Into the great beyond

2008-07-02 00:00

One goes through peculiar sensations when one’s about to depart. I’ve lived in the Pietermaritzburg area for most of my life. The terrain’s so familiar, yet on departing I’m seeing it through different eyes.

When I drive to work, I try to assimilate it in graphic detail. There’s the winding route down from Winterskloof along the Sweetwaters road. Each day I see a bedraggled man walking up the hill barefoot and I think that before I leave I must give him some shoes. I momentarily lose the thought navigating a different vista.

Then there’s the effervescent man donned in his red overcoat. When he spots my car he does a dance to wend his way through treacherous traffic to sell me the newspaper. And I think I must give him a shirt. Then I find myself counting how many trees are on the verge before Victoria Road. Finally in Retief Street the laden cabbage truck is there and a flock of birds is flying overhead. Always the same familiar scene. Around the next corner is my school and I immediately get thrown into another precious almost last day.

Last weekend we had breakfast in the Howick area. My four-year-old grandson Dylan, could see Howick Falls from the lavatory window. He delightedly bellowed: “Look, I can see New Zealand” — having seen a calendar with photographs of waterfalls and snowy mountains. I think “I wish it was so close.”

One of my granddaughters, Toni, aged seven, asked me if she could fly over for a sleep- over once I arrive. When I confessed that it was a tad far for that, she asked if there are any vegetables in New Zealand and, if not, could she post me some. Also some chocolate cake from her next birthday party.

There are days when one wakes with massive wobbles, questioning oneself, or something profound ensues that shreds the heart. But then the untenable or monstrous occurrences smack one square-on to remind one why it all happened in the first place.

I’ve come to the realisation what a personal choice it is to go anywhere and that there’ll always be two sides to every story. There are people who are adamant that they will stay in their land come hell or high water. And those who feel dissatisfied with their lot and are envious, wishing that they, too, had a job offer someplace else.

There are those who are incensed and disparaging and those who are overwhelmingly supportive. And there are those who are uncomfortable to confront one, conveniently bustling out of sight as though one is highly contagious. Possibly, it is only those with families shredded by oceans who can conceptualise the pain and courage required to head off into the unknown in the hopes of establishing foundations for family security in a less vulnerable environment.

A friend commented that I love the paradoxical roller- coaster ride in Africa and that life in a quieter place will be mundane for me. That may be so. But that’s the captivation of life. It’s about making a decision to bravely ride that roller coaster without knowing where it’s headed and what the bumpy road ahead holds. I think that the emotional roller coaster of emigrating and with it the re-identification of the self is as tough as the mayhem roller coaster here. Staying or departing have jagged upsides and downsides. Maybe that is what we need to come to terms with — that there’s no right or wrong choice. It’s in one’s own moment and possibly even in a strange way part of one’s destiny.

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