10 years old and living in South Africa. Don't get excited. "OMG she lived in Africa. How cool!" GTFO. If you go as a tourist, you'll only see all the stunning wildlife, national reserves, and beautiful blue coast lines. Yes it's amazing I'm not going to lie. Totally go see it if you have the chance. Live there? A whole different scenario. These beautiful things get stripped away like a bandage while the wound is still open. Well at least for me they did.
I had just come from a place that I considered home and was immersed into something I never wanted to be part of in the first place. I arrived with a negative mindset and I know now that that was by far the worst thing to do when arriving in a new country.
We moved to South Africa because my father was a pastors as well as professor. The language was Afrikaans and we learned it super fast because we called it "baby-Dutch". It was similar in all forms of pronunciation and comprehension so it will always be the easiest language I've ever learned. Even though the language was new, we were a part of a community that was fully Dutch. These people immigrated from the motherland and became a community in Pretoria. It was weird now that I think about it as an adult. These were the people that I can't stand now. The ones who move to a completely different place and settle down but never NEVER become a part of the whole community and culture that is already existent there. Ugh. But, perhaps this experience made me realize my opinion on this matter when I became more mature.
My Dutch language skills became dominate and I feel like because of my age and surroundings, Dutch became so primary. Sure we always leaned towards speaking Dutch at home but I never thought it was my “mother language”. But if this wasn’t, what was? I still consider English being my second language but I was raised learning both languages equally. When French came into the mix after Montreal, I tended to lean towards speaking that with my siblings. Still to this day, we’ll drop a few sentences in French together. Why? Probably talking trash about people around us. Lets be honest. If theres a bunch of people together with my last name and we start a conversation in one language and end in another, we either didn't know the word or phase we needed to move the conversation along, or we may have been talking about you or the people around you. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Back to my time in Africa. I was unhappy. I hated it. Here I was in a place that I totally didn’t want to live and I had just left my home. Home. I didn’t want a new one. I was now stuck in a bloody fucking hot place in December and everyone around us was excited to Christmas and the holidays. Get out. It was fucking hot. I will not have a pool party on Christmas Eve. I just won’t. It’s unnatural. This is not how Christmas was intended to be.
So there I was. Grumpy and freaking out about everything. We lived in Pretoria and I’m not going to lie. It was unsafe. At first it was fine *whatever* we’re all getting used to living in a new place. Don’t let the news get to you. Don’t let peoples stories get to you! But after a while, those bloody murder photos on the front pages of the newspaper and those stories of violence became reality. To the people around me. To my family. When painful things happen to people around you, you’re always thankful it isn't you. But there, everyone fends for themselves. It could be anyone and you could be next. Go outside = Don’t get killed.
Four meters walls with barb electric wiring attached to the tops surrounded every house. Every house. This was our neighborhood. Well more like our compound. Every neighborhood had their additional gates and fencing surrounding the area. And this was considered normal. Everyone had a minimum of 2 dogs. Not intended to be your pets. They’d be trained to rip apart anything that came over your walls. Good luck sleeping.
Even though the gun shot wounds on my fathers forearms will haunt me till the day I die, there were beautiful memories that happened while we lived there. We always would go to the Cape and spend our holiday in February. It was our time to regain our strength before returning to “war zone” up north. Lined with wineries, good food, beaches and oceans the Cape was everything. If you know me, you know I get most of my joy from the water. I know this joy has been passed down to my from my mother. Oh the beauty she had while she was near the water. The happiness that was in her life when she was on the beach with her duckling children. All the happy memories I have from living in South Africa are from the coastline. I rarely have a memory from up north that is affiliated with happiness.
If you’re wondering if my feelings and thoughts towards my time in Africa are the same for my whole family, you’d be wrong. Both my parents and siblings all have their likes and dislikes from living there. I had a sister stay and complete a whole university degree there. That’s a long time. She loved it there. That is her home. Her roots. My parents returned a few years later and continued their life there for a while longer. They loved the sun. Will I ever return? No. If I can stay away from that place, I will. If I’d ever go to therapy *laughs hysterically*, I’m sure they’ll say I experienced traumatic things that a regular 10-12 year old shouldn’t, but I already know that and I’m a Neele so we power though these “experiences” and continue our lives with fire and perseverance. We all dealt with our time living in Africa differently and at our own pace.
We learned and we moved on, or we learned and we stayed.