Tuesday, February 7, 2012

South Africa Series: My Love Hate Relationship with SA

“What was it like living there?”

This is the most common question people ask me when they find out that I lived in South Africa (SA) for 2.5 years. My response, although rather political, is a truthful “it was a very interesting experience”. In all honesty, as a woman of color a post-apartheid South Africa does not make the most ideal living environment. A mere two weeks before I boarded the plane to SA, I saw the most horrific scenes unfold on the news in which xenophobic violence ripped through South Africa. The scary part was that these were people of color attacking, hurting, and killing other people of color; immigrants from neighboring African countries.
So how was I supposed to integrate into a society that was not shy about letting the world know that immigrants were not welcomed? But despite its less than ideal environment, many security risks, ever present racial tension, and heartbreaking poverty, South Africa gave me a wonderful home, one that I will always look back on with fondness tainted by a few scars of bitterness. For although I love South Africa, I cannot overlook its many flaws.

I’ll admit having a home within a semi-gated community in the acclaimed Bedfordview in Johannesburg (Jo’Burg) was fantastic. We chose this area because it was a fairly safe neighborhood and it made for a short commute to my spouse’s office. As is the norm in Bedfordview, the house was beautiful and  it came with well-manicured front and back gardens, a built in braai pit (aka bbq pit) as well as a pool.
It also came with a security system that rivals Fort Knox:

ü  Compound secured by 3.5 meters (11.5 ft.) high, 35 cm (13.8 in.) thick, concrete perimeter wall topped off with high-voltage wires

ü  Guards posted 24/7 at the entrance to the compound

ü  Keycard entry into the compound

ü  Hourly security patrols

ü  Interior walls surrounding the house: 2.5 meters (8.2 ft.) high, 25 cm (9.8 in.) thick, wall topped off with high-voltage wires

ü  Rotating security camera in the front yard

ü  Infrared sensors in the backyard and in every room of the house

ü  Silent panic buttons
… The only thing missing was the panic room (lol).
Sure, I joke about it now, but these over-the-top security protocols made me feel safe in my own space so that I could relax and enjoy the comforts of my home. I also enjoyed the freedom of being able to drive around Bedfordview by myself; driving alone beyond those borders was ill-advised.
Accompanied by my spouse, I got the opportunity to explore the rich and diverse world of South Africa. I was treated to some of the most delicious meals and visited areas so picturesque and so animated that not even the world’s most hailed documentarians and filmmakers can capture their true essence on film. This is the South Africa I fell in love with, and the South Africa I hope one day will not be overshadowed by its past troubles. This is the South I will tell you about in my South Africa Series.

For more pictures of the beautiful Bedfordview home click here to visit the Reminiscing: South Africa *Home* album on my facebook page.

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