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Koulla Koshiaris-da Silva
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I miss South Africa

11 November 2010, 18:00  - Koulla Koshiaris-da Silva
I have decided to pour my thoughts out into this email and so here it is, my gut reaction to your request to share how I see SA from afar.

Eish! I miss every single bit of South Africa...starting with black people! They smile and sing and make do. And then they smile and sing some more. Be it at the funerals of their young who are leaving the very old to look after the very young or at weddings filled with hope for the future or at protests filled with anger at the slow pace of change. They sing and smile and make do in the best way they can.

I even miss the condescending faces of civil servants as they realise it’s their turn to wield some power (wow, it feels weird making these white people wait in line while I take my time doing things slowly) just like any civil servant anywhere else in the world.

I miss the long orange, red and blue sunsets. I often feel like the sun gets put out by someone with a snuffer in Europe, especially now as the days grow shorter and it’s dark by 17:00. I miss the green (green green dare I say grass of home). I miss the plains. Even those that get swallowed up by development or shacks, the expanse is always breath-taking.

Smiling Saffers

The other day, my sister (who is the reason we are in Europe) called to say she was watching Out of Africa and was too depressed to leave her sick bed. So I went off to get her out of the depression and ended up sobbing for an hour at the sight of Finch Haddon’s final resting place! Sjoe. She had to comfort me instead (which happily did the trick for her, too).

Back to the smiles. I almost kissed the security guard at the entrance to Woolies a few weeks ago when I went back to take care of some business. “Good morning madam” he beamed at me. Momentarily, I thought he might be talking to his manager who had just come in to check something, and then I realised he was just doing stuff he did normally. Greeting people as they came in to the store to shop; sort of like: “yeah I know there’s crime and stuff, but I’m here to help in any way I can should something bad happen, and just in case you think I’m sleeping, you better watch it if you are one of those mammas who steal, I’m watching for that too. It’s a job, someone has to do it, and I’m grateful so I don’t have to stoop to crime to feed, clothe and educate my family, and I make do… the best way I can, so have a nice day and come back soon...I need the work”.

And yes, before all the condescending pain-in-the-neck-ex-pat-Seth-Effricans who left before 1994 and took their laager and their boere-is-koning mentality with them start accusing me of being too simplistic, get this: THERE ARE PROBLEMS EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD! EVERYWHERE.  So to use one of my favourite clichés: I’d rather be rich and miserable than poor and miserable - which converts to - I’d rather live in Africa and have problems, than have problems (crime, poverty, unemployment, crap health systems for the masses) anywhere else in the world!

In Joburg it rains in the summer... oh oh oh what bliss to smell that rain, to see the leaves burst that new green in the spring, to see the cosmos on the side of the road in the autumn, to be blown over double in Cape Town and to swelter in the Durban heat in February! To listen to the many different voices on the radio stations.

South Africans can dance

Gugulethu, Soweto, Sandton, Clifton… black diamonds in their beemers and cellphones and shiny, spiky-haired children waving at you from the back seat. And white ladies with purple rinses in Rosebank who lunch and play bridge and talk about the Black Sash in the 80’s. And the cartoons and cartoonists who take on the president and all we hold sacred...and oops, the sky hasn’t fallen because someone disagreed with our opinion. The Gautrain and the stadia and the Vuvuzela and the toilets in the veld (still?).

The world press reported that we are boring. Why? Because we didn’t flay each other’s skins off in 1994 and beyond, but looked at what we had and where we were and MADE DO and decided to “lead SA” and call “Crime Line” and dance and sing at the “Concert at the Zoo” and at Eugene Terreblanche’s funeral and subsequent murder trial.

I’ll take boring in SA over boring in Europe any day of the turmoil. Europeans can’t (and don’t) dance… really… they can’t (except for those rebellious Irish). Since the good Lord chose to make me a white woman… thank God he made me a white woman in Africa, where I learned to dance – in the rain, in the pain, in trouble and in good times. That’s what I miss. That “uithouvermoë” South Africa has. That thing we now call Madiba Magic. I bet the thing he misses most is that his knees restrict his dancing!

I see black people so rarely in the country I live in now that when I do it’s all I can do to hold myself and not accost them and ask them where they’re from and then keep my disappointment from showing because they are from Cameroon or Senegal and not South Africa so we can jive and say “heita bru”… before we move back into serious/grown up/dour Euro mode. Winter’s coming now and I miss Christmas in SA. Who would have thought?

- Are you a South African living abroad interested in sharing your views? What is it like for a South African living in a foreign country or how do you view South Africa from a distance? Send us your columns to and you might get published in our new Beyond Borders section.

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Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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