Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Being back in South Africa is much harder than I thought.

I am finding living back in South Africa SO much harder than I ever expected. I feel that I need to communicate that, but I am scared of trying to go into the why's of it. I have a feeling that articulating it would piss a lot of people off and I have no desire for that. Not that anyone reads this blog, hello I have had a wordpress blog for years. I think the reason I have come back to blogger is because I want that anonymity again.

Anyway, even saying that I find living in South Africa hard seems wrong to me. No matter how hard it is for me, it is a million times harder for all the people living in poverty, and they don't exactly have a choice about being here or not.

And this is part of the problem. Trying to align my own struggles with those of other people in this country and still feel that I have the right to feel how I feel.

I did not realise how angry people are here. And for good reason! But the anger scares me even though I know it is fully justified. I am one of those people who is not able to block these things out, the emotions of others affects me greatly. I have always had this issue. And this is probably why I am struggling so much.

It breaks my heart that people are so angry. It breaks my heart that for many people, I am a symbol of the cause of that anger. I was naive before. I thought that people got along. And they do. They really do. But it seems to be less common than anyone could wish.

Everyone, of every culture, is very nice to me here. But there are these huge barriers that seem to prevent us from connecting. I am not used to this. England is a melting pot of every culture, and the only way to survive is to connect, instantly. It is easy for me. I have made friends with people from every culture I can imagine.

And yet in South Africa it is completely different. The barriers are there and I can't even put into words how they work. One day they might go away. Maybe? But I will be old or dead. It makes me so sad. Because I like pretty much everyone. I want to connect with people and have that easy friendship that rises above culture. And it is possible. But it is much harder than I thought. We have a lot of misconceptions about each other.

People are friendlier here, much friendlier than in the UK, so it is not all bad. But there is a general wariness that we have around each other. And the anger, it is there, so strong I cannot ignore it.

 The thing is, there is so much good actually! So much. But the bad tends to dominate my psyche. I have always been this way.

My problem is that negative emotions overwhelm me until I cannot see anything else. Other people can see the positive and live positively, but the anger that is bubbling up in this country overwhelms me, and it scares me too. I do believe this country is in for a rough ride some day. When, I do not know. (Well, for many people it is already a very rough ride indeed. Perhaps what I mean is that we could be in for something that affects privileged people badly. Will the people who are struggling now struggle more? Perhaps. I think we need to chat to Zimbabweans about whether they are better off now or before Mugabe went a bit extreme. I bet there are a wide range of opinions on that!).

At the same time, things have always worked a little differently here. We have never followed the traditional African path in terms of history and politics. Not saying this is a good or a bad thing, but South Africa has had a unique path and maybe the current anger will rouse something slightly different from the usual. Who knows?

Of course another thing I struggle with in South Africa is guilt. In Cape Town you can encounter people with difficult and sad stories every time you leave the house, multiple times a day. I know that I am lucky to be the one hearing the story rather than the one living the story. The contrasts in this country are too great. I have never considered myself wealthy. But to a person who earns R1000 a month or less, of course I am wealthy.  Shockingly wealthy. My monthly grocery bill alone comes to a lot more than R1000 I can tell you that.

And so I am both wealthy and not. In some circles I would describe myself as ok, as well-off. Once we were struggling. In other circles we are incredibly wealthy and the thought of describing my past as "struggling" in this context is a joke.

 These things, they require some mental gymnastics that are difficult to negotiate.

I always thought I was made of stronger stuff. But I am learning that my very noble thoughts about my self, others and the world very rarely translate into noble action.

And so I am struggling. And I am disappointed in myself.

Apologies to any South African who may find this offensive in some way. I mean no offence at all. I always seem to struggle with things that other people think are just plain crazy. 


Louisa said...

Someone is always reading ;-)
You do have a point though - there is a lot of angry in the air.

po said...

Thanks Louisa, I am glad it is not only me who notices this. I don't have a tv but whenever I see the news all the protests and strikes and all these other things do show signs of a lot of anger!