Patriot Games

*This is not a political post. Neither is it a negative post. Keep this in mind when you read it and, yes, I expect that I might possibly be opening a can of worms. That is not my intention, but if it comes to that…so be it*

I had an online conversation with a friend last night. Proudly ex-pat, he`s been living in Saudi for the last 8 years and he is miserably happy. He never misses an opportunity to remind me of this. In fact, he emphasizes this with so much relish each and every time we speak, that I`m at the point where I feel like putting him out of his misery. Kidding.

Let me explain…John is a 37 year-old, ex-pat South African male. He was born in Germiston, but moved down to Cape Town with his family when he was about 4. He was schooled at Paul Roos, played rugby for the 1st team, studied engineering at Maties and discovered first love, had sex, bought his first car, secured his first job, almost got married, came to his senses, met me along the way…and, while still in possession of house, car, miscellaneous girlfriends and a fast-track at work, decided to leave. To drill oil (Because, Jeanie…I can). John is white. Race and gender usually has no bearing on anything I have to say in this blog, but for the purposes of this post…I need to emphatically state…John is a white male in his late thirties, now living in another country. He is miserably happy. He loves his life there. He loves the new culture. 8 years later he has a ‘new` life. He has new friends. A new perspective on life. A house in France (Because Jeanie…I can). The ridiculous amount of money paid in dollars every month does help.

John is miserable…he misses Mzanzi. He misses real boerewors rolls. He misses cold beer under the hot South African sun. He misses girls in bikinis on Camps Bay beach. He misses being able to approach a woman without the probability of having your winkie chopped off. He pines for pork…it`s an all-consuming obsession at this point. The word bacon is a huge turn on for him. He misses dust and rain and green velde. He misses the really weird dark humour of South Africans. *smile* He misses seeing a Zapiro cartoon in the dailies everyday and how every single conversation we locals have turn into a discussion on crime or politics.

You see, John loves and misses…nay…pines for his country. His home. Sy herberg. Vaderland.

Now… the sad thing about John isn`t that he is still there, when clearly trompie needs to come home now. And, don`t get me wrong; the boy is very fortunate that he has a 2 standing offers from major South African corporations who want him back and not everybody is fortunate (in fact, many ex-pats will say that if only they had a job back home they would come back in a flash).

No, the sad thing is that John has to defend his country to his fellow Safa ex-pats. Oish…Amongst them (and, once again, to put the point of this post in perspective) are fellow Black, Indian and Coloured ex-pats – Contrary to the popular urban legend that only white ex-pats bitch and moan about their own country.

You see, there`s always been a stigma about the white Safa male ex-pat. Deserting his country for another land of opportunity. Sitting on his lofty perch in another land, knowing nothing about what`s happening back home, but having an opinion on everything…even after having last been home 5 years ago.

Have I been guilty of this stereotypical thinking….yes. Once in a London Pub and once in Dubai I had to vehemently defend South Africa. I felt that anybody that hasn`t been home in years and doesn`t possibly make any effort to follow local papers (this is important, some overseas media report what the want to report), cannot possibly offer an opinion.

However, I have so many other friends and acquaintances overseas who make every effort to keep abreast of what`s happening at home. And they don`t only rail against the crime, the poverty, the high unemployment stats and the ticking political time bomb. They are proud of our achievements, how far we have come in terms of tolerance and understanding. They are, in fact, a lot more tolerant of each other and knowledgeable of what`s happening in this country than some of us are. And when they offer an opinion or express a thought, you don`t mind. Because you know they are patriotic in defending Mzanzi and they make an effort to be in the know and when they talk about the good, the bad and the ugly…the actually talk about it because they care, and not because they just want to bitch and moan about a country they left years ago and never made an effort to return to or keep up with.

What am I saying? I`m saying that I don`t always agree that we slam ex-pats for leaving and working overseas. You gotta` do what you gotta` do, man. And if I could pack up and go right now, I would.

I`m saying that I`m proud of South African`s living overseas and still feeling their pride in Mzanzi. You know they care. You just know when you speak to them or read their blogs. I read Boerseun`s blog and laugh…because he`s keeping it very real, but his love for his country shines through.

I`m saying that if you haven`t lived here in a while and you haven`t visited and you don`t make an effort to get the real story (remember, speaking to one or two relatives is a subjective viewpoint of what`s going on), rather not say anything. Because…yeah. The state of our nation is a bit crazy.

But like John said…we`re a young nation and there are so many brilliant things to say about us. We have come a long way. We are tolerant with each other. Only a South African can openly joke about race, creed and colour and have the whole multi-cultural room cracking up. We are generous and we are kind. We love a good party. And we have beautiful women!

Hey, John said so.

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