My journey started 25 years ago in King Williams Town, a city in South-Africa’s Eastern Cape, where I was born to a South-African dad and a Zimbabwean mom.
We soon moved to Maidstone, a little town in KwaZulu-Natal,
where I only spent a few childhood years yet the memories that were made during this time are to this day some of my dearest. It was amazing. My mom was a primary school teacher, my dad an engineer, we had a house with a big garden, dogs and cats and even went to church on Sundays. We seemed to have this life thing seriously sorted.
Looking back, my big brother and I were inseparable. Everywhere he went, I followed – which would drive him utterly nuts. And I still do that, I drive him very close to the insane but that’s what little sister do. Plus, after years of having been told horror stories in the dark, I surely have earned my rights. I honestly had the best days with him. I remember playing cops and robbers outside, swimming in the local pool, watching 90’s television – as much as we were allowed to – Baywatch, Gladiators, Goosebumps, Spicegirls – you name it, we binged it, staying up long after bedtime, getting into trouble for being our naughty little selves and him always taking the blame, always defending me.
Things seemed carefree. There was a structure that seemed so indestructible, so safe. I never thought of things ever changing. I did not know it then but this life would later become the before part.
I did not know it then but this life would later become the before part.
When I was in first grade, my parents made the decision to move the family across the globe. I remember my dad showing us a book of Germany, both my brother and I sharing his lap, looking at pictures of old castles, not completely understanding what it was that he was trying to say. At the time it wasn’t clear to me that moving meant leaving. As a child and even during my teenage years I could not fully comprehend what the motives, the ultimate reasons for the move were but later on it would start to make more sense. My dad had been offered a good job at an international company and even though I believed we were living the perfect life, things must have also been difficult. The discussions my parents must have had when we were fast asleep, the sleepless nights, the worries they shared when we weren’t around. South-Africa struggles with high numbers of crime which has also affected my family, causing great loss and everlasting pain.
So we moved to Germany and out of all places we moved to Ruppertsberg, a small village in the Palatinate region with a population of about 1,000. And I’m telling you, everything was different, the houses, the streets, the people, the food, the smell, the language, we – we were different. And me oh my did we have them people confused. We were the Africans in small town Germany, foreigners, strangers and oh so far from home…
Reflecting on it now. I don’t know if my parents would have made that move had they known how hard it would become. How hard it is to leave the only life you have ever known behind. To leave your friends, your family. To get through the first years in which internet was not yet a thing and the only contact home were letters or occasional very expensive international phone calls. No, to make that decision all over again, I don’t know if they would.
Nevertheless, the after-part was filled with incredibly joyful events, my younger brother was born, we got to experience a new culture, a new way of life. We were able to go on holidays in different European countries and mostly we experienced a security that we did not know existed before. Simple things like leaving the windows open even at times when we weren’t home, seemed so neat. We felt protected and therefore experienced a different kind of freedom. I loved the fact that my friends and I could ride our bikes back home in the middle of the night after a party or a Winefest, not fearing any negative consequences. Or being able to live in a society in which the social and healthcare system works. We got to experience a safety that might have been worth the sacrifice.
When you leave your home and spend a considerable amount of time in a new country, this new country becomes your present but it never replaces your roots. And this strange thing happens, where you always compare the now with the past. You long for it, yet when you go back, you realize that the memories you have carefully treasured over the years and the reality might not correspond anymore.
To be continued…