Losing my Residency
Today I am a little less – fake – South African. As of last week I am no longer a legal resident of the Rainbow Nation. If I go back now I will have to queue up at immigration with all the – ugh – tourists; without any distinction, any recognition or any applause for having already established a relationship with the bergs, straands and chesters that lie beyond the customs desk. My ninety day visitor stamp will belie the fact that I am more in tune with this place than those other schmucks coming to look at elephants.
For the last ten months I’ve felt like nothing short of a traveling badass with my sweet combination of American citizenship, Vietnamese residency and South African residency. I am a walking conversation starter. But according to the visa in my passport, South Africa has decided it’s time for me to be demoted. That’s right: I’ve just been dumped, and by an entire country, no less.
Losing my South African residency means more than just losing a bit of sparkle at cocktail parties. South Africa was my real life home for three years. It’s where JD and set up our first apartment. It’s where I learned to drive on the left side of the road. Sort of. It’s where I learned the difference between sis and siff; bru and boet; impala and kudu.
Although I’m the one that suggested South Africa and I do long-distance, I didn’t mean for us to break up. I had hoped South Africa would understand that in our time apart I have learned to appreciate her even more. I miss her shoreline, her sunshine and her shabeens. I miss the scramble and chaos of the cities and the unending nothingness of the West Coast. I even miss the taxis.
No I don’t. I don’t miss the taxis.
JD’s lekker boet weird words are a constant reminder of a home I once had, and may one day have again. His family’s visit further emphasized my SA love, and left me with an even stronger fake South African accent. Ja, bru,it’s true.
Traveling and exapt-ing are all about looking forward; to the next place, the next job, the next adventure. Moving to Vietnam has been a treat. I’ve grown to love the scooter-frenzy-karaoke-neon-lighting-small-stool-sitting mayhem as well as those wonderfully serene moments of looking out past lanterns and conical hats to the ocean.
But in the midst of all this full-steam-aheading, we travelers shouldn’t forget to occasionally look back at where we’ve been. My new love affair with Vietnam does not diminish my feelings for South Africa. Beneath my ao dai I’m still sporting a Springbok jersey and using chopsticks to eat my braai wors. South Africa is more than just a place I’ve been to, and my residency status was there to proved I was there for more than just a safari and a vuvuzela.
So I guess I’ll just have to win ‘er back.