Compass

Fresh Perspectives You Can Use.

Horizons Journal – Going Back to the Future

eBook 'Moving Horizons'Finally, the Sahara. We’ve been roughed up a bit over the steaming jungles of the equator, but now the towering clouds have disappeared and 10 kilometers below us, a giant sandbox slowly passes by.

I can’t help but think how enormously big this continent of Africa is. We had taken off at the southern tip of it in Cape Town early in the morning for a non-stop flight that would take us to Germany almost 12 hours later.

All our friends think that it takes a lot of courage to uproot our lives of almost 23 years in South Africa and return to Europe. Maybe that’s true, but we are so absolutely sure that this is what we want to do : go back to our own culture.

We’re excited, looking forward to the future, not scared – just creating the environment we want for ourselves. Leaving our comfort zone, yes. We are happy to have that freedom, it’s no big deal really, we’ve done it before; but real courage is something else, and we found a lot of it in Africa.

I’ll never forget our first Christmas office party in Johannesburg, back in 1984 : just the five of us with spouses, but one of us was black – Peter, our driver. We struggled to find a restaurant that would serve black people in those Apartheid years and it took a lot of persistence to succeed; not a nice memory.

We considered leaving the country only once, in 1987 when sanctions had isolated South Africa really badly and we had no hope that the situation would improve. But the job in Australia didn’t work out and we made some other changes instead.

That’s all different now, of course. The dramatic years of transition to democracy were interesting, to say the least – in hindsight I realize how easily things could have ended tragically. A lot of friends had bought one-way tickets just in case when the first democratic elections were held in 1994, on my birthday : 27 April.

Today, we are on a one-way ticket. Still desert sand down there, the picture-book-dunes-variety we always see on the Discovery Channel now. Then, abruptly, the incredibly blue Mediterranean at the coast of Algeria in the late afternoon sun. Some white clouds, Europe is almost in sight.

We look at each other and smile : this is an exciting adventure for me and my wife and we can’t wait to land in about two hours. The Cote d’Azure in the south of France now, then the snow-capped mountains of the Alps. This is familiar; we have been homesick – more than we realize, judging by all the joy we feel.

We’re so lucky : we stayed with good friends in Cape Town until they took us to the airport, and good friends will pick us up in Germany – everyone we know offered unconditional hospitality and helped with all they’ve got when we sold our house and dismantled most of our infrastructure in South Africa; this means a lot to us, and we are very grateful. Thanks to all of you!

Big Hallos at the airport when we arrive – genuine friendship cannot hide. But it’s cold when we haul our luggage to the cars, and dark : a reminder that we’ve travelled from summer straight into winter. No problem, a good Schnaps will warm us up again later.

That’s all I wanted when I was younger : live in a world where it was warm and sunny, experience different cultures on an incredibly interesting planet. South Africa was good for us, this vibrant rainbow nation has so much to offer; we’ll be back to visit, stay in touch a lot, but we’ll live in Europe now.

I’ll be back with more soon : Berend

Thursday, 30 November 2006 - Posted by | 1. COMPASS eNewsletter, 7. Horizons Journal

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