CANADA: Top 5 Things I Love About My South Africa

CANADA: Top 5 Things I Love About My South Africa

DSC_0056In 2000, I packed my life into checked baggage and travelled from Johannesburg to Toronto. I left behind my family and friends, my cat, most of my belongings, and everything that I was familiar with. All I had was two suitcases, a job offer, and a street map of a city I knew very little about.

Sixteen years later, Toronto is my home. I am a Canadian citizen with a Canadian husband and Canadian children.

I have made friends, paid taxes and acquired some belongings. I have worked for Canadian employers and started my own business. When I travel, it is with a passport that says “Canada” on the front.

And yet there is a part of me that is still firmly rooted in South Africa. I follow news stories from South Africa and celebrate the victories of its people. I take immense pride in the fact that I was born in the same country as people like Nelson Mandela and Caster Semenya.

You see, even though I made the choice to leave South Africa, and even though I now identify as a Canadian, South 20151129_055824Africa will always be the land of my birth and a part of who I am. Although my children have never left the continent of North America, African blood runs through their veins.

When the world looks at South Africa, it sees a deeply troubled country with corrupt politics and a high crime rate. But South Africa is made up of more than its problems. It is unlikely to ever be an economic or political powerhouse on the world stage, but it is great in its own way.

I try to keep these things alive in my children’s lives through stories, pictures and videos. Thanks to the Internet, I can bring parts of South Africa right into my living room in Canada. It is my hope that someday they will get to experience these things in person, just as I did during a visit last year.

DSC_0040Here is my top five list of things that I feel make South Africa a unique and wonderful country.

  1. The people. When you see news coverage of South Africans trashing city streets and destroying schools, you are seeing the minority. Most South Africans are very nice people. Their friendliness has a spontaneous quality that is not seen in a lot of other places. They don’t hold back on their smiles, and when they say “Have a nice day” they genuinely mean it. South African people are incredibly generous with their good cheer.
  2. The natural beauty. South Africa is one of the most stunningly beautiful places on earth. Pictures do not do justice to the wildness of the oceans, the harsh beauty of the Karoo desert, the brilliance of Cape Town sunsets, and the majesty of the mountains.
  3. The weather. OK, Cape Town weather is a little iffy, but you can’t really expect anything else from a city that has mountains on one side and ocean on the other. The weather in Johannesburg, however, is as close to perfect as you can get. Hot dry temperatures in the summer, and mild temperatures in the winter. The summers also include magnificent thunderstorms. I’m not talking about the odd bolt of lightning or rumble of thunder. I’m talking about nature’s own sound and light shows.
  4. Unity. At times, South Africa is sharply divided along racial lines, with the different ethnic groups all blaming each other for the problems in the country. But during some pivotal moments in South Africa’s history – the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, South Africa’s first democratic election, the rugby World Cup victory and more – the people have come together under the single banner of humanity. It is the kind of unity that is not only seen in pictures, it is felt in the heart. It is during those moments that the country is at its strongest.
  5. Dance and music. I absolutely love traditional African dance and music. It does not merely entertain, it tells a story. It is powerful and creative, and it beats to the rhythm of your heart. I can’t copy the dance moves or sing along to the music, but I can bask in the emotion and humanity of it.

DSC_0116What are the things you love most about your country? If you are an ex-pat, what do you miss most from home?

This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle of Toronto, Canada.

 

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook and on Twitter @running4autism. Be sure to check out her personal blog, Running for Autism!

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TANZANIA: Eye of the Hurricane

TANZANIA: Eye of the Hurricane

I recently discovered that there are 5 things deemed the most stressful in life. The topic came up in a conversation I was having with a friend and I was shocked to check two boxes out of the five that were listed! Box 2. Getting married, Box 4. Moving.

“How did you get here,” begs the obvious question!

Well, we have been working on our home for a little over a year now. Like many who have done it before, we have had to learn the hard way that construction is no easy feat. Whatever your plan, expect it to take double the time and cost twice as much. Somewhere within that space, my longtime partner proposed to me. So – yes! – we also had a wedding to plan. We had originally planned for a small affair at the beginning of the year, anticipating to move into our new house before July.

As life would have it, owing to work obligations, we had to switch things around. Now we are getting married AND moving into our new home at the same time, mid-year. Through all this, I have felt tested more than ever before. In between wedding planning, my day job, community work, dealing with the construction, and being a mother, it has often left me stretched too thin!

I must say though, I feel this is what we as mothers and women are best at. We handle it, all and all. Week by week I read amazing stories on World Moms Blog about women and mothers the world over that inspire me and sustain me.

Even though, it feels like I am in the eye of the hurricane, my feet are firmly in the ground, my focus is sharper than ever, and I am not wavered in my resolve. How? Well I am a World mom aren’t I?

What challenges have you endured as a woman and a mother? How do you manage it all?

This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Nancy Sumari in Tanzania.

Image credit to the author. 

USA: Outcasts, Refugees, and Giving Thanks

USA: Outcasts, Refugees, and Giving Thanks

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On November 26, 2015, here in the USA there was a celebration. It is called Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is celebrated by many Americans as a day when the ‘Injuns and pilgrims feasted together in harmony’. When possible, families gather to spend the day eating a plenteously-sized meal, and go over the things for which they are thankful.

When I came to the U.S. I heard of a couple of stories behind the meaning of Thanksgiving. I heard it marked a day in American history when pilgrims came from England and after having being helped to plant food by some Natives, they all gathered and had a big feast with the first harvest. I was also told that there was an exchange in which the Natives gave the English food like wild game, and the English gave the Natives blankets contaminated with smallpox which wiped out almost an entire First Nation. So it is that without researching further, I knew I didn’t want to celebrate this particular thanksgiving day without looking into its history first. I was okay with my family gathering, eating good food, and giving thanks for all that I had. I just wasn’t about giving thanks for the planned killing of anyone.

During the course of my life I have figured out that I am too idealistic. I am also fairly optimistic, so saying that I am ‘too’ idealistic feels wrong. However, as life has proven, I am too much of an idealist. That’s okay; I am still staying true to that for I am sure there is purpose in it, and I am rewiring some other thinking patterns. All this to say, that by the time I heard of the smallpox story, I knew there was a great chance that this had actually happened. The idealist in me immediately asked why any human would cause suffering and death to his fellow, but Sophia the realist started going down a list of atrocities that she knew about, that would make this new information less shocking.

The research I did before was in books I do not recollect the titles of. I presently did some more research, though, and I came across a story that an educator put together so the truth about the First Thanksgiving day may be shared with elementary school-aged children. With this story there were books cited and more information given in a more graphic manner than that written for young children.

I read the article and I leave it to you to read it as well. As I scrolled down and read more, I read the following paragraph and immediately I thought about the current situation in Syria, its people who are fleeing war seeking refuge amongst other human beings, and how many of said other humans are responding to this need. This paragraph reminds us of the history of U.S. Americans’ Anglo-Saxon ancestors, and so it is ironic that any of their descendants should feel okay saying Syrian refugees aren’t welcome to this land.

“….The Puritan “Pilgrims” who came to New England were not simply refugees who decided to “put their fate in God’s hands” in the “empty wilderness” of North America, as a generation of Hollywood movies taught us. In any culture at any time, settlers on a frontier are most often outcasts and fugitives who, in some way or other, do not fit into the mainstream of their society. This is not to imply that people who settle on frontiers have no redeeming qualities such as bravery, etc., but that the images of nobility that we associate with the Puritans are at least in part the good “P.R.” efforts of later writers who have romanticized them.(1) It is also very plausible that this unnaturally noble image of the Puritans is all wrapped up with the mythology of “Noble Civilization” vs. “Savagery….”  Chuck Larsen quoting Berkhofer, Jr., R.F., “The White Man’s Indian”.
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We were driving by downtown the other day (what city is irrelevant) and saw people standing by the side of the road with signs reading ‘Refugees are not welcome here’. Immediately my mind rewound to when outcasts from England came here, and it is their descendants who are now standing on the side of the street saying they don’t want refugees here. These current refugees aren’t even outcasts, they are simply people who are no longer safe in the country they know as home. I say this very simply because I cannot pretend to understand what Syrians and all people in the middle of war zones are going through. Many Americans can afford to feel so detached because the war isn’t on American soil. However, we are at war, and the side of war we do not see here, is the side where there are humans who are suffering and dying. It’s easy to not put ourselves in other people’s shoes when we don’t see or know what they are going through. To feel anything but heartbreak or anger when seeing footage of women, children, and men being carried…body parts dangling, faces torn…. of children’s bodies washing up on shore or lined up with other dead children’s bodies… to know that there are humans who feel something other than heartbreak or anger, and who instead feel good as if these ‘strange people from a foreign country’ deserve it, is heartbreaking! It’s the kind of thing that makes me ashamed of being human. We have become so accustomed to these imaginary lines dividing our world, that we believe they are actually real. Otherwise, how could we feel anything but compassion for a father trying to find refuge for his remaining family?
I know I think too ideally. I know this. And I also know that because of this I tend to leave challenging questions and conversations alone. Truth is, though, that as a person I am hurt every time I see a sign/banner, a meme, or other social media image, saying something negative about a refugee. It’s like there is no compassion and history is forgotten. Actually… history isn’t forgotten. History is re-written; which is why the truth about Thanksgiving is not told in schools. It is changed a little, and changed a little more, until it is just the nice Pilgrims and the Indians who were sharing a nice harvest feast. This is why people forget where they came from, and this is part of the reason why when it comes to deciding whether or not we would welcome a refugee into our city or country, we feel comfortable and proud in saying “No, refugees are not welcome here!”
Ultimately my point is this: We are human. All of us. Chinese, Kenyan, Norwegian, Sioux, Japanese, Syrian, Mexican, Goan, etc… etc… etc…
We are all… human.  How dare we not extend our hand in support of our fellow human in need?
Let’s not forget where we have come from, and let’s work together to build a better humanity. For those of us feeling a bit more self-assisting than altruistic (for whatever the reason), it may be good to remember that helping another person makes us feel good inside. If we were to die the moment after helping another living thing (human or otherwise), maybe our sincere moment of kindness would redeem us from other times when we weren’t so kind. Thus it is that extending our hand to someone in need is a win-win.
Hopefully, if there ever comes a time when we need help, someone will reach out and say “Come, you are welcome here.”
Are you and idealist or a realist?  How do you feel it affects how you think about world issues?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia. You can find her blogging at Think Say Be and on twitter @ThinkSayBeSNJ.
Photo credit to Rakel Sánchez.  This photo has a creative commons attribute license.

ThinkSayBe

I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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ONTARIO, CANADA: Forty and Freaking Out

ONTARIO, CANADA: Forty and Freaking Out

children at the beach

Our family has gone through some serious upheaval over the past two years. We’re talking big city to small town relocation, major job changes, the birth of our youngest, and the final resignation of my job as I officially became a stay at home mom (SAHM) for an indefinite period to deal with our children’s special needs. Whew! I can feel my stress level rising just thinking about it.

Our family embraces change with the best of them, and we tend to take many things in stride. Dealing with two children with complex needs is just something we do. Homeschooling to support serious academic needs? Done. Countless medical appointments and therapist visits? You got it. An active and healthy life style? It’s even better, now that we’re relocated to a small town surrounded by forest and farmland.

The kids are happy, my husband’s happy, and I’m happy.  So what’s the freak out about?

*gulp*  I’m turning forty. Like really soon. (more…)

specialneedmom2

Angela is a Special Education teacher who blogs about her super-powered special needs family. She has a 3 year old with Prader-Willi Syndrome and a 5 year old with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Sensory Processing Disorder. The odds of these random genetic events occurring at the same time are astronomical. "When you add our typically developing one year old baby boy to the mix, you have a very busy household!", she explains. Angela admits to having too many appointments, too many school problems, and being generally too busy as she tries to live life to the fullest. Please visit her family at Half Past Normal for more of their adventures! If you want to connect to chat, you can find her on Twitter @specialneedmom2 If you are interested in Special Education policies and procedures in Ontario – or just some excellent strategies and accommodations – please check out Angela's other site at Special Ed on the Bell Curve.

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PORTUGAL: What Makes A Home?

PORTUGAL: What Makes A Home?

julieOver the past 7 years I have lived in 10 different homes on 2 different continents. To some this will sound like the ultimate adventure, to others it will seem like a nightmare. Even I can’t decide how I feel about it.

At the moment, having lived in temporary accommodation for over six months with a baby under one, it’s feeling more nightmarish than adventurous. My heart aches for a more permanent home, a place to unpack all our boxes and finally set up a room for my baby boy. I’m sick of sitting on someone else’s couch, using the oddly sized cutlery someone else picked out.

It feels like my life is on hold, that I can’t make any real plans until I’m sitting at my own dining room table.

Another part of me knows this is ridiculous. My happiness does not depend on a piece of furniture from IKEA. My baby makes me acutely aware that time is passing every moment and if I don’t enjoy the here and now I’ll suddenly wake up to an 18 year old son and wonder what happened.

And sometimes I can appreciate the adventurous side of it all. When my husband and I look back over the past few years there are so many stories to tell and so many experiences to remember. “Look at where we were last year and where we are now”, we often say. In retrospect our life seems so full. And that can’t be a bad thing.

I do wonder how our nomadic lifestyle is affecting our baby boy. He has moved house 3 times in his short life and it is clear that this does not go unnoticed. For the first few weeks post move he is clingy, unsure of himself. Who could blame him? Every reference point bar his parents has been changed.

Since I cannot provide him with a constant physical space to call home, I focus on making this family, this life his home. If our little family is together that should be enough. Or rather, my dream house in the perfect location wouldn’t feel like home without my two boys in it.

And then again I feel guilty about getting stressed about something as futile as the lack of shelf space or not liking the colour of the walls. I might feel displaced in our rented house but that is nothing compared to the thousands of migrant and refugee families who literally have nowhere to call a home. I often wonder how they do cope, how hard it must be to create a space that feels even just a little bit like a home in a refugee camp or when you’re being shipped from country to country hoping someone will take you in.

So I take a big breath. Everything is okay. This unsettled period in our life will soon pass and be turned into stories. And my baby is still so small that just being close to his mummy and daddy is home enough for him.

What does home mean to you? If you’re living abroad how do you make your house feel like home?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Julie from Portugal.

juliegd

Julie, her husband and baby boy are currently living in Portugal, having spent the previous three years in the southeast of Brazil. She considers herself a bit of an obsessive reader, and even more so since discovering she was pregnant. All that information has to go somewhere, which is why Julie started her blog, happy mama = happy baby, where she documents all the quirky parenting ideas she has collected so far.

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BRAZIL: Is there any such thing as the perfect place to live?

BRAZIL: Is there any such thing as the perfect place to live?

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With the exception of a six month stay in Canada, our family has lived in the exact same house from the time our eldest son turned one to today, almost ten years later. I often find myself wondering what kind of impact that will have on our children, since when I was a child my family moved from house to house several times, including one big move from the USA to Brazil.

I believe that for children, there are advantages and disadvantages both to moving around a lot and to staying put their entire childhood. Moving around – especially if these moves are to new cities or even countries – gives them new perspectives of the world. Staying put, in turn, gives them a sense of stability and security. (more…)

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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