I’m writing this post from The Eastern Cape in South Africa. We came out here for the Christmas holidays, to see my in laws and catch some Winter sun.
I’ve been coming to South Africa regularly for the last ten years with my Husband and each time i come back i learn more about this Rainbow Nation from a local non-tourist perspective. Each time i fall head over heels in love with its topography; it is an insanely beautiful Country which is still largely unspoilt. It is hard to not get swept away with romanticism and move here permanently, which i could as the Wife of one of Southern Africa’s own. For all it’s beauty and sunshine it is still very much a Third World Country and still living in the shadow of Apartheid and poverty on a scale – for Whites and Blacks like no other. It will take generations to repair providing an elected Government manage well and effectively.
The Have’s and Have-nots are plain to see and its depressing to witness so much struggle living side by side. It is easy when here to remind myself how to show thanks and gratitude for all that i have and the opportunities my family have coming from a developed Nation and how to not waste anything; food, clothes, toys. Everything can be recycled or found a home for. This is one of the many things i love about SA. Nothing goes to waste.
When i came to South Africa in February of this year I met Elizabeth a Zimbabwean girl working at the family house we stayed in. A Church going young girl who was grateful for a job and sent her money back home to her family. One day she asked me why i had thrown my baby’s vest in the bin. They were badly milk stained, bobbly through over washing and a little too tight for my cherubic bubba. She told me with a mixture of sadness and disbelief in her eyes but not with an ounce of embarrassment that what i had, she did not have and what she had, another did not have. If there were things i no longer wanted I must give to her and not throw away. She could always find a home for or try to fix them, especially baby clothes as her Sister had just had a baby.
I refuse to feel shame for throwing the vest away, how could i possibly understand the needs and wants of others in abject poverty when i am from such a different Consumerist Nation but seeing what i see, I am able to make a few changes to help others and i do. It’s having an awareness that can make all the difference.
My Sister in Law keeps left overs the family no longer want aside and each Monday Jacob, a beggar rings their intercom asking for any scraps they can spare. She dutifully passes them over along with anything else she can spare but mindful of her generosity bringing all the vagrants to her door. She can only do so much, after all. She bought Jacob a big box of biscuits for Christmas and his gratitude shone out of his smile.
I tell you all this not to depress you but to let you know how life is here and it is wrong to assume poverty is localised to only the Black communities, far from it. Many educated Whites are struggling to find jobs through Affirmative Action and those people that can flee abroad in search of opportunities that their mother Country can no longer provide do so, like my Husband. They remain forever homesick and visit often though. No Country; Developed or otherwise are without their issues that must be said and South Africa is no different.
I am not qualified to make judgements or accusations for what is wrong or right about a Country i know only through holiday visits. I only have a wife’s perspective of marrying a man from a Country that i will never truly understand for its vibrancy of cultures and creeds. When we come back here i see a side to my Husband that feels a stranger to me, his ease of dealing with another Currency, his understanding of other languages – Afrikaans, Xhosa, even his knowledge of what direction the wind blows and where the best places to surf, tan or take our kids for the day. It’s all so different for me and the life we have back home in the UK.
I marvel at our differences and the love we have found bridging these gaps. I love South Africa, it’s people, its way of life, its eternal optimism but most of all i love it for making the man i married who he is and showing all this to me; An English wife in South Africa.