Monday, 25 May 2015

Between Two Worlds; The Struggle of a Foreigner Growing Away From Home

There is one major problem with that awkward period between the end of Spring semester and the start of Summer school, one has far too much time at hand.  Normally, I do some quick scrolls through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during the semester, but when you have no classes and not too many commitments to attend do, you find yourself extending those quick scrolls to deep, lengthy analysis of the lives of others who appear on your timeline.  Yet, no paper is published, no peer discussion groups are started, instead, all of the study builds up in one's head.  The twisting kaleidoscope of thoughts, information, feelings and memories evoke a full spectrum of emotion.  Old enemies are doing well and you feel terrible for not going for alliance instead of steely relations.  Old flames transcend the fears you had of them, making you doubt why you decided to extinguish that flame in the first place.  Some are still stuck in the emerging adulthood limbo of finding a way in this life.  Some are sporting shiny rings on the fingers and others a shiny new four wheel toy to show of their mastery of worshipping the capitalist Empire.

I am a great lover of Facebook, it has allowed me to gain access to entire new worlds which I ne'er would have found myself in.  Indeed, I am now in that world which previously was only something I could live vicariously through the shiny faces on the television.  Being in this new world of America has removed me from the my native world - South Africa.  I look through the pictures and videos and see how I miss out on the struggles and triumphs of my culture and my people. 
The murder of farmers is a big ol' problem in my country.  Thousands have been killed since rebirth of '94.  Yet, recently a movie has been made to highlight and bring together all sides of the divide - the killers and the killed.  I can only imagine how this movie will swoop farm murders into the foreground of national discourse in my beloved nation.  Maybe this will improve things?  I won't be there to see it.  I will be living vicariously through the lives of Facebook friends who are on the forefront of the struggle and some even in the backseat of the struggle. 
I see how young adults of my age in South Africa start to reach the Spring of their lives.  The young women have reached the zenith of beauty, which, as we know too well, only cascades downwards from hence (even though I personally find the height of a woman's beauty to be in the mid to late thirties).  The bad boys from school are finding their way in this life - realizing that their rebellion was merely a yearning for the discovery of their higher purpose which the identity moratorium (as we like to call it in Psychology) of the teenage years finally has brought them too.  They are now ready to engage with the true manhood which is ambition, drive and passion. 

Part of being a human and being part of a culture or a nation is that you get to share in it's highlights and lowlights.  I can boast about my people having caused the British their most costly war since Napoleon one hundred years ago, but I must also hang my head in the shame to the fact that we only ended Apartheid 21 years ago and woefully suppressed a people - which is biting us right in the ass now.  Our struggle nowadays is towards reconciliation and solidarity.  I sit here in America and look onwards as the people who have been left behind try and fight this fight.  If all goes well and we can truly unify our country, I cannot tell my children that I was part of this struggle.  I was away, frolicking overseas, trying to get an education and experience some of the New World. 
It's sad that I lose my part in the evolution of my culture.  I can only support artists, musicians and filmmakers from 13 000kms away.  Maybe that gives me the chance to spread the ideals, hopes and dreams of my people to a far removed place.  Maybe that's why I am on these yonder shores. 

Though, I can say it is not all bad.  As you slowly feel your own people and culture slip from your identity, you have the need to replace that all with something new.  So, I place America in my mindset and make that part of my identity.  I learn about the struggles the common man faces here.  I learn what concerns them, I learn what it is like to be them, I learn what makes them happy.  By immersing yourself so fully in the culture and lives of others, you cannot help but feel that you become part of them.  As each year ticks by, I feel myself more concerned and closer to the matters of the United States.  Of course, the matters of home is still within me, but my personal experience of the happenings of my own people becomes ever more outdated with the passage of time. 
Eventually the stories of the those around you become more important than those who were around you.  You find yourself in a tension of opposites - the past, the culture you left behind and how it formed you and then the present, the possible future and how the present culture is challenging and changing you.  The question is how to you act in the midst of this tension filled environment?  Do I let go and let the concerns and ideas of the now absorb me and make me one of its own, or do I hold tight to tension that binds me to the past and it's reflected glory? 
As ever, the answer is probably answerable by the Greeks.  "Nothing in excess."  the timeless maxim sounds out from Athens' ageless stones.  Appreciate the formative power of the yesteryears, but envelop yourself in the new culture as well.

As for me though, I am still more bound to home than not, but, no doubt, I can feel the tension drawing me back thence weaken by the year.  Where will the Great Decider take me?
Only his greatest equalizer could tell me - time.

Carry on, my wayward son