I was encouraged to leave South Africa, during my school years.
There was good reason for some to fear a repeat of the Congo Crisis. But the millenium turned and the suburbs were not invaded.
My encouragement to leave South Africa had primarily to do with employment: for, the beast of employment equity had been summoned. It was not enough to merely become qualified: one had to become qualified, and then find a job which no-one of a formerly disadvantaged community or group, could do. And if one does find a job like that, one will be told that one is irreplaceable, and therefore at fault to leave (and thus may be forced to return to the job as one that has erred).
In part to visit my sister who was struggling to qualify because of the extortionate fees that Canadian universities charge foreigners, and in part out of curiosity for the place, I left South Africa for the first time. I had in fact not even gone into Lesotho, I was such a boor.
The thought of it! Spending one's whole life within the borders of a country! How could one possibly know where one is?
I had been in alien territory: I had been in Kwa-Zulu: fool that my father is, he took us into Inanda in the nineteen-eighties, just to look at a dam being built! Risking the lives of his family like that! Shame on him!
We find ourselves in mid-air, looking down on snow; lakes; a vast uninhabited territory; and we are all alone.
So it feels, anyway. To live like a wild animal in those woods: what a thought!
To move effortlessly over it at high-altitude, another!
But I rather think not the best. It not giving one a decent vista.
Canadians don't build houses with bricks.
To us it seems therefore that their houses are mere facades; we are so used to the solidity of brick walls.
South African drivers are that bad that if we had wooden houses and wooden fences, we would indeed be at great risk.
Well, we all have our idiosyncracies, and we'll allow Canadians to have theirs.
Someone with more than his fair share of idiosyncratic behaviour, for example, might now start to wonder about wooden deeds: that is, the deeds to a house of wood. I would indeed then welcome the reader into my log cabin to relax by the fire, if they can bear this behaviour and my loquacity.
South Africans and Canadians do share the behaviour of boxing in shops so that we cannot walk between them in the clear air.
Sometimes they come up with the ridiculous idea of painting the ceilings of these malls to look like the sky, or making the shop fronts (still within the malls) look like buildings themselves.
Some of us find ourselves thinking about the lonely woods, with such absurdities being sold to us by all who have bought into them.
Some of us find ourselves wondering about buildings which were created for we know not what purpose.
On reflection it occurs to me that the inhabitants of the island of Victoria and the inhabitants of the city of Vancouver, are uncertain as to which is the more important.
I started my exploration of Canada in the latter: naturally, my sister organized trips to the fair sites the city and its surrounds have to offer.
Those lonely woods, though! I am happy alone. South Africans jostle each other. Leaving home, one must be prepared to be jostled. Ever jostled; ever racing each other. But the race has no rules. So we just declare ourselves winners.
We have to shout it, though: we have to repeat it: endlessly telling each other that we are the winners. Thus all strangers are our enemies: they are the losers.
I found Canadians jolly and friendly for the most part; but there was a superiority which they had a right to have, as coming from a country that was not jostling with itself. I saw that the thought of immigration was the thought of ever being an alien, for me.
Strange to relate, that crazy father of mine reckons he'd quite enjoy it.
The only fault I could find with Canada, was the strange behaviour drivers evince towards pedestrians.
For, the car is deadlier than the man, and therefore the man must get out of the way of the car. Canadians, however, seem to think that people can cross the street whenever it pleases them. They take this nonsensical idea to such an extreme, so as to stop for a passer-by who is yet indecisive. In retrospect it appears that the best course of action would be to involve the driver in one's decision.
(Scratches head) "I haven't yet decided whether to cross the street."
"You haven't yet decided whether to cross the street?"
"No: do you reckon I should?"
"That's your business, sir! But not to worry, and take your time; I'll wait here 'til you've made up your mind."
If a South African driver was crazy enough to stop for someone thinking about crossing the street, they would be suppressing a curse that had come involuntarily to their minds (I do not mean to say there are no exceptions). With a supreme power of will (and ignoring the death-threats they are receiving from behind), being addressed by the pedestrian as mentioned, their response would simply be:
"Yeah, would you mind turning your car so as to block both lanes? The other direction of traffic won't let me through."
On my return journey to the airport, the bus broke down. I got out to help the drivers shift the luggage to the relief bus. This seemed perfectly natural to me: unless I had been able to plan the breakdown, I could not have been someone with a ready escape route, with someone else's luggage. I couldn't say that other South Africans would do the same. Some of us certainly would work on a scheme of making a bus break down so as to get away with another person's luggage. But we wouldn't try it in a country like Canada.