Jan 30

A South African love story

Rosalie Clark picI fell in love at the age of 43. Not that responsible love which I know, or that infatuated love which I also know. But I fell in love in that real love way. When you can see someone for who they are – flaws and virtues – and love them anyway. Real love is irrational. My best friend for whom life is a rough road, whimsically says to me, “Tell me about love…” I say, “It is crazy. It doesn’t make sense at all. But it feels so good.”

I have just spoken to my dad’s cardiologist. Dad is 86 and his time is short. He was admitted into hospital yesterday for further tests. I lived in Sydney for 15 years, and I would pray that I’d somehow be able to spend significant time with my parents before they died. I moved back to South Africa two years ago in January 2013.

I think I was tricked.

My life in Sydney was established. Although divorced from my Australian husband, relationships were good. My two Australian children -15 and 13 – were in good private schools, and I had a supportive network of friends. I was in my last year formation as a Minister of the Word in the Uniting Church in Australia. My vocation was planned and I loved congregational ministry. But increasingly a pull to Africa and globalised Africans was forming part of my vision. What is our African identity? Who are we in the world born at this time? And what can we uniquely contribute – both to Africa and the new countries we found ourselves in.

Part of our nuclear family plan was that both children – in Year 10 – would attend a South African school for a year so that they could connect with their South African heritage and family. And so it was that my son and I arrived in Pietermaritzburg for a year in 2013. My son attended St Charles College, and I connected in with the Methodist Church of Southern Africa seminary.

And then the plan went pear-shaped!

At Easter, my ex-husband and my 13 year old daughter visited us from Sydney. On her return she decided that she wanted to come to study in South Africa too. The decision was not easy – but we managed to get her a place in Grade 8 at Epworth high school and she started in July 2013. The focus then turned to my son at the end of the year. Now that his sister was here until the end of 2014 (parental decision) should he stay in South Africa for matric, or return to his Sydney school as was the initial plan? Being a boy prone to taking commitments seriously, he decided to return to Sydney and his school friends.

And then at Easter 2014, my ex-husband, my 16 year old son, and my mother-in-law visited us from Australia. The day before they were to leave, my son announced that he wanted to reverse his decision and complete his schooling in South Africa. Again the decision was not easy – but we managed to negotiate between his Sydney school and St Charles and he returned two weeks later to Pietermaritzburg, to pick up the life here he left 3 months before.

My children are very happy, and they are thriving. The schools have engaged them in ways their private schools in Sydney did not. And assured of both parents’ support and love, both children (who only knew Australia) have chosen South Africa. And now, in matric, my son is thinking of TUKS or Stellies for varsity next year. My son says there is a freedom here that wasn’t there in Australia.

And South Africans are fun. They are full of character. Belonging to a wider family is good. And it is real here. You can feel life.

Would I have rationally chosen this for my children? Probably not. South Africa is challenging! But as I said, real love is crazy.

Yes… back to the love story. I am in love with South Africa – but in a real way. It is not a responsible love or an infatuated love. I can see South Africa’s flaws and its virtues. It is a crazy place. It makes no sense to live here. It is completely irrational. But it feels so good.

And just when you think that there is no special someone in this love story, I was surprised last year to fall in love with an old boyfriend I hadn’t been in contact with for 25 years. In fact, he was the boy I took to my matric dance. After living in the UK for 10 years, he also chose to return home four years ago.

Coming home. Here’s an African love story.