On the Beach

Saturday, 27 August 2011

There's a first time for everything..

I have, until this very narcissistic moment, been very suspicious of blogs. No, actually, I was downright dismissive of them; I have seen them as a way for celebrities to promote themselves even further (in some instances, where one actually thought no further exposure was possible- or desirable) or for nobodies to unleash their opinions on an unsuspecting world: mad, or worse dull, diatribes on topics of no interest to anyone but themselves and few fellow psychopaths or bores. 

Why have I changed my mind? Well, having actually read some blogs (yes, previously I was dissing them without having read them- those who know me will not be in the least bit surprised),  I realise that some are quite interesting and, in some cases, allow people to express an opinion ore reveal information that they cannot express elsewhere. Also, why should what we write and read necessarily be decided by editors and agents? And while I might not find the topics to be engaging or the blog well written, well, it's my prerogative not to read it and the writer's prerogative to keep writing.

Plus, I decided I wanted one. And if I wanted one, then they must be OK, right? So I now just have to try and justify my previous opinions and brush under the carpet the ones that no longer fit my blog-view.

Why did I want one? Tough one to answer. Well, globally-speaking, I am a nobody with an opinion on pretty much everything, so might as well join in. Why not just have a journal in my drawer and keep my thoughts to myself? I have asked myself that question, but my house is absolutely cluttered with stuff and my children would probably rip it up and use as part of an origami house or something. And maybe I should be honest and admit that maybe I am seeking  some kind of audience. I don't know. Maybe I just felt like it today and I won't tomorrow.

OK, let's begin. What's this blog about? Anything I feel like!  I am an expat living in Cape Town. 

Except, actually, I don't think that I am. i just looked up the meaning of "expat" in Dictionary.com  and it said the following: first, that it is an abbreviation of the word "expatriate" and has the following meanings:

1.       to banish (a person) from his or her native country.

to withdraw (oneself) from residence in one's native country.
to withdraw (oneself) from allegiance to one's country.

I don't believe I have been banished as per no.1- although who knows what the future holds. I have withdrawn myself from the country which issued my last passport. Have I withdrawn allegiance- I don't know.

What makes me think most that I do not fit the definition of expat is the expression "native country". I just don't feel that I have one. 

I was born in Poland to Polish parents.My mother tongue is Polish. Well, technically only, because from the age of 5, or thereabouts, I was educated in English (mostly). I have lived in South Africa, England, Norway, England again, New Zealand, England again and now I live in Cape Town, South Africa where I have wanted to live ever since I first visited.

So, what's my native country? Am I a "native" anywhere? As I moved around so much, I don't have a complete set of cultural references for any country so in any "do you remember?" conversation among my peers in any country I have lived in, there will always be a song, a TV programme, a magazine that means nothing to me. It doesn't bother me, it's just a fact.

I don't "feel" like any nationality. In sports games, I am mostly indifferent about who wins and I tend to support the team more on "outfits" I like, than nationality.

I left Poland when I was 4 and a bit and although I am close to the family we have there, I don't feel Polish. Not really Polish.

Despite 22 years living there (with breaks) I don't feel English. I don't know why, I just don't. Maybe I blame England for taking me away from my wonderful life in South Africa. I think, also, the way my family is, we don't possess many English  characteristics. England  is cosmopolitan, especially London, but English society is a hard nut to crack. I find it quite opaque and I don't really understand the unwritten conventions and rules. I often feel like I've walked into a game where no one will openly discuss the rules, expect me to know them, not tell me when i have transgressed but acted silently peeved anyway. Baffling to an outsider- and I still feel like one.

And 2.5 years in Norway cannot possibly qualify Norway as my "native" country. I loved living as a child there but, boy, that's a tough society to crack, not helped by the language barrier.

For a long time, I thought I was South African. I spent my formative years here and  had the most blissful childhood here. I was devastated when we left and I always wanted to come back and bring up my children here if I was able to. But coming back, like a disappointed child, I realise I am not South African; 6 years of living here as a child does not, sadly, qualify me as a native. My wonderful new friends talk about things that I do not know and did not experience. And, actually, that means more in South Africa than most places, given its turbulent recent history.

But, you know, I love living in Cape Town and I feel more at home here than I have done at any point in my adult life. So maybe it doesn't matter that I don't have a native country after all.

Back, to the point I started with: am I an expat? Probably, possibly not. I'm not even sure I want to be- more on what I think of the "ex-pat scene" another time, I'm sure..

So this blog will be the occasional musings of a stateless soul on any topic I feel like, although I suspect my lame attempts at parenting will feature heavily.

Thanks for listening.

1 comment:

  1. You had me at 'I tend to support a team mainly on outfits I like'! And I can't wait to hear more! I will live my blogging desires vicariously through you in the meantime. Thanks for the link.