I have been in South Africa for 12 weeks nearly now and I’ve been trying to think of a way that I can express how my feelings towards this country are, as there are so many things to talk about both positively and negatively so I think a good old-fashioned letter may well do the trick… writes Andy Daniel.
Dear South Africa,
Firstly, can I thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me stay in your beautiful country. It truly looks and feels sensational. The mountains alone were worth the air fare and I have promised myself never to take them for granted as their natural beauty takes my breath away on a daily basis.
You should be immensely proud of your people as well. They are some of the friendliest and most helpful I have ever met. Any time I have needed help I have asked and they have delivered. Whether that is family members, established friends and neighbours or just Joe Public on the streets, they have made me feel most welcome.
I have met a few rogues as well but don’t worry, it’s not just you that has them. I have met hundreds around the world and I don’t want you to feel like people are picking on you simply because they love highlighting this and talking about it on Facebook constantly. I used to live in London and it’s full of rogues.
The weather has been great as well I must say. It’s winter now and it’s going to be 28 degrees today. For an Englishman that is sensational. I am getting some funny looks off people as I waltz around in my shorts as they are wearing puffer jackets and scarves but I think it sparks good conversation and these people aren’t rogues, they just think I’m a bit strange which I am comfortable with.
I also enjoy the rain that you have because it is so dramatic. It rains with purpose and fills the precious Dams. In the U.K. you get this sort of half arsed rain that just sticks to you and annoys you. It’s pretty depressing actually. You should definitely rain more often. People would be really happy.
My two daughters are also thriving here. They love the outdoors and it’s saving me a fortune on shoes as they are never wearing them. They watch less TV and stupid surprise egg on my phone as they would rather be outside on the trampoline or helping Mikaela in the garden. The joy of watching my children with so much freedom at home and at parks, playing fields or wine farms warms my heart greatly.
Kids are allowed to be kids here and not governed by Health and Safety laws. Little Issy fell off her bike twice the other day but she just got back up, dusted herself off and cracked on. She grazed her knee and her hand but that’s what kids do. Wiped away the tears and got herself to the field to kick the ball around barefoot. Wonderful.
I do however have a few issues that I would like you to address if possible?
The poverty here concerns me. It’s just not right. You are about to spend hundreds of millions of Rand on renaming an airport in Cape Town but there are millions of people that are forced to look through my bins every Wednesday to try and find food or cardboard that they may get a couple of Rand for at the recycling plant.
I’ve spoken about the driving to you before so I don’t want to dredge up old dirt but seriously. Catch someone using a phone and take their licence off them. It’s that simple. Punishment needs to be enforced and it needs to be stronger. Make an example of a few people and things will soon change I promise.
My biggest concern though is the underlying hatred that keeps bubbling to the surface. I’ve met so many decent people here but I can feel this sadness in them. It’s almost like they don’t believe in you anymore. They’re giving up on you and that is so sad.
The best way I can describe this is that you have one of the greatest products in the world. Your packaging is beautiful, the casing of the product is so easy to open and your new toy is going to be life changing but for some reason you want to smash it to pieces with a sledgehammer.
I know what you are going to say to me about the history of this country and that you are slowly but surely getting there but I don’t think that you are really? You’re not doing enough.
I had a conversation in a pub a few weeks after arriving here with a 24 year old guy. I got asked the usual question of “Why would you move here?” but the way he asked me was different. It had a tone to it of sheer disbelief. I’m not sure he was happy with me that I was so positive about the country and that the simple act of walking out of my front door and having coffee looking at a mountain was magical to me.
He went on to tell me that I don’t understand. That the country is damaged beyond repair and that what has gone before has left untreatable scars on society.
His main gripe though was on events that had happened before he was even born.
His Grandfather had land taken off him after the sanctions were lifted and his uncle lost his job so a man with a different skin colour could have it. Awful events I must agree but I had one question for him.
What is it you are actually angry at?
“Well, you know, it’s just not right is it that this can happen?”
“But it was before you were even born” I said. “So again, what are you actually angry at?”
“What in particular?”
“The way people are getting treated and the murder rate”
This went on for some time and to be honest it didn’t really matter what was said after that because one thing and one thing alone stuck out like a sore thumb.
Hate is taught and you are not born with it.
He’d been taught to hate people that had hurt his family before he was born. It was so sad to hear but what I am saying to you South Africa is that there is a generation now that has a chance to change things.
This generation can leave that baggage at the check in desk and start again. It can show positivity. Don’t hate the guy serving your drink because of what his Grandfather may or not have been involved in. The long and short of it is; It wasn’t the guy pouring your pint that caused any of it and he is trying to move on as well.
Please please please take heed of this advice because you are picture perfect in so many ways yet so ugly on the inside sometimes.
Don’t live with regret. Don’t under appreciate what you have.
Don’t walk outside your front door in 50 years’ time with your coffee in your hand, stare at the mountains and say to yourself:
‘South Africa, I have taken you for granted.’
This article first appeared on Andrew Daniel’s blog – http://dd-adventures.com/ – and is republished with his kind permission. DD-Adventures is the thoughts, emotions and adventures of the Donkersloot-Daniel family as they embark on a new challenge in South Africa from the UK…