What are the first things people notice when visiting Australia?
When they post their daily travels on Facebook many of the comments are about how ‘safe’ it looks in the absence of fences in front of the yards, and how beautiful the surroundings are.
And so it was the same when I received my visitors recently.
We also notice things about our South African visitors
They are dog-tired. The long flight exhausts them.They will kill for a cup of coffee. Remember to order half strengths because they are not used to the punch that our coffee packs.
They enjoy public transport and love that they can get on a bus, then board a train, then hail another bus to the ferry, charter over the Swan River, get back, do the same
again, walk a few hundred metres and be back home. My mum repeatedly said that the public transport in Australia will make life for the older folk in South Africa so much easier.
They apprehensively try new tastes, such as the delectable Kangaroo Potjie that my hubby make, using a Huisgenoot Potjiekos Recipe book. They guess whether it tastes like venison that they know or more like beef, because of the beer and coke that it has in the recipe.
But, what I notice most is the normality with which they talk about the crime and the preventive measures they have to take to try to stay safe.
We take a drive to our nearest mall and matter of factly from the back of the car I am informed that the people are being murdered in droves back home. This is said in a voice void of anger, fear or hysterics. It is said in the same way as one would say how much a loaf of bread costs. In the same breath the question is posed to my son, “When are you coming over for a visit?”
Abnormal has become eerily normal
During the following five weeks I am updated via their Whatsapp messages about the suspicious vehicles around their town house complex 9000 plus kilometres away. I am privy to their nervousness and need to find out what is going on. Wifi and smart phones have enabled them to worry about crime even while they are on holiday in a country suburb without fences. As they see a deserted Maccas cup on my lawn, they immediately comment that the whatsapp lines would now be alight with the possible meaning of said cup. I laugh it off and say, “It’s just someone’s rubbish that the wind brought our way.”
I hear about an 18-year-old girl, who for the second time in her young life, saved her parents’ lives during a farm attack. I have to listen how another farm attack was indeed foiled by the farm workers who warned the employer. There are attempted break-ins and successful break-ins. A white car and occupants are reported for stealing dogs in the neighbourhood. (Did they know the fireworks was going to last until 2 in the morning and the animals would be beside themselves?)
Their cctv cameras illuminate their rooms sufficiently enough to not switch the lights on when they are woken for a midnight toilet trip or heaven forbid, someone with dark and sinister motives entering their yard. Their panick buttons are tested every five to six months and are situated right by their bedside.
And through all of this the lingering question is, “Are you not thinking of coming home? When are you coming for a visit?”
I asked them, “Do you hear yourself when you speak? Do you listen to what you are saying? How can you ask me that? A visit maybe, but coming back? I do not know.”
However, after five loooooong years of not seeing my family my mind has tried building a scenario where I pack up and move back. I did not know how much I missed them, until I saw them coming through those doors at the airport.
But move back to what? We do not have a home there any more. Where do we go, what do we do? Where do we start? How do we start over, yet again? If we go back to be closer to our family, we would like to stay where they are, but that is not where the jobs are that we do. We do not want to become part of what we left behind ever again.
They are almost going home again. I try not to think about it. I try to live in the moment. They are going back to their way of normal. I keep thinking of the words I heard in the year we came to Australia, “It is when abnormal becomes normal that you have to start worrying.”
How long before I see those I love again? At the moment I am looking at their faces, trying to tie every part of their being to the recesses of my memories. I touch them and savour the moment, without them knowing it. I try to sit close to them to tell my nose to remember what they smell like. I try to stay quiet to have them talk a bit more, so that their voice will ring in my ears days after they have left.
And I pray. I pray to God to keep them safe. I pray that things will change in South Africa. I call on Him to remember that country, because the people of my skull are there. It is important to me that another great South Land start thriving again, for the benefit of those who I have left behind. For them… and millions others.
We are thinking of a visit soon, but for now, for this season, the Great South Land Down Under is where we are home. We prefer this normal.