It has been almost a month since we have been back in South Africa. To say it still feels surreal is an understatement. There are no reminders of my life back in France – I have had to arrive and ‘hit the ground running’ as corporate speak will tell you. But mine has been hitting the ground running in an entirely different form: driving, pausing, more driving, reading, a smidgen of writing, and feeling overwhelmed. I am learning to pace myself. Slowly.
I am still unsure of how to respond to the question: So how is it being back home? My immediate response is Great! Wonderful! Then I catch myself immediately to ask myself whether I sound way too enthusiastic, like someone over-compensating for a feeling that is not quite what it should be. I quietly ask myself: Am I really? I had expected to feel immense nostalgia about France and a greater disconnect from SA – which would have been fairly normal reactions, I am told. Nope. Nothing like that.
The thing is I am happy to be back. I have just not had the time to reflect on just how much, and to pause for just a moment and analyse just why I feel it is great! and wonderful! being home. It just is. Perhaps it is that feeling of: This is home. It is the very many encounters I have had with fellow South Africans that have made me laugh out loud. Literally. We are a nation of quirky and very funny people – when we do take the time to laugh at ourselves. It is in the ease with which I stumble over misunderstandings – by virtue of being a Sotho speaker I can at times miss what a Zulu, Xhosa, Venda or Afrikaans person is saying – misunderstandings which quickly correct themselves. It is in having family in the same neighbourhood, city, country, continent. It is in seeing my children thrive as we move from the nuclear family we were for the last eight years to becoming the extended family of the family and friends we used to see only once a year.
Not to say that I do not miss my past life. I do. Sometimes with great intensity as I remember the joy I derived from the anonymity of being a foreigner in a large city. The habits formed and practised daily which formed the fabric of my life there. Some I have kept, others have found no place in my life here. The simplicity of our lives there. The cost and ease of travel into Europe from France. But I am, in equal measure, excited about traveling locally – something we have not done in years.
I may feel differently in a couple of months, as the real effects of repatriation hit me. But then, as the experts will tell you – that too is to be expected.