Sometimes it’s hard not to be consumed by all the bad stuff happening here. The politics, the recent spate of brutal farm murders, the xenophobia, the racism, the tax laws…there’s plenty to make one want to pack up and head to another country or place. Many do, understandably.
It’s a country on ‘edge’ and the edginess is almost tangible as you cross the border into this complex territory. Living here requires a set of steel balls and a thick skin!
To be positive is a challenge, even a discipline. It’s very easy to erupt into a rage when some random plonker delivers you a perfectly practiced obscene gesture simply because you are a different colour, or religion or from a different country to them. Or when they blatantly brush you off or exclude you because you’re different to them in what ever way fits their prejudice. It’s easy to take it personally, to get sucked into a viscous cycle and to fuel the intolerance and ‘divide.’
“It is so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.” – Nelson Mandela
The one thing I dearly miss about being an Expatriate, is for the general acceptance of ‘difference.’ You know you’re going to meet and befriend very different people, from different countries, with different religions, with different practices, of different races, at different ages and with very different personalities! What the expat experiences, is different from here, but normal there. So when we return home to find that what we’ve learned as ‘normal,’ is not normal here, we begin to experience the other side of ‘difference;’ how people either accept or reject difference. And sometimes we begin to feel different.
“Travel does not exist without home…If we never return to the place we started we would just be wandering lost. Home is a reflecting surface, a place to measure our growth and enrich us after being infused with the outside world.” – Josh Gates
This weekend I went to the Centacow Mission and its surrounds. I needed an outing and a ‘pick-me-up’ with all this ‘different for most but normal in South Africa’ stuff going on.
For me travelling and photography is like a ladder to the canopy of a thick forest. It requires one to see the detail, the story, the simple beauty of a road that curves up a steep hill and the different lifestyles and issues for different people. It expands my mind and importantly, gives me a fuller picture of the diverse world we live in.
If I had just 2 wishes for South Africans who are adverse to ‘difference,’ it would be to send them away, to another country with the most bizarre beliefs and practices. When they’d come back, I’d give them a camera, a car and unlimited fuel.Then I would tell them that they’re different! And I think they’d like it.
“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.” – Max Depme
PS. South Africans are all different. Many love to be different and already like people who are different to themselves!