In 2000, I packed my life into checked baggage and travelled from Johannesburg to Toronto. I left behind my family and friends, my cat, most of my belongings, and everything that I was familiar with. All I had was two suitcases, a job offer, and a street map of a city I knew very little about.
Sixteen years later, Toronto is my home. I am a Canadian citizen with a Canadian husband and Canadian children.
I have made friends, paid taxes and acquired some belongings. I have worked for Canadian employers and started my own business. When I travel, it is with a passport that says “Canada” on the front.
And yet there is a part of me that is still firmly rooted in South Africa. I follow news stories from South Africa and celebrate the victories of its people. I take immense pride in the fact that I was born in the same country as people like Nelson Mandela and Caster Semenya.
You see, even though I made the choice to leave South Africa, and even though I now identify as a Canadian, South Africa will always be the land of my birth and a part of who I am. Although my children have never left the continent of North America, African blood runs through their veins.
When the world looks at South Africa, it sees a deeply troubled country with corrupt politics and a high crime rate. But South Africa is made up of more than its problems. It is unlikely to ever be an economic or political powerhouse on the world stage, but it is great in its own way.
I try to keep these things alive in my children’s lives through stories, pictures and videos. Thanks to the Internet, I can bring parts of South Africa right into my living room in Canada. It is my hope that someday they will get to experience these things in person, just as I did during a visit last year.
Here is my top five list of things that I feel make South Africa a unique and wonderful country.
- The people. When you see news coverage of South Africans trashing city streets and destroying schools, you are seeing the minority. Most South Africans are very nice people. Their friendliness has a spontaneous quality that is not seen in a lot of other places. They don’t hold back on their smiles, and when they say “Have a nice day” they genuinely mean it. South African people are incredibly generous with their good cheer.
- The natural beauty. South Africa is one of the most stunningly beautiful places on earth. Pictures do not do justice to the wildness of the oceans, the harsh beauty of the Karoo desert, the brilliance of Cape Town sunsets, and the majesty of the mountains.
- The weather. OK, Cape Town weather is a little iffy, but you can’t really expect anything else from a city that has mountains on one side and ocean on the other. The weather in Johannesburg, however, is as close to perfect as you can get. Hot dry temperatures in the summer, and mild temperatures in the winter. The summers also include magnificent thunderstorms. I’m not talking about the odd bolt of lightning or rumble of thunder. I’m talking about nature’s own sound and light shows.
- Unity. At times, South Africa is sharply divided along racial lines, with the different ethnic groups all blaming each other for the problems in the country. But during some pivotal moments in South Africa’s history – the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, South Africa’s first democratic election, the rugby World Cup victory and more – the people have come together under the single banner of humanity. It is the kind of unity that is not only seen in pictures, it is felt in the heart. It is during those moments that the country is at its strongest.
- Dance and music. I absolutely love traditional African dance and music. It does not merely entertain, it tells a story. It is powerful and creative, and it beats to the rhythm of your heart. I can’t copy the dance moves or sing along to the music, but I can bask in the emotion and humanity of it.
What are the things you love most about your country? If you are an ex-pat, what do you miss most from home?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle of Toronto, Canada.