Do you know this saying: You can take a person out of a place, but you cannot take the place out of the person? Or another version: you can take someone out of the ghetto, but you cannot take the ghetto out of someone? This was said about people living in the New York ghetto. Another version of the saying is: You can take a monkey out of the jungle, but not the jungle out of the monkey.
I have a personal version of this though.
When I immigrated to Europe, and arrived in my mother’s country, The Netherlands, I vowed to fit in. To learn the language and speak it as well as possible, to follow traditions, to become Dutch. I look back on the past 27.5 years and know I have succeeded.
Still, Africa is in me.
Africa, many words I wanna choose
But, it ain’t no use, they’re not to find
Africa, who can catch your beauty in a word
Just this thing, you’re on my mind
Catch the beauty of Africa in one word? Not possible.
There’s the beauty of a sunset, seen from the porch of a house in the suburbs, watching the sun making its way down until it disappears behind the mountains, all the while coloring the sky in hues of yellow and orange and red and purple.
I remember a moment where I sat on the edge of an overhanging rock, looking out over the valley below, and nature stretching out as far as the eye can see. What word would capture the feeling of such a sight?
There were many moments on the beach, at different times of the day, from early morning until late afternoon. Sitting there, watching the huge waves and hearing their thundering crush when they reach the shore.
Then there was the day night I spent in the Namib desert, struggling through the sand, up one side of a dune, and down on the other side, repeatedly. Sweat poured down my back, and all I wanted was the cool water of the ocean, which I couldn’t see or smell anymore. Then came the night, leaving me cold and shivering and yearning for the intense heat of the day.
There’s so much more – memories of my beautiful country of birth, South Africa, and of Namibia, where we lived in my childhood years when it was still called South West Africa.
No, it’s impossible to catch the diverse and contrasting beauty of Africa in only one word.
Africa, feel the passion in your air
Power that you wanna share, mostly kind
Africa, secrets hidden in the land
Protected by a mighty hand, you’re on my mind
Just recently, I had a conversation with someone whose father owns a house in South Africa, close to the border of Mozambique. She mentioned how Africa got under her skin; crawled into her heart. The sounds. The smells. The kindness of the people.
The pace of living in Africa is different. Slower. More relaxed. Mostly in the rural areas, but also sometimes in the cities.
Yes, there’s passion in Africa’s air, and you only discover the secrets of the land if you really care to look; to experience.
Africa, boats on the river
Africa, listen to the song
Africa, echos on the river
Africa, that’s where I belong
Is that where I belong?
The moment I arrived in The Netherlands, I felt at home. I never wanted to return to South Africa, not to live, that is. For years, while learning the Dutch language, I was almost ashamed of not being able to speak the language properly. So much so that I never wanted to speak Afrikaans, as I was afraid it might bugger up my Dutch! The languages are just too closely related.
Now I don’t care. Africa is in my heart; South Africa is my country of birth. It will always be part of me, so even if I feel I belong where I am, I’m not ashamed of mistakes I make anymore, and I now speak more Afrikaans (to my cousin and father of my daughter) than I have in the 27 years I have been in Europe.
And I’m proud of it!
I see the African sunrise, in the second paradise
The African sunrise
You’re God’s final creation
Where the antelopes play and the buffalos stay,
You’re God’s final creation on the eighth day
Years ago, when I listened to this song – African Sunrise by Helmut Lotti – some years ago, tears streamed down my cheeks, listening to this chorus. It still gets me every time!
Africa is in me, and it always will be. No matter how Dutch I become, nothing will ever be able to remove the African beat from my heart. Africa will always be a part of my being.
This post first appeared on my Medium profile, where you can read more of my work that is exclusive to Medium. You can read three stories for free on Medium each month, but for just $5 a month (less if you sign up for a year) you can read everything on Medium, and support me, and other writers you like.
Wicked Wednesday stops at the end of the year. Currently, there’s a challenge to complete 25 prompts by 31 December. Following the clever example of others, here you see the prompts I have already completed. My goal is to write for every one of the Wicked Wednesday Bingo Prompts. Join in!
This story answers to the prompt: music memoir
My stories for the prompts are:
- Harmony In Flowers (language of flowers)
- Listening To Her Inner Voice (intimacy and self-esteem)
- Annual Meeting On Summer Solstice (summer solstice)
- The Healing Power Of A Penis Masturbator (phases of life)
- To Love Is A Choice (to love is a choice)
- Live The Life You Want (scary stuff)
- Dinner With Caren (career success)
- Snippets Of Kindness (magical power)
- The Future Express (morals)
- The story above (music memoir)
© Rebel’s Notes