Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An expat SA to NZ article that caused a bit of a stir up... again !

I wrote this article in March 2009. I don't feel so reactive anymore. There is more peace in my soul now. I realise, in re-reading this piece and the comments that followed in the media, that irrespective of whether one emigrates or not, one will fiercely attempt to justify one's actions as part of the process of coming to terms with one's choice to emigrate or not - and when it comes to emigrating, to come to terms with one's loss of land and family, roots and identity. 
But at the end of the Day - ah- in that ever so 'final analysis' it's really one's own choice and journey, and none of us are going to revolutionise the world irrespective of whether we stay or leave. It's thus best to live and let live - and to know that acceptance is a process...

To be or not to be proudly South African 
Eve Hemming

I’m never sure whether to laugh or cry when I receive yet another “Proudly Souf Efrican” e-mail, wondering if they’re honest statements, or defence mechanisms. Not being radically pro or anti the argument, I don’t have an answer. 
I’ve been away for eight months, almost long enough to incubate a baby. In that time, I’ve incubated some new perspectives; although I don’t think I’m any smarter.
I’ve accumulated a diverse new chapter to my life; new career, friends and colleagues, a new home, vistas and adventures, and with it the old adage of starting life again from scratch comes to mind. That’s quite something; initially literally not knowing a soul, then experiencing the networks exponentially unravelling. 
And what have I lost, I muse? So, so much; emotionally, physically and materially.

I’m still left pondering about “Proudly South African” though, and wonder how many aeon's it takes to step past the past. My father, despite having a mother of Prussian descent, refused to purchase a German car after World War 2, even with the cars' superior engineering. And he lived another 25 years after Adolf Hitler’s horrific genocides. Dad's post war  emotions permeated our home. That’s why I ponder on how long wounds take to heal.
My Self of Loss,Alexandra Grant

South Africa’s scars seem paper-thin, like when a scab gets rubbed off once too often. Politics remains the hot spot in most arenas. There’s always that ulcerating old wound lurking; to do with a myriad mistakes made by various sectors of humanity over the past few centuries. Prior to that it was a luscious ancient natural cradle. That’s the part of Africa that I love. The unspoilt magnificence that makes me feel fuzzy.

I surprisingly already feel that about Kiwiland. The countryside is sublime. The city I dwell in is a large sprawling footprint of humanity, spilling in all directions and surrounded by masses of transcendent aquascapes and burnt-out volcanic outcrops.

On the negative side, it’s a land where people hook into global societal folly such as methamphetamine (known as P in New Zealand and Tik or Ice inSouth Africa.) Yes there’s also human waywardness here, like everywhere ...but one doesn't have to be barred up. The other day I met up with an ex-Pietermaritzburg colleague, who has three Kiwi-born children....


On a recent visit to South Africa, the four-year-old chirped up in his Kiwi accent, “Mummy, why do the people all live in cages?” 

I feel privileged to feel a lightness of being here. I think of life’s yin and yang; those that have that have an epiphany to seek an alternative lifestyle and those who have that ceaseless belief “dat alles sal reg kom”. 
And then there are the tragic sufferers who desire to find solace somewhere on the planet, but whose Cirumstances simply don’t permit it. They’re the ones for whom my heart cries the most.
Epiphanies don’t come to all of us. Mine was triggered by a series of events and compounded during the Cosatu strikes  when our schools were forcibly closed. Stones were thrown and I was shouted at over the telephone, “We’re coming to get you you %$#@&** M@#$% now!” by a woman with a brutal, menacing tone of voice. We immediately had to evacuate everyone from school. After dedicating over 30 years of my life to special needs’ education for primarily disadvantaged children in South Africa, something seemed to die in my soul that day. It was palpably sad.
New Zealand is a land full of promise and a haven for refugees far and wide. Currently NZ accepts about 750 refugees a year through The United Nations, and whereas other nations 'cherry pick' NZ accepts single mothers and children with disabilities. 

 And as it’s the eve of my return to Africa for a whirlwind visit, my pondering about the strangeness of humanity becomes sharpened. I get a mental picture of Robert Mugabe stuffing his face with the last chunk of cream cake from what
was once the breadbasket of Africa. And I wonder how people continue either to stand courageously tall (or some that may find solace in their delusional dreams.)

Posted by Darrell on 06 Apr 2009

Reply to Eve
Hi Eve
Thanks for your response. 
I don’t quite know if you could call the facts I got on the NZ ‘brain drain’ ‘religious research’ as it was all from the NZ Herald National headlines. It was information that was reported on numerous occasions and which is still being reported on a regular basis. It was one of the big issues in the build up to the NZ election last year so I’m sure most NZers would have known about it, some by just having read the local Auckland newspapers and others having had family and/or friends leave.

It took me 5 minutes to confirm these facts stated by the media on NZ statistics (nzstatistics.co.nz) the latter of which is not produced by the media, but by the NZ government therefore is not ‘distorted information’.

It’s very good of you to trust what Helen Clark said but obviously the majority of NZers didn’t, resulting in her losing the elections. One of her labour government’s major failures was failing to keep skilled NZers in New Zealand, hence all the posts available for immigrants there. 
NZ “Brain Drain’ is also not only a recent problem due to global recession, it has, in fact, been going on there for decades (funnily enough, just like their electricity crisis). It’s just that lately it’s become the worst it’s ever been. Politicians around the world, when electioneering, tend to say whatever it takes to win, be it wrong or right. (On a humorous note, a critic in one article in the NZ Herald, while referring to the NZ ‘brain drain’, quoted the joke going around NZ at the time as being: ‘will the last one to leave, please turn out the lights’. I guess that NZ also has its fair share of doomsdayers.
Eve, why, when skilled folk leave SA to seek what they believe is a better opportunity in another country do you class it as ‘Brain Drain’ but when skilled folk leave NZ for the same reason, you class it as ‘a natural phenomenon’? (To be or not to be proudly South African, The Witness, 17 March 2009). 
How can you sit in New Zealand and mock ‘Souf efrica’ for its brain drain when New Zealand has “the worst ‘brain drain’ in the developed world” (Current NZ Prime Minister John Key: 4 pm Thursday 28 Oct 2008, NZ Herald – see below). 

New Zealand Election '08 RSS Email Print
Latest updates: On the campaign trail, Oct 23
4:00PM Thursday Oct 23, 2008
10.10am: "enough is enough!"
National leader John Key says it's about time Australia stopped snapping 
up the best of New Zealand.
Statistics New Zealand figures show more than 47,000 people left for
Australia on a permanent or long-term basis during the year to September.
"One of the really worrying things is one in four people who have been to
university have now left New Zealand and live overseas. That is the worst
brain drain of any country in the developed world", Key told Paul Holmes 
in a radio interview. ------------------------------------------------------end

How can you describe South Africans who have chosen to stay “as finding solace in their delusional dreams” (To be or not to be proudly South African’ Witness 17 March 09). How fair is that? You have a choice to be where you wish to be but we don’t. 
What amazes me is how so many ex South Africans spend so much of their time criticizing and condemning South Africa instead of getting on with their new lives in the countries they’ve chosen to live in. It also amazes me how they judge South Africa according to a different set of rules to their new country. Is it is a self-justification mechanism? Who Knows. ,I guess THAT'S THE BIG QUESTION!
Kind regards,
Posted by Eve Hemming on 02 Apr 2009

Reply to Darrell
Hi Darrell
Thanks for the research that you've so religiously done. I always appreciate constructive criticism. I'm sure that the Witness readers value your factual input. I have never deliberately given false information in my articles, which are filled with facts disseminated to the public, and peppered by my own perceptions, combined with an attempt to include both positives and negatives re SA and NZ. 
I heard Helen Clarke on radio. It would not be my style to mistrust the then prime minister of NZ, and I quoted her verbatim.
I do believe that media can distort information and I am not able to comment fully on all your research. Suffice to say that many NZ folk are moving to Aussie, which is seen as the 'big brother' with more opportunities, and now with the global recession, this is a natural phenomenon for folk to seek what they believe is a better opportunity elsewhere. For that same reason many folk from the UK, Europe, China, India, Pacifica islands and parts of Africa, to name a few, are moving to NZ, bringing with them their own brand of expertise. 
As a psychologist, I am aware that there are some fifty SA psychologists in Auckland, as there is a local skills shortage. There are South African, Indian, British and American psychologists in our organisation. 
I am, however, aware that both Aussie and NZ have greatly reduced their foreign work permits lately, in an attempt to accommodate their own citizens, in a time of financial vulnerability.
As a freelance writer my role is to give my articles a personal and creative flavour, with some humour where possible. I hope in future that readers see my articles in this light and not as scientific.
Sincerely- Eve

Posted by Darrell on 29 Mar 2009

New Zealand Brain Drain
Hi Eve
Late last year, when you started to write about NZ and SA in your articles I also started to read the New Zealand Herald online on a regular basis in order to get a 'big picture'. After reading your article "Thoughts from a Loo With a View" (Witness 17 Nov 08)I was left somewhat confused. In your article you quoted former NZ prime minister, Helen Clark (who was, at the time, electioneering in the elections which led to her government's defeat) as having said that New Zealand had a 'brain gain' after which you added 'while South Africa bemoans its brain drain". 
In the weeks and months previous to the date of that article and continuing up until the present day there have, in fact, been numerous NZ Herald national headlines about New Zealand's brain drain of skilled New Zealanders to Australia, how it's severely depleting the country's pool of intellect and skills and that it is getting worse causing the government to call it a 'national crisis'.
To name a few of many articles, refer to New Zealand Herald as follows:
1. 'Over 100 NZers pack up for Australia Daily'- Mon 21 April 08
2.'Record numbers leaving for Oz' - Oct 23, 2008;
3. 'Govs Top Priority: Stem Kiwi Migration to Oz' - Nov 29 2008; 
4. 'Almost a Thousand Per Week Leaving For Oz' - Feb 27 2009

In addition to this, NZ statistics state that 47 800 NZers left New Zealand on a permanent or long-term basis to make a better life in Australia alone, between Oct 2007 and Oct 2008.If you take into account the fact that the NZ population is just over 4 million, that is a lot of NZers. (Just out of interest, in the same period 2 246 South Africans arrived in NZ on a permanent or long term basis.)

Eve,either the NZ government, NZ statistics and the NZ Herald are misinforming the NZ public or Helen Clark is, and subsequently you are misinforming the Witness readership.

While I am really pleased that you are happy and content in NZ,and hearing your personal opinions is really interesting, when you are giving information in order to draw comparisons, please check your facts. It seems that your obvious prejudice towards SA is leading to you being blinded to the 'whole picture' and to using inaccurate information. In my opinion, this spoils your otherwise interesting articles. 

Posted by Eve Hemming on 18 Mar 2009

Reply to Frank
Hiya Frank. I enjoyed your response and agree that one becomes part of a new land far quicker if one assimilates other cultures, instead of sticking with one's ex pats and trying to replicate 'home' ! My office is in the West and my husband and I live very happily in the Waitakere Ranges away from the majority of South Africans. We have made some great friends with folk from various cultures - Indians, Brits, Dutch, Hungarian, Chinese, Maori, Kiwis and Aussies, to name a few, combined with some equally special South Africans across the city, whom we knew 'back home'. When my husband recently watched a game between the Sharks and the Auckie Blues,he announced that he felt an allegiance to both. I was so proud of him ! So Frank, quite 'frankly' we concur. But I always like to paint an honest picture and give pros and cons as that is only fair. Folk who are emigrating into ANY country should try to assimilate its ethos and flavour and see it's true colours, while not making endless comparisons ! It's a whole NEW life. They will embrace it like home far quicker. 'See ya later' and 'Ka Kite Ano' ! EH.

Posted by Frank on 17 Mar 2009

It takes a little time.
Eve, it takes a bit of time. I left before the change of government, and despite some homesickness, I did not return for six years - by which time the homesickness had gone (Seems to last for three or so years). On landing at Heathrow after the visit, I breathed a huge sigh of relief to be back home - as this is what the UK had become. 

The reason I think the UK had become home for me, was because I integrated. Although I did keep in touch with a few ex-pats, I integrated in British society, and became British. What I did notice was that those who tended to socialise exclusively with other ex-pats, were the ones who had the attitude that the British must accept their way of thinking rather than vice versa. These were the ones who never made any attempt to assimilate, were the ones who moaned when the locals couldn't care less where they were from (And why should they?), and always longed for SA, and inevitably returned. Most quickly became disillusioned, remembered why they'd left SA the first time, and left again. Some learned on their second attempt that they needed to assimilate rather that the other way round, most had learned by the third time, but some I know of have never learned this lesson.

I'm now in Auckland too, and I see a similar sort of thing going on up and down the North Shore. Little clans and groups of expats moaning about New Zealand, the kiwis, and anything else they can think of. Making no attempt to assimilate, they go to the local stadiums when there is an SA team playing in the Super 14, supporting the SA side.

Get a grip people! If you want to be South African, by all means, please do so - in YOUR country. If you want to take advantage of all NZ has to offer, assimilate.
Posted by Sue on 17 Mar 2009

Great Article
Hi Eve This is a great article. I have been living in Auckland for 7 months now and I have shared very similar experiences to you and agree with everything you say. My Dad told me about your articles when I was in SA recently and today he emailed me and told me to go online and read your article. I am a single mother and left SA with my daughter in search of a life of freedom where people still respect each others private space...and I have found it! :)

And now it's July 2011. It's an ongoing part of life - emigration, immigration, refugees, displaced people, illegal migrants.... children of the universe. To you all, wherever you may be on the planet; staying, going, returning, living, being, seeking...I wish you happiness, freedom, safety, joy, love, acceptance, forgiveness and inner peace - Namaste -  Eve

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