Since my last entry, I’ve carved out a bit of this place to call my own. I’ve shown more of my true colors to my new friends, and I haven’t been exiled…yet.
Insert pause. I was a few sentences into this post, and suddenly decided it was the perfect time to walk down to the grocery store and get milk and eggs. Every time I go to write one of these, I’m flooded with thoughts and emotions that I haven’t had time to process. On my walk, I passed a maple tree, holding onto its last bit of red leaves. I picked one off. The maple tree isn’t native to South Africa. It’s from my home, yet it thrives here just the same, because it has adapted. While it’s American-grown relatives are green and glowing in the summer sun, this one has lost most of its leaves, because here it’s winter.
You can’t tell I’m American from the way I look. It’s inside of me. It’s my memories and experiences that make up the sum of who I am. I fool myself sometimes because I am adaptable. I can change to blend in with my surroundings, but only on the outside. On the inside, I was raised to fear raw meat like the plague, taught to wear my shoes in grocery stores and to school. I have an awe in my heart for Native Americans and carry guilt and regret that their traditional ways of life have been mostly been destroyed. I grew up surrounded by other races, especially African American, and I’ve been accused of being racist more times than I can remember, simply because that’s a part of being white in America; yet it hurt me every time. I have been spoiled on good service, and never even knew it. I thrive on variety. I know what good Mexican food tastes like. I know about America, from the inside.
South Africans have been brought up on American television and movies, and for that reason, many are familiar with things American, but it’s not the same; it’s not natural to them. Their information is usually close, but never quite right. They try to mimic my accent, and over do it, and they are unaware that a Boston accent and a Texan accent are as far as the East is from the West. They think that there are 48 states in America or 52. They don’t understand what is different about a Republican or Democrat, but they know they are a big deal to us. It’s like me watching a million Indian movies, yet being no closer to being Indian than before.
You can always adapt and change, begin to identify with another culture and custom, but where you spend your childhood is always going to be at your core. And I spent both my childhood and early adulthood in America. When I become nostalgic…get those fuzzy feelings of comforting memories, it’s going to bring up American memories for years to come. I wonder how long it will take before a scent or a breeze brings up a comforting memory set in South Africa.
I am wonderfully happy here. I have a daily peace and sleep so well at night, which I never could do in America. Yet I long for feelings that I can only associate with home, and I long for the things that make me experience those feelings.
But if I were in America, the longing I would feel for my life in South Africa would be much, much greater. I know it’s true, but I don’t know why it’s true.