The below is Kristoff Adelbert’s homecomer story.
I don’t think I’d be far off the mark if I were to say that South Africans are a bit tense at the moment. 2015 has been another momentous year. The nation is being steam rolled with an overwhelming amount of controversial issues: tax-funded presidential palaces, chaotic parliamentary sittings, extreme cases of abject racism, ongoing incidences of violent crime, a collapsing power utility, fallen sports heroes, extraordinary cases of administrative corruption and various water supply crises. This is the highlights reel, truth be told, as the complete list is unfortunately quite a bit longer.
So, where does this leave us, the citizens of the nation? Do we slowly walk to the corner of our dark lounges, collapse down into the foetal position, rocking back and forth, holding our big toes between trembling fingers, staring desperately at the lifeless TV and begin cultivating giant tears of pain and anguish, interspersed with volcanic fits of rage?
Well, that’s an option, I suppose. An unproductive one, in my mind. Yes, we are faced with more controversy than the average Australian or Swede, but we are South African. We’ve been through a lot, so we light candles, install burglar bars, stockpile water and commit to forging on with life whether we are supported or guided by the powers that be or not.
I have to shake my head violently if I find myself disappearing into despair, because I have to remember why it is that I chose to move back to South Africa, from Australia, in February of this year. Yes, I came back. I’m often asked why I chose to return. The answer is complex, in my case, so let me speak to the one element that is relevant to this piece of writing.
I see a silver lining. Once I push through the dark clouds, past the heavy mist, I see a light that shines so brightly, it ignites my soul. Only a South African who truly loves his or her country will know what I mean.
It’s that feeling you get when you’re standing on top of Lion’s Head peering down at The Atlantic Ocean, with the blustery Cape Doctor wrapping itself around your legs.
It’s that feeling you get when you walk the halls of the Apartheid Museum, eyes wet with gratitude for what has truly been a miraculous transformation.
It’s that feeling you get when walking a wilderness trail in The Kruger National Park, sharing the earth with the gracious African Elephant.
It’s that feeling you get on the crest of a wave, buoyant on the great Indian Ocean, in Jeffrey’s Bay.
It’s that feeling you get while swinging your hips at Mzoli’s Place in Gugulethu, as the sun slowly sinks behind the horizon.
It’s that feeling you get, suspended below the ocean surface, quietly marvelling at the sea life in the Sodwana Bay National Park.
It’s that feeling you get when looking out across the infinite Karoo, majestic in its simplicity, subtle in its complexity.
It’s that feeling you get when having your passport stamped at the OR Tambo International Airport arrivals hall after some time abroad.
It’s that feeling you get when you’re amongst the crowds at a Bafana Bafana match singing the national anthem.
It’s that feeling you get when you stop for a moment to reflect on the life of our late Nelson Mandela, a fellow South African, who sacrificed a large portion of his life for the betterment of our nation.
The list is inexhaustible. It’s that feeling that has brought me back. Some will argue that I’ve made a heart-decision, ignoring “logic” and “rationale”. “What about your quality of life?” some will ask, and to that I respond, “My quality of life is not only determined by how long the lights stay on or whether water runs from the tap but by that invisible, unexplainable connection to a place that makes the heart glow and the blood warm.”
While it is important for us to never become complacent, it is equally important for us to never lose hope. It is our duty to ensure that those who are steering the ship do so with grace and competence, but it is also our duty to come together and remember that we are in this together. So while we speak, even shout, out against those responsible for the respective messes, and we must, let’s also smile peacefully and laugh gently, because it is us, the lucky few, who get to call this place home.