Brazen Princess

Loud and Unashamed
FEBRUARY 11, 2013 1:44PM

Leaving Africa

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                                   Me in Narus, Sudan 
I’m about to write something truly amazing.

It is a confession of sorts, painted in burnt orange and brown and bright blue.  I am going to write about my new homeland, a place that has mystified me from the moment I arrived here.  It is Johannesburg, South Africa. 

Jozi’s northern suburbs, I should say.  No one from Joburg says I live in Joburg.

We are moving back to the USA on March 15th or thereabouts.  We still haven’t bought our plane tickets but we are scheduling the moving company and scheduling the going away party. 

For the last two years I’ve been turning my face more and more toward my homeland.  I’ve lived with the haunting terribleness of missing my kids, my grandkids and my parents.  Sometimes I’ve missed them in utter pitch blackness inside of a lonely night.  Other times I’ve missed them as I jealously watched exchanges between families here in church.  For a girl like me to be oceans away from her family has been excruciating.  God created me with a love for the nations and a desire to serve the poor; but He also created me with a fierce love of family.

Interesting paradox.

So for the last six years we have walked out the deep calling of God to be here and work into Africa.  We are based in (live in) South Africa – the France of Africa.  All foreigners here are always going to be foreigners and don’t share in the unique camaraderie of all of the others who were born and raised here.  

I used to joke with others that I wished the ground would swallow me up and spit me out as a South African, magically.  Instead, I am hopelessly American – with an American accent, my American preferences and an American personality.  I don’t know how to be a South African woman – I am the American woman who grew up believing women and men had different but equal voices.

Now it’s all happening too fast and I am leaving, after six years of pouring my life into this beautiful and unusual place.

Here’s my confession: I don’t know if I want to leave.  I don’t know how to say goodbye to this beloved land; these beloved people who have hosted us for six years.  I am a permanent resident now and I proudly carry my green ID booklet with me everywhere.   

I don’t want to leave the ubuntu, the gorgeous lovely dysfunctional feeling that we are helpless against the corruption that infiltrates government.  I don’t know how to get the music out of my head – the Zulu worship songs that have colored our lives here.  I can’t figure out how to gracefully exit a homeland I want to weep over and flip off at the same time. 

I am one conflicted woman.

I have fallen in love; been used and abused; been awestruck and left tearful…. 

 And I have to leave Portia. 

How do you like that? I buried the lead. 

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Thanks, T. It is very gut-wrenching and sad...but so is being separated from family. It's all happening so fast!!
There's nothing that says you have to leave forever. Maybe it will be easier if you give yourself permission to come back some day.
You have many of the same feelings I'm having about uprooting. I don't think it's ever easy. But you have good reasons. And you'll be carrying a lot of South Africa with you. May it all go smoothly--with a few tears, but more smiles.
Phyllis~ We will come back, for visits. I still have made this place my home and it's terrible to tear away.

JLS~ Exactly.... Moving on is painful but necessary.
For very different reasons and years ago, I was dubbed by my friend and accountant as a "responsible urban gypsy" as I had not rooted in one spot for more than three (3) years since I left home at 17 (I'm 55 now). I never left the U.S., but I did traverse the continent back and forth a couple of times landing in cities/states that became my home and where I learned how to "bloom where I'm planted".

I cannot explain the why's for all of these moves, but I can say that a large percentage can be attributed to my spiritual growth. While I may have not lingered too long, hindhight over the years has afforded me a wisdom I could not have foreseen let alone intuit. It was always hard for me to move on ...

In December 2012, I officially became a "native" of Oregon ... the joke (as it were) being that if a nomad, such as myself, resides at one address for seven (7) years, they are home. I couldn't see that happening, but when it actually did, I was taken aback at the profound the sense of belonging I have experienced and which continues to blossom.

I can understand your conflict and can only offer that you must listen to your innermost self and trust you're exactly where you need to be in this moment. Perhaps your mission has been accomplished ... for now.

All the best to find the resolution that lends peace to your soul.

I feel your pain, mostly because you write so well. Saying goodbye hurts on both ends of the round trip. Enjoy your farewell party. We will welcome you home with open arms. BTW, who's Portia?

I am so sorry you have to leave - and yet of course, it will be wonderful for you to be closer to family. I often feel this conflict: like you, I love living in my adopted land, and feel so much a part of it (even though I'll never be French), but at the same time, I miss my family so much. I can completely understand what you're doing. I hope returning to your loved ones will make the transition much smoother and that you'll quickly know that you've made the right decision. All the best to you and your husband - best of luck with the move.
Even in sadness you wrote this beautifully. We've been considering retirement out of the country and this post has made me rethink what I felt would be an adventure...just he and I. You were in Asouth Africa for a purpose...a belief and to do good. Just looking at the picture could you not have loved and been more loved.Your smile alone says it all. Best to you both as you make your journey home and much warmth in knowing you can return. ~r
Lovely writing. I can feel the gut wrenching. America needs you so it's all good ;)
Used, abused and leaving with the knowledge that we are all one.
For many years as kid I had a pen pal from South Africa. I let it slide and I always wished I'd kept the relationship because she wanted me to visit her. I've been fascinated with the country ever since. What a difficult decision to have to make - it's times like this I'll bet that makes you wish you could split yourself in two and be in both places at the same time. You'll never get the music out of your head, but why would you want to. Good luck.
Helping the poor is the ultimate civility and humanity; God bless you! It is time to come home, Princess. Beautiful post. R
Therewill be another Joburg for you - but you don't know it yet! Safe Voyage! Looking forward to reading you on your return. R
I loved that music. I'm playing it loud here and rocking to it. You are taking Africa with you. Please take us with you too. I want to know whatever you can find the time to tell us. Your life is a movie and a book. Your inspirations are amazing. Your book is going to come out and many more chapters in your life too.
i have a lot of mixed feelings about missionaries, if that is what you are, yet i sense there are also advantages to it and an unavoidable cultural development, especially if it is practiced with respect for the local customs.

I think often of the case of Hawaii, where the first generation of Westeners were British Protestant missionaries, and then their children came to rule the island financially, strip the natives of their land, etc. etc. etc. It happens over and over and the question becomes whether it is better that way than outright conquest on the battlefield, which used to be the case.

Are we becoming more civilized?
I'm still not sure the only thing Christianity has to offer is bigger guns and bigger bombs. When I meet folks who are missionaries, regardless of the faith they seem well intentioned, but so was the guy who invented nuclear fission. It's why I belong to a religion that doesn't proselytize.

The next thing these people know is their lands and resources belong to the outsiders who have taught them to turn the other cheek. Why not just give them the hospitals and schools to fulfill your purpose? If they want the religion, let them knock on your door.

If fundamentalism in this country wasn't the bulwark of ultra-irrational and retrograde conservatism, I probably wouldn't feel this way, but it is, and I do. They are the folks who want all these guns, threaten to secede if they don't get their way, and place limitations on the rights of the individual to take control of "our" own destiny.
My younger sister was an AFS student. Some guy gave a talk when the AFS kids were about to go overseas and what he told them is that they're never going to feel completely at home again because there will be an element of home where they're not and that, oddly enough, this is a good thing.