Dear South Africa
I’d like to tell you a couple things that are on my heart – some things that have been stirring over the past days and more poignantly since a difficult conversation yesterday. I have a couple things to say, but perhaps most importantly I love you and have not forgotten about you.
Yes I have loved travelling Italy for the past three weeks. I have been bowled over by beauty and captivated by culture. I have tasted meals that have sent me on gastronomical cartwheels of delight, and stayed in spaces so beautiful that had you had tried to describe them to me they would never have lived up to the expectation. Some of these places have been incredibly opulent and definitely out of reach of the ordinary person – possibly even 95% of them. Of course you do remember that most of them I haven’t had to pay for, and have had the privilege of experiencing as part of my newly found love for writing, and being asked to be a travel writer. Yes some of my word allowance will be spent on describing these things and places, but don’t worry… there will still be plenty words left over to write about you. I long to continue to write about my difficult and joyful experiences along the way: the stars and the scars that both make up South Africa. I have a slightly nervous chuckle that I now have a little extra authority to do so – I hope I do it justice.
I have not forgotten about you South Africa. Almost every day where some internet connection has allowed me some time of connection to the outside world I have spent much time pouring over articles of what is happening in the (hurting) beloved country. I have lamented deeply over what has been happening and even in the midst of my tiredness and personal grief, have wanted to be there to add the little balm that I could. No, I have not been ignoring what has been happening – I think the many tourists who have asked me about the situation in South Africa may have later regretted asking, as my answer has often been an hour response… comprised of facts, opinions, stories and emotion. I have been processing, and you have never been far from my mind.
I also wanted to let you know, that as much as it pains me to tell you this, you are not the only land that is hurting (of course you already knew this). A frightening experience in Ethiopia that left me wet, stranded in a forest and robbed, reminded me of how desperate people are. Speaking with Europeans about the immigrants entering their lands reminded me of how varied and confused people are in their response to poverty and fear of strangers. Talking with Americans about their prevailing political and social systems, reminded me that we’re not the only ones struggling with racism, classism, and the power struggles that intertwine each of these. I assure you the beautiful sights that I have seen have not hidden these from sight or heart.
In truth, I would love to have escaped all of this and been able to walk from the chaos into a self-constructed nirvana, aided by the gorgeous landscapes and vistas that surrounded me. Unfortunately even in the most isolated of these spaces I have not been able to escape and I have thought of you.
Oh, in case you are wondering if I wrote this letter to you, or to the two or three whose critical words have recently unsettled me so, I’ll be honest. I started writing this to them, but in the process of writing this brief letter something has changed. I’ve felt a little more at ease and I think I can now say with conviction that I’m writing to you – and probably for my own sake rather than anyone else’s. Thank you for listening. You have heard a thousand-fold words over the years. Where did you learn such patience? Many more weighty have been offered to the land than these, but I add them because I want to – neigh, I need to. Whilst I grieve at losing/moving away from my home, job and vocation, and losing my family to a foreign land, I am grateful that I am not loosing you. That brings me comfort.
See you in two days South Africa,