Nitanja Steyn: The Yearning of a South African Heart

By Nitanja Steyn

South African expat Nitanja Steyn has lived in the Netherlands, the US and Germany since leaving SA in 2014. But no matter where she lives… her heart belongs back home in South Africa. Yesterday she penned a poignant poem ‘Die Verlanging van ‘n Suid-Afrikaner’, in Afrikaans (see below). Here she has kindly translated it into English as well…

The Yearning of a South African Heart – by Nitanja Steyn

It’s Sunday morning, Munich is covered in a blanket of snow. The feeling of nostalgia wraps around my heart as the snow gently lies down on Mother Earth.

Because sometimes I wake up with a longing in my heart.

A longing for the days when ‘Afrikaners’ gathered together around a ‘braai’ with ‘biltong & chips’ for a ‘Lekker kuier’.
I long for my grandmother’s home-made rusks, that crumble in my mouth after I’ve dunked it in my warm cup of ‘ricoffy’.
I miss the smell of ‘stofpad’ (gravel road) and the warmth of the African sun. When I’m a world away, in a place where the summer months are now filled with snow and February is now a month filled with cold days, I find myself missing the warmth of “my people”. A warmth that feels so close to my heart, but in reality are so far away.

The African drums echo in my heart.
The sound of my beautiful mother tongue fades away within the loudness of all the other foreign languages that surround me.

It’s Sunday morning and the sense of yearning lies within my heart.

My boots are covered with snow. I gaze into the soft whiteness of snowflakes as I take a walk down memory lane; to those Sunday mornings when we picked out our best shoes. With my ten in my hand I sat alongside my family in the old wooden church bench. We’d listen to the ‘dominee’ as he taught us about the values in life, about faith and how we should stand together as a community out of love for each other and our love for our God. I can still hear “Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name…” as the church sings together in a choir to close the Sunday service on a high note.

I close my eyes, I can feel the cold Munich air kissing my cheeks. The fictional taste of Sunday afternoon ‘braaivleis’ melts away in my mouth.
A spark lights up, within the distance I can hear conversations and laughter of South African voices like stories from long, long ago. It’s a deceptive sound to my ears.

I’m embraced by South African hugs, here where the cold sometimes creeps into my heart. The warm, proudly South African hugs, that can’t be found anywhere else.

With a greeting, “Grüß Gott” an old German woman says as I pass her by, and then it hits me…
Unexpectedly I realize that it’s all just an illusion… because just like many other South Africans, I am far away from my motherland, my beloved African sun and my own people. In the search for better opportunities, choices that were never mine, had to be made.

The yearning for my country is one thing, but I find it hard to accept the brokenness of my nation.

And then I sit here and I wonder:
Where on earth will “my people” be within a few years?
What will happen to my mother tongue?
Will people still come together around a fire with ‘tjoppies’ & ‘braaibroodtjies’?
Will ‘koeksisters’ and baked ‘melktert’ still be on the dessert menu or will it just fade away?

Sometimes I wake up in a place that seems foreign to me. My heart is still Afrikaans but everything else, yes everything has changed.

Sunday morning, 3 February 2019
📍Munich,Germany
written by: Nitanja Steyn

Afrikaans (Original) Version

Die verlange van ‘n Suid-Afrikaner

Dit is Sondag oggend en die gevoel van effense heimweë bekruip my hart soos die dik sneeukombers hier in Munich oor Moederaarde kom lê.

Want soms word ek wakker en dan verlang ek.

Ek verlang na die geselligheid van Afrikaners.
Ek verlang na my ouma se beskuit wat tussen my tande kraak nadat ek dit in my warm beker, moerkoffie dompel.
Ek verlang na die reuk van ‘n stofpad en die warmte van die Afrika son.

Op koue dae soos dié verlang ek na die warmte van “my mense”, wat soms naby maar tog so ver voel.
Die klank van my geliefde moedertaal verdof tussen die geprewel van ander tale.

Dit is Sondag oggend en hier sit ek en verlang.

Ek dink aan die dae wat ons, ons mooie skoene aangetrek het en met ons tiende in die kerkbank gaan sit en luister het na wat dominee vir ons wou leer oor waardes, geloof en hoe ons moet saamstaan as ‘n gemeente uit liefde vir mekaar en onse liefde vir ons God. “Onse Vader wat in die hemel is…” hoor ek die gemeente in ‘n koor aan die einde van die diens.

Ek sluit my oë en meteens betrap die smaak van Sondag Middag braaivleis my heeltemal ontkant.

Die eg Suid-Afrikaanse drukkies omhels my soos ‘n gehekelde kombers, hier waar die koue my soms beetpak…jy weet, daardie regte, egte Suid-Afrikaanse drukkies wat nèrens anders te vinde is nie?

Ek kan die gesels en die gelag van Afrikaanse stemme in my ore hoor druis soos stories van lank, lank gelede.

Maar dan tref dit my.

Dit tref my heeltemal ontkant dat dit alles net ‘n illusie is … want net soos baie ander Suid- Afrikaners is ek vér van my geboorteland, my geliefde Afrika son en mý eie mense. Maar keuses is vir my gemaak in die soeke na beter geleenthede.

Die verlange na my land is een ding maar die gebrokenheid van my nasie is iets waaraan ek swaar sluk.

En dan sit ek hier en wonder:
Waar gaan mý mense wees oor ‘n paar jaar?
Wat gaan tog word van my Moedertaal?
Gaan mense nog oor ‘n tjoppie & braaibroodtjies kuier? Sal die geliefde koeksister of die bekoring van ‘n goeie melktert met die jare vergaan?

Soms word ek wakker in die vreemde. My hart is nog Afrikaans maar alles, ja álles het verander.

Sunday morning, 3 February 2019
Munich, Germany
By: Nitanja Steyn

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