt this way everyday, ‘South Africa, as my brother says, ‘is not for sissies’ but it is also that crazy happy amusement park ride and where I was, was also killing me. I am so so happy to leave behind that dead, safe stifling energy and even though life is up in the air right now, what a happy warm exciting scary air it is..and at least I know I’m alive in it! love your blog, I think every Saffa who lives or has lived away feels what you feel xx

  6. This was simply such a joy to read! So much resonated; I have never lived a outside of SA, but have travelled extensively into Africa ( as part of my job in a previous corporate life) and there were some places I got wildly excited about visiting and some places which was just so-so. Would never trade the experience of it, but glad that I have unshackled myself from a big corporate and that my reality is so close to my dreams now.

    Love your blog, it is also the first time that I ever commented on a blog. Let’s just say the spirit moved me, to go all new-agey! :-)

    X

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    1. What an awesome comment to get! I was reading them out to my mom as she sat in our 1X2 metre swimming pool – first time she’s been in a pool for 100 years, and she doesn’t have a costume anymore so she was fully clothed, lol! – and we both grinned so broadly at this one. Thank you! xxx

  7. You’re right on the button with this Susan. I realised on my lat European trip that I only go away so that I can really appreciate home. I describe Europe as though its coated in Teflon. Like a manicured non stick pan. The forests are all man made. There is no or little enviromen left. I also can’t breathe and after a few days of grey low skies I take to my bed and struggle to get up. I google SA weather and wonder if I should change my ticket. I once just left for Portugal without a visa rather than stay. I get anxious and have near panic attacks riding tube trains. I can’t think of anything else while down there in the the earth except the huge amount of human hair and dead skin cells. This stuff must be down there somewhere. I’m terrified that with global warming this mass will evetually go critical and take on a life of its own. I imagine this huge hairy worm like creature rattling down the tunnels picking off stray commuters on the Piccadilly line. My heart beats faster I break into a sweat. I can longer focus on the scrubbers in their duffle coats chewing gum with their mouths open with crooked teeth. Legs that look like Hoover bags in black tights. Complexions that have the look and texture of a Cream Cracker. I want to be home then. Breathe hear random African voices. Its a mess here. But what a delight.
    Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

  8. You sure have put my feelings about South Africa versus living elsewhere in a nutshell.”South Africa is like a huge gaudy amusement park, where nobody has checked the safety standards of the equipment for a long time” So So true. I loved reading this as I prepare to return home after being away for a few months. Thank you.

  9. Great piece Susan! Being of Danish / South African parentage and having recently moved from Oslo to Cape Town, I share to some degree, a lot of your experiences (based on your articles). This piece hits the nail on the head regarding Scandinavian vs South African lifestyles – thank you for your sharing your reflections on the topic and helping me feel lesser alone in my experiences :-) Cheers.

  10. Having travelled extensively and also deciding to come home when we had our children, I know what you are saying, and it is true. I also much rather prefer the carnival…but it is literally each to their own. And everyone CAN leave a country and go elsewhere it is not impossible so we all need to find our place in the sun, or the grey skies…as long as our souls are happy.

  11. Oh blerry blerry foot stomping head shaking booty making marvelous!!! This IS exactly why I love this zany crazy wild manic on steriods country of ours. Thank you for taking my thoughts and putting them into words

  12. Beautiful post. I am German and have lived here for 6.5 years. I feel like I can breathe here, it is so wonderfully liberating as you call it. For the past year or so I have started to feel differently though. I realize it is time to go back to the place that I can call home. I need to be able to relate to people as I realize just by being from a different cultural background here I cannot. As much as I moan about the German ueber efficiency, cleanliness, and punctuality – I am all that and I miss it here when I don’t get it.
    I think at the end of the day it is wonderful when you can get beyond the ‘grass is greener on the other side’ and just find the place that is right for you with all the goods and bads.

  13. Thank you for this Susan – this is EXACTLY how I feel. 4 Years in North America and 6 years in The Netherlands, I long for that crazy unpredictable, mad roller coaster ride. This living on one LOOOONG straight line has destroyed a part of my soul and my lust for life. The grey days, low cloud, practical, functional lifestyle is not for me at all. I am grateful for this opportunity that I have had and have through this experience met the most amazing, incredible people – many also foreigners living in a temporary limbo – but i long for home. I dream of home, the warmth, sunshine on my face, the wide, beautiful incredible smiles of our people and I cannot wait to get home. Soon soon soon, we will be taking that dream come true flight home and I am laughing with happiness. The negative comment above – all countries have their problems – you exchange one set for another set. Never ever underestimate what being away from your home country can do to ones emotions, spirit and simple enjoyment of life. Staying in your negative way of thinking will be your future – you get back what you give out. Try and look for the GOOD things happening in South Africa and there are many – I read about them every single day, rather than ONLY looking at the negative that the media loves to print. Life is TOO short to be unhappy. I know MANY MANY people over here that are lost, sad, depressed, unemployed, broke, etc – life is what YOU make it. Don’t let others destroy your life.

  14. Feel exactly the same way … my manicured garden was Australia (well for the most part; the Ozzies are not my favourite but it is a stunning beautiful country). I was born and educated here but was lucky to spend a couple of years there working which I thoroughly enjoyed. There was always this invisible pull to come back … love the way you put this though … :-)

    I own the Foodbarn here in Noordhoek with Franck and was wondering if you would like to be the blogger at our next chefs table … check it out and let me know … http://www.thefoodbarn.co.za/la-table-du-chef/

    1. Hi Pete

      I’d love to! I actually interviewed Franck a few years ago and wrote a piece about the Food Barn for Food and Home Entertaining mag, but I’ve never been lucky enough to eat there. That would be fab. I can’t find your personal email address on the site, so please drop me a line – susanannehayden@hotmail.com. Thanks for getting in touch, and for the sweet comment :-)

  15. I love reading your blogs Susan.. I have lived in the UK for 24 years and it will be a very sad day when I reach 28 years as this will mean I have lived half my life here and half in SA. I never intended living here – I only came to visit for a while and then met my English husband. Things have been ok over the years but I have always felt like an outsider (maybe thats just my in laws. hey ho) and my 2 daughters have grown up here. Every time I go home (it always will be) I find it harder to leave and I dream of returning one day.. One day, when visiting my folks, my eldest came back from the beach (she was about 4) and said “Mommy, I love it so much here!” I asked her why and after some thought, she spread her arms out and replied “because I feel so free”.. I have never forgotten this and she in her young wisdom summed it up for me. Even though my beautiful South Africa is still having a lot of problems (as do all other countries in the world, lets not forget) you still have this sense of freedom and with your eloquence, you enable me to explain my passion and pride for South Africa to friends who don’t understand… thank you x

  16. I am an Englishman I move to Africa 5yrs ago during that time I have been round the world a couple of times. The nicest place I have been is Australia its very nice people are nice business was nice. I couldn’t wait to get back to Africa and home.

  17. I always thought the 8th wonder of the world is men’s ego…..but no….its not…It is South Africa.

    I have travelled extensively, loved Australia, were even welcomed by the Oz Astrology Soc while there, as a ‘hobby’ astrologer, but whilst I found it nice and different, it had no character. It was all so bland. On the other hand, I really got hooked onto New York and kept going back for the energy, but a snowy winter and all that concrete eventually got to me, being a Capetonian.

    There is so much energy here as Jeanie D(and she’s done all four corners of the world )on Top Billing described it in one episode, the vibe and energy is alive and it feels like the ground rushes up to meet you (sorry Jeannie, Is that how you said it) well something like that and it is true. I am not a snow/cold person and cannot empathise with Europe and besides, with some social systems where you have nothing to thrive or strive for and everything is done for you, like you’re a baby, and cannot stretch yourself to your ultimate, and around every corner there is little opportunity because of its rules or is it perfection, then no!
    What is it all about without a good ol challenge, to stretch that imagination and soar with your spirit! South Africa is in my soul, the 8th wonder of the world in so many, many..many ways.

    Thanks Susan for a lovely piece. Great to have SA’ns talking.

  18. Your blog just presses all my buttons horses for courses and SA suits me with all the drama and upsets, BUT it is never boring

  19. So tell me, Susan, are you happy to go on living in South Africa or will that apparently lively, curious spirit of yours be longing for yet another experience somewhere else. I too have lived in various places, Paris, when I was young, Holland, newly married with two young children, Bangkok with 3 young children and now flitting between South Africa and England where we have been for 18 years. I am at a point where I want to put down solid roots because I have had my fill of flying and travelling, but up until now there has never been a perfect country for me.. only because the grass was forever greener on the other side. That seems to be human nature…

  20. Hi Susan

    Having lived in the UK for 7 years, and having been back for 7, I absolutely relate to everything you say! Thanks – so nice to have my feelings put into words that I wouldn’t have found myself.

    I am, however, lucky enough to have a Capetonian for a husband. So now we’re both home and glad to be back and raising our little boy here, in the sunshine, close to relatives, etc, etc, etc.

    If this is too personal a question, it’s totally fine if you don’t answer. But I am wondering how it is for your partner? Does he miss home the way you missed home when you lived over there? Because that’s always a dilemma – when one is home, the other isn’t, and vice versa.

    Thanks for your blog. It has put a smile on my face more days than I can count.
    xx

  21. Once again your style is great and stirs up emotions. But you have been down this rd and know that this sparks off a lot of comments, which sorry to say seems why you might be doing a rerun on the subject , after you resorted to blogging about what you and your mom eat at coffee shops ………… But I suppose you have to boost the readership every now and again !

    1. Thanks, Steve. Don’t need to boost my readership, the coffee shop posts do well. This is a huge subject with a lot of angles, and one which is very close to my heart so, sorry for you, I’ll write about it till I’m done :-)

  22. I am a Kiwi living in South Africa… go figure!!! :-)
    I can’t tell you enough how much I love living in this country; I guess I am also an amusement park type of girl. Although saying that, I am also heading to my first home very soon and each time I visualize myself stepping onto New Zealand soil I start to feel very overwhelmed at the fact that I am actually going *home*. I am very lucky, two wonderful countries to call home. Thank you for your posts. x

  23. Just love your blogs!
    I live in Australa now; my husband is English and living here is a “compromise”. I do love our life in Aus; it’s “home away from home” but I miss SA every day. …

  24. Hi Susan, I can relate to your post. I have been living in Stockholm for 15 years and know all about the grey skies and the straight lines of life. I find the winter particularly hard and long. But I do like some many aspects with regards to schooling, gender equality, opportunities for work, nature that is accessible and free and safe, and the water everywhere. The greenery here during the summer is absolutely fantastic. But in three weeks I’m flying back to SA for a holiday to get some sun and experience cheerfulness and smiles and spontaneity…we’re thinking of moving back next year for a while. Maybe our hubbies could meet and exchange ideas? And you and I could go to the beach! Hugs from your second home, Sweden

  25. Brilliant blog…. I even find that to be true of geographical areas within our own country. It could also have to do with the umbilical cord of your place of birth. While I love the energy of Joburg and have lived here for far too may years, I am my true self when down in Cape Town.

  26. Dear Susan, I just have to write and tell you how I adore your blog. EVERYthing you write resonates with me so much. Carnivals and Gardens the most of all. I so envy your ability to put my feelings into words. Please don’t stop. Debbie

  27. Love this post and I totally relate to what you say … I can’t see why anyone could disagree with it to be honest because isnt the ultimate conclusion that we are all different and therefore make different choices? I grew up in SA but have lived in the UK for 15 years now. Whenever I go back I can feel that African energy and warmth and very much have that sense of being “home”, which I miss very much. But I am still I am unlikely to go back permanently because, for me, the compromise of some of the more negative things weigh too heavily – I’m the kind of person who needs to know that the rollercoaster is gonna stay on the track! It is such a personal, emotive decision and we should all get that about this. I do so hope the trolls don’t come back re this post because it so balanced.

    1. Thanks for this! I’ve discovered that some people are not engaging with my words at all, they just want a podium to express their feelings :-) Let’s hope our roller coaster stays on course for a while longer. Cynical as everyone is being, the new DA alliance is making me happy. All the best to you :-)

  28. PS One of the things I miss most about SA is my mum. I was just talking to her yesterday about your coffee mornings with your mum and how much I wished me and my mum could do the same! I have added to it my already very long list of things I am missing out on ;-)

  29. Hallo S – i first stumbled upon your blog when somebody mentioned it on my friend Marie’s webpage as a SA blog to look out for. i laughed and laughed and laughed so loud at the wonderful story you write about coming back to SA and i love what you wrote about the carnival up here. SA is a wonderful place and like you it gets on my wick when people ask me oh did i leave south africa because of the violence et al…It also gets on my wick if people in SA have really unkind things to say about it. SA is still in many ways the land of milk and honey for so many people. I read in the Visi magazine this week about a wonderful Asian girl who talked about her years growing up during apartheid and i thought yes she has something to be sad about. Us that benefited so massively from apartheid just owe the country so much. Although i live in Glasgow we try hard to help in our own little way. We support charities in SA, raise funds for good causes there. We only left because of my husband’s academical career – i love Scotland and in so many ways it has become my adopted home but SA will always be my home and my first love. I think one can only judge if you have lived like yourself in more than one country. Difficult to understand if one has only ever had one country. I would like to answer the lovely conradie lady about her question for example about medical school. Here in Scotland – my husband sits on the committee that finalise the scottish medical students the affluent scots are also upset cause the private school kids that use to get straight A’s and then would get a place in medical school no longer gets that. What they do now is they do an overall assessment of the individuals. And some individuals although their circumstances are not fortunate are more equipped to be trained as doctors as the purely A- graders. I have heard great stories in SA about friends of ours kids that got into medical school not with straight A’s but they were kids that could demonstrate that they worked in the communities, speak an African language et al. The world is changing all over. I think South Africans has a strange perception that it is tough there for white south africans. It is tough all over now. I see in my own organisation we employ highly skilled people with doctorates to work as community workers cause there is no other work available. The era of excess is over. That is not a south african thing. It is a world wide thing. Keep writing. I love it.

  30. Thank you for your blog, yet again it is wonderful to see different perspectives. I’ve been lucky enough to live in England and Scotland for 14 years now. Suffice to say we have decided to return home to bring our 3 kids up. Because this is not home it never has been and it never will be. Life is about discovering different cultures and ways of life. I have enjoyed it. I know I will take a piece of England with me but sadly the chunk of missing Africa cannot be replaced so we are heading back home to family, friends warm sunshine and all the craziness and I cannot wait!!

  31. I just wanted to say that I really enjoy reading your blog. I’m a born and bred capetonian, and have lived in new Zealand for 7 years and UK for 8 years,before that. Your words really resonate with me and I just wanted to say “good job- please keep doing what you do”.
    thanks
    ally

  32. This is a beautiful post, and I really resonate with it, as well as with the Kiwi who lives here. I’m an Aussie whose been here for 6 years now, married to a South African, destined to be a mother to South Africans. The energy in the air here is such a source of life and joy; its infectious and its why I’ve stayed. But I don’t feel a blandness or lack of air where I’ve come from – Australia was my home, its where I was raised, and I love going back to visit. I still call it ‘home’ sometimes. But when we’re there, I get excited to come ‘home’ to Durban. What a blessing to call two places home! So I find joy in that. Thank you for loving your home so much and encouraging other expats and travellers to look for the beauty here.

  33. What a beautiful post (and I really love your blog). As a South African living in New York State, i completely agree. We lived in the Uk for years and then moved to the States for my husband’s job. After the move, close family told me they had been so worried about me because they’d literally seen the colour draining out of me over my time in the UK … i’d become a lot sadder and grey somehow … after living in the States for just a few months, the colour came back – literally in my wardrobe but also in how i felt – more alive again. Although i miss SA a lot, this place feels like home much more than the UK ever did and it’s exactly what you wrote about. I’m so glad i found your blog, it’s a wonderful South African voice when i’m far from home. x

    1. You know, NYC is the one place I seriously regret never having lived. It’s so awesome and yes, I felt that too – I totally ‘clicked’ with it. Sadly, that shop has sailed, so you just enjoy every moment!

  34. Wow, what a plethora of perspectives here! I too, moved away about 12 years ago and now live on the Isle of Skye, North West Scotland, with mountains, rivers, sea et al. What we miss from ‘home’ by way of food and creativity, we sometime recreate right here… to taste and remember the way we grew up. We have a bakery and gallery – make Malva pudding and seed loaf, and occasionally teach bead weaving! My parents owned Hotchi Witchi in Kloof Street for many years, and I love to look at photos and tell my daughter stories, but I strongly believe that we must live in the present – because if you keep reminiscing about the past then you are in the wrong place. I loved this blog because it reminds us that we should resonate with the time and space we are currently in, and if we don’t, it is time to move on, but to be conscious that we can never actually go home to the place in our memories. I worked at Café Mozart in the early nineties, when it had the smallest theatre in Cape Town upstairs (tiny) – good to read your update!

  35. You’ve seemingly touched a nerve, certainly mine. I have lived for decades abroad. In the UK, Switzerland, mostly in the USA, near and in NewYork. I still live there only because my offspring are all Americans. The best I can do is to spend the Northern winters in SA.

    The sentiments you express resonate with me on every level. My SA, ex-pat and American friends think I ‘m crazy and lost touch with reality. Maybe their arguments have great rational merit, but this much is clear to me, when I step off the plane in Cape Town and enter this dangerous place that has lived on the edge of Armageddon forever, I become alive and my senses “fly up to the sky” Go figure.

  36. That was such a lovely description of Africa and the rest of the world. I just wanted to say that I know of 2 or 3 white males, friends of my university going son, who have got into medicine this year and I was able to renew my licence on the same day.

    1. Thank you, Joe! I read something lovely this weekend – ‘The grass is greener where you water it.’ It’s funny how people have this perception of South Africa as being incredibly bureaucratic and inefficient. Of course it is sometimes, but I wish these people would try and get something done in Italy or France or even Sweden. It’s clear that they haven’t been around much. We can be quite on the ball by comparison :-) All the best x

  37. Agreed Susan. My sister owns an international freight company and deal with people all over the world and really, nobody is all that more efficient. We SA’ns are inclined to complain and the ‘nasty’ ex-pats like to think so, for their own good reason.

    1. Trisha, please don’t tar all of us who live away from South Africa with the same brush. I have lived in the UK for 24 years as my English husband’s work is here. I have never been able to call myself an ex-pat and will always be a proud South African. I even registered my children’s births at South Africa House because I needed them to be attached/part of the place I still call home. I have met a lot of South Africans here and only come across ONE who is negative about South Africa. He was my daughter’s orthodontist but even he never managed to put her off falling in love with OUR country nor her hopes to live there one day. It upsets me when people ‘see’ fellow South Africans who live away from their beloved country (for what ever reason) as traitors or something they trod in..

  38. Thanks for another amazing article! You put into words so well what so many of us feel! I have battled with the question of whether to stay or go for many years and am finally at peace with my decision to live out my years in this beautiful country, which we call home! It is an energy! I came back from my holiday in Australia describing it as sterile (and not wanting to emigrate there only after visiting). There is no perfect country, there is onlt the peace you get with being happy with where you are! Please keep on blogging about this subject – it reinforces what so many of us feel! You rock!!!!

  39. My wife asked me to read this blog because we are at that “turning point” where we are trying to decide whether to go to the UK or not. We both lived in the UK for 4 years in 2000 where our oldest daughter was born. We returned to SA because my father passed away and my wife’s father got cancer. We had our second daughter here and we both LOVE the country and are fully aware of the “disadvantages” of the “Garden of Eden” on the other side.
    We have had our house broken into and more recently had my car stolen and 4 weeks later hijacked around the corner from our house. We have also had a number of “close to home” crimes that have led me, in particular, to start thinking of the safety of my children. I am the last one to run away from anything when “times get tough” and believe me when I say, my wife and I have had 5 years from absolute hell…both personal and business.
    To put your analogy into my current perspective is:
    I agree completely that South Africa is like a roller coaster ride and it’s a fantastic thrill while on it and yes, we do derail every now and then, but that’s life. My problem comes in where my once “little girl” is rapidly approaching her late teens and I know what I did at that age, so my concerns become even greater. Unfortunately my children won’t be able to do what we did as teenagers and I’m not going to be there to make sure she is at least buckled in her seat. What if the roller coaster gets stuck on top of one of the bends and I’m not there to help her and she becomes the victim of what is unfortunately a very realistic occurrence in SA. What if she is hijacked and thrown in the boot of her car and later found raped and murdered in a field outside a township….these things happen and I don’t know if it’s fair for me to make the decision to leave her with “that” risk.
    Surely while our children are young enough and we are able to buckle them in and make sure we are with them more often than not. We are also able to take them through the fairground and show them which rides are allowed and which ones are not. As they get older, they want to be able to run off and do ” their own thing” and we as parents have to constantly keep pulling in the reins and try make sure we do the best parenting we can….BUT there is going to come that point when they ARE going to insist that they want to go on the ride alone with their friends and you have to let them do it. I just don’t know if I can stand by the popcorn stand and watch my daughter fall off the roller coaster and plummet to her death….
    Doesn’t it make more sense to let your children ride the roller coaster for majority of their childhood life and then sit down and explain to them that it’s time to leave the amusement park for a few years and go to the park for a change. In the park, the gardens are pretty, but boring and you can always find something to do. It might not be as exciting as the roller coaster but you will be able to go and play with your friends whenever you feel like it and although we will maintain our close family unit, you will be free to go to the parks without the fear of falling off the roller coaster.
    THEN…when they old enough to leave home and make their own decisions, they can decide whether they want to put their clown face back on and return to the amusement park or keep their Wellies on and start pruning the shrubs….

  40. It’s a topic that can be – and is – debated endlessly, and there are no rights and wrongs. We all defend our decisions, whether it’s to leave or to stay, and I defend mine loudly. At the end of the day, you gotta do what you gotta do and what feels right. It’s a fuck up of monumental proportions that the crime pushes us away from a place we love so much. I wish you and your family every peace with your decision, and I totally get where you’re coming from. All the best, friend, and thanks for sharing your thoughts xxx

  41. Wow!!!!
    I love this! It is such a great way to describe it how i feel here.

    Also i feel like people are just more outwardly happy and exuberant in an amusement park than in a garden. I mean the people in garden could be, they probably are, but no way they’ll let you see that!

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