“Why did you move to Africa?” – some compatriots asked me way too many times, their voices betraying a veiled disdain, as if I had committed high treason to king and country.
Twenty years after relocating at the southern tip of the African continent I keep asking myself the very same question to which I find it difficult to answer, for there isn’t a specific reason.
Luck, I imagine.
During my childhood I played with plastic toy animals, dreaming of the vast grasslands soaking in the warm sunset. Growing up, I subconsciously felt that, one day, i would take my physical being where my mind already travelled before.
That one day ultimately arrived: perhaps carelessly, or maybe guided by my soul, I packed a bag and left my motherland. I landed in Cape Town one afternoon in late November; disembarking from the airplane the African heat and the stark brightness of the daylight, different from the European one, welcomed me. My first thought had been ‘I’m home’.
Cape Town is a city of a multitude of faces, a place that vibrates with a thousand voices. A melting pot of people and activities.
There are minibus taxi vans – many still held together with wire and a promise; through their often-too-loud speakers blares music of a genre which can sometimes be both pleasant and overbearing — all depending on a subjective taste to it; sometimes, however, their radio plays African choral songs, and its sound is soothing and inviting to meditation.
Hawkers, noisily calling out at passers-by for their goods to sell, greet me with their toothless grins displaying absolute honesty (that they have or want you to believe).
There are beggars who approach me and concoct a story, worth of an Hollywood production, explaining that they are just back from a job interview and need some help in cash so to travel back home. Tired faces of people who own nothing except their will to live.
Voluptuous mamas slowly walk home after a hard day’s work, chatting away to each other and chirping like birds on a tree; their skin smelling of fresh soap, and wearing unpretentious and flowery dresses. They are wives and mothers, carrying an inner dignity – women who wordlessly teach us about modesty and serenity.
There are moments when I dislike the arrogance, the laid-back attitude so typical of some Capetonians, the sense of entitlement and the lack of respect; I however look inwards and wonder if the disregard I feel is merely a reflection of some aspects of myself.
I meet genuinely happy people, those who carry a smile in their pocket; shop owners opening their business for the day; busy workers providing a service who are happy to share some words. Most people wondering why my accent – after two decades – is still so hard I could chop wood with it.
There’s the constant buzz, the shouts, the hooting and the screeching of a city that talks to us and we’re better talk back, for she won’t let us be quiet.
Through the years I lived easily and sometimes I jostled; I rested and also have worked hard; I loved and have been loved; I ignored and have been ignored.
And I settled down.
So, as to why I moved to Africa, perhaps the best answer I can give is “because I can”.