Am I still South African?

We simply couldn’t wait to hear the news: I can now live and work in France without the hassle of a tick-tocking, 90-day visa. Of course what this also means is that now is the start of my long journey to become part-European.

But more than anything, I have really started to question where my home is now. No longer is it leaving South Africa “for a short time” or “only for a few months” — like it used to be. No longer is it “to travel” or “to find my thing” as someone once put it.

I’m now going for a long time, for work and for love. And don’t let anyone tell you any different: it’s a daunting thought.

You think about the years of friendship you’ve built up and nurtured from school to university; the stories you share with people who know you inside-out. You think about the choice you have made to now watch from a distance and on social media as their lives move on without you: birthday parties, house warmings, weddings, children growing up. And what happens when your loved ones are sick and sad and you’re not there? You think about your frustrations with South Africa’s banana governance and then remember the deep sense of pride you feel when our country gets it right. You think about how blessed you are to have this lifestyle with heat and mountains and beaches on your doorstep. You think about that African spirit you’ve yet to find anywhere else in the world.

A cycle around Twelve Apostles, Cape Town
A cycle around Twelve Apostles (Cape Town)
A run on Lion's Head in Cape Town
A run on Lion’s Head (Cape Town)

And then you think about what it means to raise children in a foreign country and around people who are still getting to know you. You think about weather that doesn’t always agree with you and jokes that you don’t always get. You think about wanting to carve your own path and follow your dreams without putting too much expectation on your partner to make it all worth it. You think about being a strong woman even when you feel alone in your new home.

And then you think about all those bitter South Africans who left and preached their sad gospel to anyone willing to hear it. You think about those South Africans who gave up on our country and took their skills to nations who deserved them less. You think about the expats who are too proud to admit that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. And those who were too backward to give our country a second chance.

And then you think: I’ll always be South African. I never planned to leave. I love it here. It’s my country and it’s my home.

Horse-riding near the Lesotho mountains
Horse-riding near the Lesotho mountains

But then you think — when love beckons with those wide-open arms and a smiling face, when you have an amazing family waiting on the other end and willing to take you in as their own, when you’re going to something and not running away from something, when life has urged you to change course, when you’re just so happy with your choices and you’re doing what you love…

…you stop thinking.

And you just go.

Until then South Africa.