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.