Sunday, July 17, 2011

After a Year as an ex-Saffer immigrant in New Zealand - written in July2009

SWINGS &                ROUNDABOUTS !
Article written 2 years ago, which illustrates the mindset of an expat a year after emigrating from 'home'... 
'I have uninvited flu lurking. The respite of bed-dozing means a moment to pluck my thoughts, examine and distill them. It’s a year since I moved to a new country - time enough to do a mini-review of all the pros and cons, the swings and roundaboutsIt’s a crisp, sun-filled day. A little cold creeps into my hand as I write this, necessitating intervals to pause and hide my hand under the bedcovers. 
Paddywag lies next to me. 
He’s our Kiwi baby – named to commemorate
two of our S.A. dogs that we sadly re-homed;
Paddystix and Scallywag. He’s an illuminating
light that delights us. He’s brought a new meaning to the word ‘watch dog’. One doesn’t need a watch dog for protection here. Instead, he is a watchdog because he watches us. I wake to his scrutiny. I bath to the same scrutiny as he pushes the bathroom door ajar. He seems mildly amused by my every breathing moment. On a recent visit to South Africa, I avoided seeing our three ex-dogs. I felt it would be too painful for me, too confusing for them, now deliciously ensconced in their new lives.

Map showing day and night parts of the world

One of the most exasperating factors about living here is the vast time difference. I often ache for the immediate gratification of hearing one of my children or grandchildren’s voices during   the day – to just press the call button on my mobile. But they are sleeping now. And at night, I still find that my circadic rhythm occasionally resists conforming; that I want to drink tea and check my emails at 2a.m.  
Moving country remains the hugest thing I’ve ever experienced/accomplished/drowned in
It’s an act of seemingly utter insanity, which negates all one’s most visceral connections to the cosmos. 
I find myself quoting John Keats more often,
‘Happiness is sharpened by its antithetical elements’.
Experiencing a new chapter of life is nothing less than profound, and isn’t given enough credence. 
Each day I’m grateful to metaphorically taste a different menu ... yet simultaneously I miss  the staple diet stemming from my roots.
I recall emailing a psychologist colleague of mine after my arrival here, “ Am I experiencing a schism of the self?” I asked. She replied, “No, just re-inventing the self.” I kept that pinned on my notice board at work for the past year to reflect on.

                                                     Living in Auckland is exciting. 

 It’s a sprawling city with stunning vistas. And New Zealand is spectacularly beautiful, no more nor less
than South Africa – just utterly different, though some areas resemble the lush rolling hills of the  KZN Midlands. And whereas NZ only has 4.5 million people in its entirety, SA has close to 50 million. One never feels crowded, pushed or rushed by the maelstrom of humanity. It’s a far quieter, more ordered, tidier place, yet equally florid with immigrants from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Pacific Islands, plus the Kiwis and indigenous Maori.
Everything works. And to make a small economy financially viable one has to tick all the boxes; be accountable for the nano seconds of every working day. After being in Africa with remnants of circular time, here the linear time at its extreme requires some adaptation. Don’t ever believe that Kiwi’s aren’t hard working. They work arduously and fearlessly. There are companies one can even call through the night if emergency repair work is required. And women drive buses and bulldozers  and chop wood, though don’t carry large bundles of wood on their heads as they do back home. Despite the hard work, the less stressful vibe seems to lower one’s kinetic vibrations.
Speeding is an offence and Kiwis are generally law abiding (except some of the reprobates ) I never feel anxious driving because I know that Jo Soap won’t push me off theroad. Kiwis have an internalised holistic respect.                                                         
But many folk possibly have a more diluted version of  the survival gene that “SAffers” have, by necessity developed.They haven’t had to walk on the same edge of the precipice of life. Maybe they haven’t experienced loving and hating their land simultaneously, as some Saffers have done when they have lost a loved one to violence.
 Saffers have been exposed to a wide spectrum of life from exhilaration through to visceral threat. That is what makes them such survivors. I love the freedom of wide expanses of glass unfettered by burglar bars, the freedom of no fences, no gates, no electrical gadgets. I sleep peacefully except for my   
                             occasional 2 a.m. tea.
    But after a year of tasting a new chapter, the honeymoon’s over. It’s time for that honest evaluation. What would my advice to my family,
friends and colleagues be ?  
      Saffers frequently want me to forward their CV to some or other NZ destination; ask a myriad questions about immigration…
My answer is simply this – no one can give you a definitive answer, or make a life-altering decision for you... 
For those who left SA due to a family member being ravaged by violence and their inner sanctum being violated, there is no choice, no turning back. But for those who leave in an endeavour to prevent a heinous occurrence, which would splinter the core of theirs and their families psyche’, the choice is more complex. 
Either way one lacks totality. If here, one will, for some time experience the pangs of desire for one’s loved ones at home and the familiarity, smells, sounds and imagery of Africa. Else remaining there, one will never know how it could feel to taste a new life with freedom from ubiquitous threat where one never knows when the insidious moment could rear it’s ruthless head to threaten one's loved ones, innocent children, or close mates. There’s good, bad and ugly everywhere. It boils down to quantity, random occurrences and dare I say it, luck?

 I honestly don’t regret taking the plunge. It’s taught me reflection and provided fodder for inner 
 growth. But I continue to wish that my husband and I could find the perfect place near all our treasured children and grandkids -(as some live in NZ and some in SA.)....'

Eve Hemming is a former PMB educator and school 
principal and resident of Hilton, KZN, 
and now resides in Auckland, NZ.
An edited version of “Swings and Roundabouts”  was published in The Witness on 4 August 2009 
and in Ama Kiwi, September 2009
Ama Kiwi Magazine

No comments:

Post a Comment