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Is it wrong to feel relieved that I left South Africa?

I know I will probably get shot down in flames (rhetorical ones of course) for admitting this. But, reading the terrible headlines of the last week, hearing South Africa make the only international story on yesterday’s 12 noon radio news, following online exchanges between South Africans discussing whether or not they have a contingency plan and where in the world they could go (Dubai? New Zealand? Canada?) — all I can feel is relief.

Relief, not so much that I am not in South Africa right now, but that I managed to get a foot in the door somewhere else. Relief that I have my skills and my visa. Relief that, unlike so many South Africans — and the desperate foreigners they have been targeting — I have options.

Pity about the passport (does anyone hold out any faith in Home Affairs? I have to get it renewed next year. Dreading it.) My husband has an EU passport, which is the new marker of distinction between the haves and the have nots in the global village; my family left the UK too long ago for me to qualify for an ancestral visa. But still. I’m lucky and I know it.

My family is back in South Africa, which complicates things a little. My husband (he will join me in Sydney later this year), parents, grandparents, most of my siblings. My animals. My house, in which my life savings are tied up and which, for various reasons, cannot be sold right now even if I wanted to. I worry about them, but at the same time, I imagine that life goes on as usual in the suburbs and the shopping malls.

I feel guilty about feeling relieved, that I have committed some kind of betrayal. I can only hope that things will get better, the killings will stop, that South Africa will step away from the brink and get back to muddling through, somehow. And that the international headlines that reach this part of the world will go back to cyclones and earthquakes and volcanoes.


  • Sarah Britten

    During the day Sarah Britten is a communication strategist; by night she writes books and blog entries. And sometimes paints. With lipstick. It helps to have insomnia.