Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A White Horse.

Hold your breath until you remember when you last saw a white horse.
Does anyone still use this cure for hiccups? Did you know it can be used as a cure to a country?

On Monday I asked Mrs Black “Are you sure you still want to leave? You’re still okay to go to Belgium?”
She looked at me as if I was a shaved fruit bat.
Her answer was (and forgive me if I’m miss-quoting here) “Of course! What would make you ask that?”
To get something clear at the outset: I have not changed my mind or altered my resolve in the least about leaving South Africa but I needed to be certain that she wasn’t having second thoughts. I’d hate for her to be going through this with reservations.
Second thoughts kill ideas and sabotage the best laid plans. In my opinion they rot things from the core.
Later on, Mrs Black retorted to my question with one of her own – to prove a point.
“Give me a reason to stay in South Africa. Think of one reason why you’d want to stay in the country.”
I smiled at her because at face value it sounded easy. My smile was soon stripped off when I realized that I had cranial constipation! This easy task was becoming rather difficult and the more I racked my brain, the more elusive the ‘one reason’ became.
The conclusion to this little debacle is that I couldn’t find one. Even now my mind wanders through empty corridors, peeking in the corners for the ‘one reason’ in complete disbelief that it cannot be found!
There’s a list of reasons for leaving South Africa, flocks of fluttering agitation but not one single butterfly of reason to remain.

I’m Belgian. I’m proud to be associated with Belgium. I will pay my taxes not to keep my president soaked in wives (yes, plural of wife), but to pay for services. I will have a King and Queen, who have decorum, manners, monogamy, self-control and a certain amount of class but still have a human side.
I dream on until The Haunt is good and thoroughly sold and we set sail for a new home.
Ciao for now.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Bleak Days

Black Tuesday…or is it Black Wednesday?
It certainly feels black.
The weather’s been rainy here. When it rains many traffic lights cease to function, drivers become more impatient, many accidents happen, potholes fill with water making them deeper and hiding them. It doesn’t help when an ‘unknown’ element is also tampering with traffic lights, turning them to face the other intersections causing a fair amount of confusion and a whole lot of danger. I took a different route home yesterday because a truck had jack-knifed on the freeway blocking three lanes. That’s two lanes open and I could feel it in the traffic 5km back.
Tom Tom the GPS took me through what used to be green, beautifully maintained suburbs. They now resemble Maputo. I thought I saw one of those tampered-with traffic lights but I was mistaken. It was hanging skew out of neglect.
The ‘Secrecy Bill’ has taken a step closer to being implemented.
This is what the majority want. If they didn’t want this they would’ve voted for a different government. Perhaps the majority don’t know of this and didn’t protest against it because they didn’t hear it on the news because they didn’t have a radio or TV. It doesn’t really matter. They’ll vote the same government in next time anyway, their saviours and heroes, regardless.
There’s those amendments to the ‘Secrecy Bill’ too that sound fine and well but leave me deeply worried. That bit I heard on the radio yesterday about information not being made classified to hide incompetency, criminal or wrong doing. Who’s going to decide that? What’s the sequence here? Will it be deemed classified until someone can prove the incompetency, crime or wrongdoing and then that someone’s broken the law because it was classified?
Will it have to be proven before it’s classified? Won’t it be leaked to the public then making it no longer classified? What information could be so harmful or shameful that a tiny insignificant banana republic like South Africa has to keep it secret?
Our borders aren’t of use anymore. We have so many foreigners here that we may as well incorporate our neighbours and call the country Zim Africa. Are we keeping the secrets from them? Why?
No. There are things that need to be kept from the citizens and the best way to do that is gag the press.
On the up side I look forward to hearing less political news and hopefully less about ANY government projects. I’d like more weather and economics to be shown on the news.
I don’t agree with the majority and I’m tired of explaining to the infatuated. My little girl deserves better so we’re going where I can give her a fairer lot in life.
Ciao for now.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Our Home.

Our beautiful home.
What a blessing, what a burden.
Our house is probably one of the oldest domiciles in the neighbourhood and because of this is steeped in rumour and neighbourhood legend. The house is now over 100 years old and still sports many of its original fittings and charm.
We nicknamed it “The Haunt” because it’s said to have spirits roaming the halls. I can say “the halls” because yes, it is that big. The Haunt is rumoured to have been the dwelling of everyone from the mayor to a mining magnate. It’s walls are all double cavity, internal and external, and the floors are wooden. The house is built on a double stand and sports an entrance hall, four bedrooms (one part of the house but accessed from outside), one and a half bathrooms (toilet outhouse part of main structure but accessed from outside), lounge, dining room, kitchen, store room (which used to be the kitchen – remember that the slaves did the cooking and brought the food in), a coal cellar, a walk in cellar and crawl space for the rest of the house.
On the property we have a cottage with bedroom, lounge, kitchen and bathroom which used to be the coach house and is still labelled as such on the original plan. I’ve often imagined the four wheeler buggy standing in there, waiting for the Sunday trip to church.
One of the ghosts that haunt the place is rumoured to be a lady who was shot in the cottage by her estranged husband. The neighbours remember him piling her body into the car, wracked with remorse after the fact, and rushing her to hospital - too late.
There’s a ghost who arbitrarily presses a key on the piano every so often. It’s A# to the left of middle C. The room will be empty and the note will sound. Always when your back is turned to the piano, of course. The first time it happened I whipped my head around; lo and behold there was nothing visible there.
The ghost has also closed a tap for me. I was home alone and filling the dogs bowl in the kitchen and left the tap running while I rummaged in the fridge for ingredients for a sandwich. It’s a big tub of a bowl – enough water for two Rottweilers and a Labrador. I suddenly hear the water stop running and look over my shoulder thinking “Oh damn, the municipality must be working on the water again.
I went over to have a look and close the tap. I didn’t want the water suddenly turned on again by the municipality and have the tap running full ball with no-one noticing until a lot of water had been wasted.
The tap was already closed and had it run much longer the bowl would have been over-full.
As creepy as this sounds, the ghost…or ghosts have been quite amenable. There has been no rattling of chains, tearing of sheets or other horror movie type incidents. They don’t do things very often and as in the last incident have been helpful!
I’ll miss The Haunt, even though I kind of resent the place now. Had The Haunt been in a better part of town, just two blocks up, we could have sold it for over a million and I think a lot quicker.
There have been a few signed (and we thought sealed) deals on The Haunt, each of which has fallen apart because of reasons out of our control. It’s been very disheartening and frustrating standing at the starting blocks, hearing the gun go off and leaping forward for the race then moments later hearing another shot indicating a false start. Everything stops and returns to the beginning again. This must’ve happened about four times already – I’ve lost count. I now expect more of the same – great start and then return to the beginning. I don’t like being optimistic and having my hopes beaten around the head every time.
I accept and believe there’s a bigger plan (God knows what he’s doing) and I’m behaving like an impertinent child who can’t get his way. I try not to but I can’t help it.
I have no choice but to bide my time and be patient. We will move forward when we are permitted to: When the time is right. Even though I want to leave now! *stomp-stomp*

Waiting patiently impatient.

Ciao for now.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Guilt

Then there’s the guilt.
Perhaps this will be a cathartic release of the different guilt I have for fleeing.
There is the little guilt titbits that pop up like those chocolates that are left on the pillows of turned down hotel rooms; quickly seen to and disposed of. Nom-nom-nom.
Then there is the larger, Christmas dinner sized guilt that becomes bigger the more you eat. I have four of these that torment me for our decision to flee.
There’s the guilt that I’m depriving my parents of a very important part of their lives. That part where they get to dote on their grandchild, their first grandchild, my daughter who I’ll be stealing away to Belgium. I’ve wrestled and reasoned that I cannot sacrifice her safety, education and well-being on this. I’m not prepared to gamble on this here. The odds aren’t good – not now. Perhaps it’d be better in a few generations time but I doubt it’ll even become a fair gamble in her lifetime.
There’s the guilt that I’m taking someone’s daughter, Mrs. Black, and grandchild away from them. My wife’s parents are still both alive. Mrs. Black always vowed to stay here until they’d both passed on but since the birth of our daughter, Specoloos that’s her nickname, Mrs. Black’s concerns have taken a drastic left turn without indicating, flicker lights, hooting or any pre-warning! Mrs. Black hasn’t shown any wavering sign of ever turning around again. She has her sights firmly set on the horizon, waiting for the sails to billow with a stiff breeze so we may lift anchor and depart.

There’s the guilt that I’ve inadvertently coerced my family, through my cynical disposition, into leaving this place. This guilt doesn’t happen often, thankfully, but it does rear its head! It re-assures me to hear Mrs. Black’s thoughts on all the things she’d like to do when we’re settled in Belgium. As nasty as this is, it also re-assures me when she sees a terrifying reality in this place and expounds it to me.
Inevitably there’s the Catholic guilt. If you’re a practicing Catholic you may understand the next bit. To ensure my time-share in heaven, I should be looking after the poor, helping the needy and generally spreading and sharing goodwill. There’s enough of all the above right outside my house to swallow more than my lifespan of time and assets. I feel guilt for leaving the needy behind. I was the provider of music at the 11:45 mass at our church on Sunday for free and completely voluntarily. When we began our plans, I quit. I knew I wouldn’t be able to give it the little attention I already was and the equipment I used would have to be sold. As with human nature I have a counter-argument for this guilt too. Why else would I still be in the throes of fleeing?
I made a promise, a vow before God, family and friends that I would remain faithful and loving in sickness and in health (that means no matter what) to Mrs. Black. Through the sacrament of marriage where we give ourselves to the other before all those witnesses, it is my responsibility through utter and undying love to do the best by and for my family. The best right now is to move them to a place where they’ll be safer, exposed to more opportunities and experiences that they can obtain here. I hope for a happier, safer and far less stressed family in Belgium.
I've come to realize that I'm relieved when I see them at the end of the day. Relieved that nothing bad and no harm has befallen them because it is a constant and real danger here.
That's not living.
Ciao for now.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Master

What to do about my employ?
Why am I concerned about my employer?
Simple; they’ve been good to me and I feel a certain responsibility due to the uniqueness of my position. I work for a massive international concern but each department is run as an individual business. In our unit there are six engineers, each running more than three projects at any given time. I used to be the only one doing their drawings then the projects became more and I was granted help. I am in the unique position in my company, at least the South African division, where I have absolute say on the standards, content, equipment library and who gets to work with our drawings. I’m in charge of the visual outcome of the engineer’s designs. Now that I’ve written this down, it’s kind of scary.
If there’s been a problem where a draughtsperson was having difficulty getting a certain result or the software wasn’t behaving as expected I’d be the “go to” person. Last week I got a call from a draughtsperson from another company entirely who heard I could possibly help them with a problem. I could and I did.
They’re also not stingy with their money. They pay me well for my knowledge and expertise as well as the amount of work I’m able to push out. Between you and me I think they also pay for entertainment value because when I get stressed the most unusual things come out of my mouth. When there are profits over and above what’s required, I’m given a chunk of that too. Aren’t they nice?

My manager balked when I told him of our plans. His immediate reaction was to ask if we (the company from here on referred to as “The Master”) had an office in Belgium because then I could simply transfer. I had considered this and investigated it. The Master has offices throughout Europe, but unfortunately the one place they don’t have offices is the one place I’m going to.
I hadn’t intended to tell The Master until plans were well under way but circumstances didn’t allow for that. The month we decided to put our plans into action was the month two of our engineers decided to resign. It wasn’t planned like that in any way, they simply both got opportunities to expand their expertise at the same time. Our business unit was suddenly struggling to swim. I’m not so deluded that I believe The Master couldn’t replace me, but I certainly believe they’d have swallowed a lot of water, choked and spluttered quite a bit and possibly even disappeared under the water for a while if I’d left at that point.
Not that I could have left at that point. We were still only planning but that kind of planning and implementing takes time. It would’ve been dishonest and mean not to divulge the route I’d decided to take.
The hunt for a permanent assistant, an *ass-man if you will, began.
It hasn’t ended.

Then there’s the unexpected and gracious granting of some serious software training that I’d been asking for repeatedly for about three years. I think they were hoping to entice me into staying.
They gave up after about two months with the enticing thing and then blatantly asked with the offer of more money and entitlement. It was like breaking up with a girl. I very gently had to explain that it wasn’t them, it was me. It’s the different lifestyle and the safety for our child and us that no money can buy that I’m after. I explained that I love working for them and would’ve gladly relocated but that it simply wasn’t meant to be.

I’m still with my Master and will be until our house is finally sold and we move out. The Master has commented “There’s no rush.”

Shame.

I would divulge the terms on which Mrs. Black left her company, but that would raise my bloodpressure, heartrate and iRate far too much. Suffice to say it was far from amicable. Her company simply don’t appreciate the quality people they have.
In conclusion, here's a tiny bit of what I've done with the new shiny high-end software (Autodesk Revit MEP) I've been given.
A 2D representation of an outdoor HVAC unit (thats air conditioning unit in normal speak) and it's properties as related to design work.
and the 3D view of this item...

Pretty, no?

Ciao for now.

*this is not meant as a sexist comment in any way. I’d be quite happy for it to be an ass-lady!

Monday, 7 November 2011

My Navigator

My beautiful wife is amazing. How much trust she’s granted me with our decision I will never fully comprehend. I will need to be the money-maker in Belgium and with that comes much responsibility.
She’s dreading the inclement weather but on the flip side looking forward to parts of it. A white Christmas, making snow angels, ice-skating outdoors on real ice and not the fake plastic stuff they have in the malls here at Christmas. She’s given up and sold so much of her personal belongings and done far more than I’ve managed to in packing up the house for the journey.
Where I’ve lost hope, she holds firm telling me that we can’t simply give everything away. We have to try and turn as much of it into cash as we can.
She’s my voice of reason, the navigator who plots a sensible path. I’m the blithering idiot who wants to sail off in a straight line and maroon our ship on the first sandbank or tear it apart on the reefs that lie in wait in the waters instead of going patiently around them.
I’m often neglectful and don’t see that she needs my help and she ends up sacrificing things that are important to her, sometimes she sacrifices her very well-being that beautiful, lovely lady truly does love us and shows it so often!
We don’t hold hands enough. We don’t talk enough and that’s my fault. I’ve come to realize in this late hour of life that I’m terrible at the verbal thing. I don’t explain things properly and use poor language or my psychic ability to communicate. Of course I don’t have any psychic ability which is a little problem that manages to make huge problems later. I also tend to be a “yes” man to please people or uphold some perceived image they may have of me. I should really, really stop that and take the more “it is what it is” stance.
In essence I’m a pushover when I shouldn’t be and a stubborn mule when it’s not appropriate.

It struck me quite suddenly, this masterful blow, the kung-fu death point blow that could’ve crippled my ability to earn a decent wage in Belgium. I use the metric system in my work. What if they used imperial? I wouldn’t have a clue to begin with on the lengths, volumes and areas they would be referring to. I could get used to it but it would take much practice!
Upon some investigation I managed to parry the death blow and received only minor grazing. Belgium uses the Metric system. The grazing comes in with the notes I make on drawings. They would most likely be in Nederlands and knowing a little about what I do, I know they’d be pretty standard. My wife eased my mind here yet again pointing out that its jargon and once I have a handle on it, and understanding Nederlands the way I do, I’d be able to cope. She’s right again of course.

I wish I could do more for my lady.
She deserves far better than I’m able to give her.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A Warmed Heart

We never anticipated having a child. In all honesty she has been the happiest “accident” we’ve ever had. There is nothing, NOTHING, on this earth that makes my heart melt like the satisfied sigh, the stifled giggle or the admiring eyes of my daughter when she watches me do something and has the impulse to copy the action.
When she was still growing and getting ready to join us out here, the decision was firmly made that she’d get her Belgian citizenship as she’s entitled. At that stage we weren’t planning this departure from the country, but when we decided upon it, it would be far easier to accomplish if she was a Belgian already.
At the hospital we’d filled out a full description of who she was, when she arrived and who’d been responsible for this new “people”. A short while later we received an official document that declared in an unassuming way that she’d been noted, slotted into the system and given a number. The paper also declared who the mommy was but I was nowhere to be seen on this paper.
Upon enquiry at the Belgian Consulate I found out that they required an ‘unabridged birth certificate’ as this would state me as the father and as I’m the Belgian here we need that, a translated transcript of this certificate by one of their approved translators and an ‘apostile’. From there these documents are sent to Belgium for processing. All this has to happen before she’s two years old. We jumped on it immediately and I’m glad we did because it wasn’t that easy.
We filed the application, paid our seventy South African Rands to the government and waited the obligatory three weeks we were told it takes. Week three came and went and we enquired on the progress and were curtly told “When you get the SMS that it’s here at our offices, you can come pick it up.”
Week four and five floated by without any notification and I began to get agitated. We got hold of a telephone number for a hotline and spoke to a lovely lady there who escalated our request. After a further three weeks we finally got a response from her that the document was in for transcription. Great, so another three weeks hence we should have it. I didn’t trust this and phoned again after one and a half weeks to check on the progress.
I was told that my expectation of three weeks from the initial phone call was ludicrous! The document was indeed in for transcription, but that merely meant that it was in the queue (a pile on some arbitrary desk somewhere is what I read into it) for them to draw the original hospital records from the vault and enter in the data on their system to enable them to print the official government document. What to do? Do I lose the little patience I have and the request for the transcript ‘disappears’? Do I wait patiently in the hopes that one day a clerk somewhere decides to do a day’s work and hopefully my application is among those done?
I’ve had acquaintances tell me that they filed for an unabridged birth certificate more than three years ago and they’re still waiting.
Thankfully I had a backup plan.

There are government departments that the general public use where you pay the regular tariff. This tariff entitles you to not much more than a raffle ticket. You may get nothing – ever, you may get a consolation prize like my friend’s little brother – an Identity Document with the right name but wrong ID number and wrong photo. The best prize is the first prize – a correct, complete document within the allotted time.
Then there are the government departments that are ‘semi-private’ where the wealthier go and where the price of an unabridged birth certificate jumps from 70 South African Rand to 1000 South African Rand. The documents are genuine, produced from the same government departments, but the difference is the price. I’m certain that a large percentage of that money goes to ‘lubrication’ for the wheels. As much as it goes against my principles, I needed the practical, I needed that document and I paid the piper.
The piper sent in the guy that beats the drums, the large whip brandishing slave driver and a bucket of lube and within two weeks of drumming, whipping and lubricating (sounds kinky) within the chaos of desks and paper piles that I’m sure are government departments, I had the document.

I won’t waste much more of your time because the Belgian side of this is boring. We handed in the documents requested from us to the Consulate, one and a half weeks later I was contacted via e-mail to make an appointment to sign my consent that my little girl becomes a Belgian which I cordially did. We both went because this was quite an occasion for us and the Consulate General himself did the honours of reading the docket to us and made sure we understood. He also advised that my wife get the free visa entitled to her as soon as possible and simply renews it. It was four weeks from first handing in the documents to my little girl being a Belgian and obtaining a passport!
Sorry government of this country. You have failed the millions who pay your salaries and who trusted you to make things better.
Belgium, you have my trust and loyalty. Belgium, you will have the pleasure of hearing my daughter’s satisfied sighs and stifled giggles. You will have her loving eyes watch you and you will show her beautiful things.
This experience once again affirmed our decision to flee. I’d rather have my talents and skills used in a country that will care for its people than where I am now.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Worldly Possessions.

 “Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions.Peace Pilgrim
Preparations for our journey have begun.
We’re lightening the load so this ship can sail as fast as possible.
We’ve sold quite a bit of furniture and other odds-and-ends. The house is far from empty though and every time we make a big sale (like the fridge, a single bed and mattress, a double bed and mattress and various other odds and ends in one go) I expect to see these massive empty gaps but it doesn’t happen. The house seems to look as full as it ever did! The more we sell, the more there seems to be to sell. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that much of these worldly possessions we’re simply going to have to give away or leave in the house or even dump when we flee.
We both knew getting rid of everything was a hyperbole. There would inevitably be the odd thing that’d have to go with. We cannot board the plane naked after all. That would cause far too much of a hubbub. We’ve kept a quantity of warm clothing as it’ll most likely be winter when we arrive in Belgium. There are some sentimental items, a few books, things that cannot be replaced that we’re keeping and going to ship over. The rule is: If you’re willing to pay the cost of shipping it over, have used it in the last 6 months or it’s irreplaceable, it may be shipped over.
My guitars was a big debate and not in the sense that you’d think! I no longer care – I was going to sell both of them but my wife, in her coy way, eventually convinced me to keep them. We went and bought two hard cases for them so they’d survive the trip. I was still hard set on selling my Marshall Valve state amp until I saw the price of them in the music store. Even on special, as they were, I would not indulge and replace it in Belgium. She smiled politely and knowingly at me and said in her most gentle way “I think we should take the amp with us.” That’s two for my wife.
I always imagined our house being empty and hollow before we were ready to go. Only a few used rooms showing signs that someone lived there. I now know it’s going to be a mad dash to rid ourselves of our worldly goods when the house sale looks good to go through.
Knowledge is a heavy burden. I realized this when I lugged all my study books and tutorials to work in a bag. The idea is to rid myself of the hard copies – perhaps leave them with my mother for a time until I’m certain she can dispose of them. At work I’m converting them all into soft copy pdf documents that I can carry on a flash drive. That’s at least 15kg of baggage I won’t have to carry but would otherwise need. Especially if I find an employ in a different discipline I’m used to. I can quickly brush up with my study material and hopefully be kick-bum magnificent at what I do in the required field. We purchased an amazon kindle each, a pricey buy in our country but for good reason. We both love books and have ended up with far too many. From now on we’ve decided to keep things small, minimalistic and neat. The books we can replace, we’ll replace on the kindle and not clutter our home with dead wood. I can also now take all my study material over and be able to read it all on one device. Of course I’ll still take over a flash drive with the important stuff on as a backup.
I also began an internet search and have settled on two sites that send me daily updates on positions available in my field. From this I’ve gathered two things, where we’re most likely to establish our new home and that there’s at least between five and ten new positions open a day and at a scant minimum at least one I’d apply for. Those are good odds even in a depression!
 Then there was the renewed faith in what we were doing when we dealt with our new (now in power for about 20 years) government and the Belgian Consulate.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Where to?

 But where do we flee to?
Our option was anywhere in the EU.
We began with Belgium because that’s the specific citizenship I have. My grandparents were from Belgium, my mother has citizenship even though she’s here and my brothers and I ‘inherited’ the citizenship. It felt only right that we begin our search for our Canaan there.
The languages there are daunting - Dutch, French and German. The weather is far from pleasant but would suit our daughter and I very well. We’re both very fair-skinned, don’t seem to feel the cold and I have already contracted a nasty condition called a Rodent Ulcer (a nasty cancer-like skin condition) from the strong sun here. Belgium as a nation is rated as one of the most boring places in the EU and the citizens are generally shy and keep to themselves. They also follow the rules of the land. My aunt has lived there for many years now and confirmed our research by questioning our decision on Belgium.
The general mood of the conversation was “I know you. You have a rebellious nature and that doesn’t sit well with these people. They’re introvert and being a foreigner’s going to be hard enough, add to that your adventurous and eccentric streak and you could really be outcast.”
Our decision to go to Belgium was confirmed to be correct going by this statement. To be sure though, we investigated that other country and that other city that calls to far flung lands like the lights on a far off shore to those lost at sea promising stability, happiness and comfort.
England. London.
The language was more amenable there’s no doubt - English, my first language and our family’s home tongue. The feel of the city upon research felt boiling with the possibilities of and exciting but risky life. The employment laws seemed good but a little volatile. The schooling didn’t appeal though. It didn’t seem very good at all and upon more research, it seemed better outside of the city in the more urban areas. This is going to sound odd, but England and London seemed full to the brim with foreigners. All kinds of foreigners have seemed to make the place home and many years back the heroes of the ruling people in my current country of residence also resided there. It sounds odd since I’d be joining the ranks of “foreigner”, but I didn’t want to be going to a country where any foreigner could get into with a little work and a few lies. There’s too much competition and not enough elbow room. I want to be productive and add to the wealth of the country I’m going to and not have to fight to do it. Besides, too many foreigners could mean too much trouble. Too many unemployed foreigners living off the land also means trouble.
We reverted our sights back on Belgium. The laws governing foreigners are far stricter and not anyone can saunter into Belgium, set up shop and hope for the best! There’s a correct and legal way to do things in Belgium and I was beginning to like that. The schooling quality is far superior to London. Our schooling here couldn’t compare. Not even private tuition would come close to what our little girl could receive in Belgium besides for the fact that I couldn’t afford private tuition!
Yes, I’ve been the rebel. Yes, I could still be the rebel but something’s changed…am I ill? Have I *shudder* grown up? I no longer relish in the excitement and over-bubbliness of an unrestricted economy and loose business laws and policing. I yearn for stability where the boundaries are set and the law ensures those boundaries are met.
Our family always has been, to a certain extent, only attending functions or gatherings if the mood takes us or if we feel obliged. I fancy myself as quite Bohemian.
Simply being in Belgium will satisfy my rebellious self. I will always be the foreigner. I will die being “that crazy foreigner” even if I don’t do the crazy.
Then there’s the violent crime that causes more death in my country of residence than in some war-torn middle-east countries. Everyone I know has been brushed if not directly, then indirectly by ghastly, senseless deeds. The chance of something horrid happening to any member of our family is more likely to happen in this country than in Belgium. Yes, there’s crime everywhere but the chances are more slender in Belgium. Who knows, perhaps they’ll even endeavour to catch the criminals there. In our country, only 1 in 20 murder cases ever end in conviction. In a very literal sense that means I can end a life willy-nilly and stand a 1 in 20 chance of ending up in jail for it. Pretty good odds if you’re a criminal.
In short I want boring.

Our worldly possessions, the beautiful home we so sought and finally found,  our heirlooms, trinkets and furniture, everything so hard gained and placed in our lives in those special places to convey just the right ambience. What to do with it all? Should we pack it all up and hoard it here like so many of our predecessors did? The amount of families who have their lives in a storage facility somewhere in the hope and want of returning someday would fill a city.
No.
As hard a decision as it was, we decided to rid ourselves of everything. We are fleeing the country after all! We will keep a few precious items and those items will go over with us, but we don’t intend ever coming back to stay so storing things here is pointless. The selling off of pieces of a hopeful life, a dream has been very hard but oddly liberating too! With each heirloom that goes back to a family member to treasure, with each item sold comes a slight sting and then a lightening of the shoulders.
The house, our home, is going to be a very big sting but a necessary one. Until the house is sold, our ship cannot sail. It is the anchor that holds us fast to this country and once released, signals our sails to bellow, our flags to fly and our journey to begin.
Ciao for now.

Friday, 21 October 2011

How it began.

It began one afternoon. No, it didn’t.
It began far earlier, years earlier than that with vague and foggy ideas and whimsical discussions but it was cemented on that afternoon when the question became a statement.
We visited the mother of a dear friend. He’d immigrated to Italy a few years ago and she asked that we come around for a meal and to look at the photos they’d sent. We’d always been close to them – him, his wife, well his whole family really. His mother and brother also wanted to see the new addition to our family, a beautiful petite little girl. The mother had a surprise in store for us. She phoned her son and family in Italy and we got to speak to them. It was marvellous to hear the excitement and the familiar voices from so long ago!
I think perhaps, as is natural, there was some nostalgia tainted with regret in leaving the country. It’d been hard for them but they were now beginning to find their feet. From this came a question that for me, put the ideas and whimsical notions into motion. I cannot remember the exact wording, but the sentiment was:
“Should we come back?”
My reply was “No. It’s not the same place you left.”
 For many months, maybe even years, I’ve felt like I no longer belonged in the country of my birth. The country had revolted, quietly and violently and the majority of the population were finally allowed to work, play, live, eat and own what they wanted but it came at a price.
The majority of the population had been suppressed and treated like savage children. They were always told where they may or may not go. They were always ‘looked after’ and some were given basic services – others domiciled in outcast, hovel like communities with nothing more than mud and iron to shelter them. Their heroes were the ones who stole, murdered and pillaged from their oppressors but all that was passed now – or should be. Their chosen leaders were in power, the new rule of the land emphatically stated that everyone was entitled to basic services, education and any other necessity akin to human rights. The problem was – is that the vast majority are still holding doggedly onto their way of life. The ‘you must give me’ mentality and the ‘I’ll defiantly take it’ like their struggle heroes. This became law with affirmative action and BEE and became reality with rife corruption because the new leaders seem to feel entitled, as in the past, to take what they can.
I can no longer obtain the services I require as a client because the people behind the counters or on the other side of the phone line are not well versed in English and prefer to treat their clients with arrogance and indifference. Granted, perhaps I should have learnt one of the other official languages and not be arrogant about English but in my defence English has always been the language of business here and of our communiqu├ęs abroad. This seems trivial, I’m sure but it isn’t when you require the emergency services.
Services, there practically aren’t any. The few that remain seem to be hanging on by charity, hope and prayer. Our roads and infrastructure are in horrid disrepair. I keep paying my taxes but don’t seem to be getting the services I’m paying for. It’s so bad that private companies have begun fixing roads, deploying ‘points-men’ to direct traffic at intersections where the traffic lights have failed and security companies are still booming because the police can’t keep crime under control. Go to a civilized part of the world and tell someone you want a contract with a security company. I’m sure their question to you will be “Oh! What did you act in – can I get your autograph?”
I’ll admit we (my wife and I) were still a little tender around the edges having a tiny new person to look after and we didn’t take our new responsibilities lightly! We wanted and still want the best for her and it was beginning to occur to us that there was better elsewhere and that I had the ticket.
When we returned home after a lovely dinner with my friend’s mother, we put our lovely daughter to bed and had probably one of the most important discussions in ages. We bantered and tossed ideas until 2 in the morning and when all was said and done it was decided. It was time to flee.
Ciao for now.