Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dwelling on it

There's a newspaper clipping stuck to my fridge with two magnets. One of the magnets tells me how I would go about making Finnish meatballs, and the other how I would prepare a traditional Finnish pancake. Yup. In Finland you only make one, in the oven, and the stuff you prepare on a pan on the stove is something completely different. We are a culinary people, we are, regardless of what the ass Silvio Berlusconi has to say about our food.

Not that I would ever make meatballs or pancake, but the Hubs at least learns Finnish trying to decipher my mother's elusive, 'secret' pancake recipe, that in no way is the exact one printed on the magnet. Hubs continues to be confounded by the elaborate code that is my mother tongue. And that's just fine. Keeps everyone from understanding what I'm saying when I swear in Finnish on the gold course the magic alive.

But.

Berlusconi = ass. Remember that, elaborate on it, and you will be able to survive a cold winter in Finland purely by leeching off of the Finns. And don't ever tell me this blog didn't teach you anything.

There's a highly sophisticated survival strategy right there for you, should you ever find yourself unable to depart Finland when it starts to snow. Or when the polar bears block your way. Or when Santa ties you to a christmas tree, and then steals your plane tickets to exchange them for ones to the Canary Islands where he'll be the star of a Finnish Christmas under the sun. Whichever happens first.

But. BUT.

The newspaper clipping in between the magnets keeps me grounded in the reality of South Africa. It is a letter written anonymously to a readers' opinion column, but I don't know exactly which magazine it is from. It was given to me by a South African friend who knew I would appreciate it, which made me realize that there is at least one South African out there who totally gets me.

The clipping reads:

Old SA Flags

Okay, you've decided to bail on the land of your birth, leaving the rest of us to fight the good fight and build the dream alone - your choice. But must you shame the non-cowards still enjoying the sunshine at home by waving a poorly designed symbol of idiocy while supporting "your country" at Twickenham? We didn't see a single swastika among the German supporters at Euro 08. You're a doos.

"What is wrong with poor Extranjera's head to be so enamored by this 'piece' of writing? Did she finally connect the noggin with the golf club in a serious manner?" you are probably asking yourself, your poor spouse who just doesn't get blogging and wonders why you care so much about what goes on with a catless catlady all the way in Africa, your spouse who is secretly reading over your shoulder but who doesn't get blogging but really wants to find out whether poor, inebriated Extranjera will ever piss her pants in public (very likely, and I'm not saying it hasn't already happened, I just haven't blogged about it.), that special bloggy someone in an email or a chat, that lady sitting at the Starbucks/neighborhood coffee house for the heretics out there at the next table over because you too are odd that way, or you've just gotten to know me so well that you've either stopped caring or simply decided to go with the flow and have faith in Extranjera at some point actually making an actual point.

It has happened.

I'm not saying I entirely agree with the 'bailing on the land of your birth' part of the rant, because I must say I, if anyone, can understand leaving the country of your birth behind to never to return ('cept for short periods for drinks during the nightless nights in the warmth of summer, good lightly roasted coffee, some quality time with the family, being able to walk around at midnight alone without a care in the world, the fish, and the land of enchantment that borders on the truly strange), but I didn't leave out of fear, discontent, or disappointment.

And I chose South Africa. I chose Johannesburg. We chose South Africa. We chose Johannesburg.

What I take and relish from the above clipping is its complete and utter objection to the past. Because here in SA the past is not something to be honored or celebrated. or at least it shouldn't be. And remembering it as anything else than something to be sorely avoided hasn't done anyone any good either.

If I were German I wouldn't want to live on Joseph Goebbels street, and as a South African I would object to living on Hendrik Verwoerd drive. Especially knowing that the streets were named so in the past to honor the people behind the names.

There are ways to make amends, but once that's done one has to look forward. In South Africa it's all about the future. Building a new nation, not on the ruins of the old one, but completely on a new foundation. I'm confident that the horrors of apartheid will never be forgotten even if every single name reminiscent of that regime is wiped away. I believe that most people need at least the appearance of a clean slate to keep from dwelling on the past.

Or at least I do.

It also gives me great comfort to know that people such as the author of the snippet exist. Here. In South Africa. In my hood. In my sphere. It makes me have faith that although I don't always bump into those kinds of people, they are nevertheless still out there. And looking to the future.

It makes me love this country even more.


The FUTURE learning away.

5 comments:

mellow roc said...

Hi, I have not been to your blog for a couple months but glad to see you are still posting! I live where much of my childhood was spent, but as I read, recalled how for 15 years, 1980-1995 when living away, once returning "home" the first couple things that would hit me were the weather and the certain smells in the air dependent on what time of year we are talking about. It was pleasant and inviting to recall those things. I returned home because that is where my wife lived at the time we met, needed to return to somewhere familiar, hoped my parents would spend their retirement years here so we could grow closer, that didn't happen even though we have settled issues that needed addressing; now I find a teenage son who treats me and his mother like we are hotel owners instead of parents, but perhaps what went around is coming around.. Oh congecture... I just want to conclude by saying your blog attracted me in July and it is again attracting me perhaps because you share from within yourself. That is a quality sorely lacking in today's world. Glad you are still here, cyber hug if you don't mind!
David (Mellow Roc)

Steven Anthony said...

I am always so amazed when reading your blog....what a life you have lead.....wow

as always very thought provoking

My name is Erin. said...

Oh, Extranjera. You write about not having a point and yet we find ourselves running smack into the point and it's oh so sweet and thought provoking. Thanks. Your so-called nonsense and simultaneous poignancy is what keeps me coming back over and over again.

I wonder if this "great" Country I live in will ever be able to move past all their arguing and partisan politics to actually get something done.

omchelsea said...

Tally-ho forward! Hailing from Australia, where we are still in conflict with our history, treading a fine line between intervention and stealing children from their native community, I really understand the need for the appearance of a clean slate. Ours, alas, is pretty grubby.

Georgie K. Buttons said...

Where I come from we're just screwed up and keep getting screwier. Guess which country? Lol.