Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Immigrant's Song - SA to NZ

By Eve Hemming

We’re all bombarded by the screeds written about immigration. But one may serendipitously read a snippet that resonates during a desolate moment.
Emigrating is a profound and impactful journey. Those who haven’t taken the plunge can’t remotely identify with what is essentially a life-altering paradigm shift. The decision may arise due to being affected by crime or a variety of circumstances in South Africa. Once it’s made its equivalent to crossing the great divide to plunge into a life forever altered, whereby one views the world differently.
Thousands of local South Africans can identify with the incredible journey, not just because it’s across an immense ocean, but because it’s a colossal journey of the soul.
After I made the decision, it was comforting acknowledging that NZ was on the same planet. But my desperate efforts to rationalise what I was doing lead to an inner sense of chaos and reactive over- justifications. The scenario was exacerbated by well-meaning souls who yacked on about The Global Village and “Oh well, there’s Skype…” Sure, the cyber spectrum shrinks the planet whereby technology creates a sense of immediacy compared with eons ago when letters took forever across boundless oceans.
I kept saying, “It’s already inhabited by thousands of ‘Saffers’, so it’s like moving to another S.A. province.” But just prior to leaving I felt a hysterical madness. It was impossible to comprehend what this great leap into the unknown was all about. I was heading off to the land of the long white cloud, and may as well have been going into a different dimension, not just another time zone. I was about to vanish into a different space, as though I was falling through Alice in Wonderland’s looking glass and waking up an extraterrestrial in an alien landscape.
Family and friends responded along the optimism-pessimism trajectory. Some patted me on the back exclaiming how courageous I was. Others accused me of being a traitor by abandoning the great African continent. The world’s a merry-go-round with intrepid humanity continent-skipping ever since time immemorial. But when it’s Africa that one’s exiting, abuse is hurled. Others called me ‘lucky’. It’s not about luck, but about having undiluted guts and perseverance. People back home have limited understanding about what courage, obstacles and bereavement it entails!
Emigrating is a personal choice and odyssey. I, too, have Africa in my bone-marrow. But that doesn’t mean that I had to remain entrenched.  We’re creatures of the universe, with options our birthright.
Life’s transience should revere exploration and new horizons. It’s plucky to climb out of one’s comfort zone or to aspire to seek more security —to transform one’s pastel daydream into a reality and can only grow one through seizing the moment.
A major life-change brings with it trepidation. It’s horrendously painful shedding the gut-naked stuff in one’s soul. It’s not about hedonistic pleasure or gratification. It’s usually about making sacrifices as path-finders for others. It’s in our blueprint to gravitate to safety for our offspring at whatever cost; pangs of loss of roots, identity, material comforts and the familiar. It’s a new chapter with character building adversity and numerous hindrances. After several years of adaptation it can hopefully be a celebration of one’s courage to cross the metaphorical and real boundaries of one’s life. In the final analysis it’s about survival and instinctive courage.

Eve Hemming is a psychologist, educationist and freelance writer. More importantly she’s a wife, mother and grandmother. Together with her retired husband, they are pathfinders. In South Africa she was involved in freelance writing for the Natal Witness (Pietermaritzburg) and several other publications before moving to NZ in 2008.     
  Published in the 'SA to NZ magazine' - 2010.

Ant and Eve
 on Waiheke Island

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