Homeland or Hurtland?


Then, Daniel 4:34 records the king’s response: “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored.” Interestingly, the king said that his pride caused him to lose his sanity and that now, as a result of being humbled by God, his sanity was restored. In order to humble him, God humiliated him. Indeed, a humiliating experience will almost always humble someone.

Perhaps my sanity has been restored.

I will be in South Africa in the middle of April for my book tour.

That is if SAFFASTRACK works its magic and secures for me a passport in time!

A book tour. Hnh.That sounds about as daunting as going on an Iraq tour.

Everyone wishes to know whether I will return to South Africa.  Well, they keep humming “Should I stay or should I go” as the Clash song goes.

Will I return to South Africa? Yes. No. Possibly. Yesnaby.

I came to America in 2001.

Within a year I married an American.  I was still reasonably attractive. Reasonably.

He insisted that I obtain a Green Card.

To this end we made countless tedious trips to a Russian Immigration Lawyer in Philadelphia.

As my sponsor, my husband had to provide proof of his ability to support me. Bank records and tax returns were demanded. I had to provide details of my employers for the past ten years. (Three.  Cape Talk, the Sunday Times and MWeb.)

Then there were the affidavits, certificates of birth, marriage, photographs of us in happy times etc. etc.

I was fingerprinted and photographed. I was blood-tested and AIDS tested and psychologically profiled by a designated doctor.

Exactly as per the movie “Green Card,” on 13th December we went for our final interview in Callowhill, Philadelphia.

We were asked the dumb and predictable questions which ostensibly would provide evidence that we were a bona fide married couple. “What side of the bed does she like to sleep on? Tea or coffee? Wendy’s or McDonalds?

The interviewing officer was entirely satisfied. In response to his statement “I can tell you are a married couple” I quipped feebly “Do we look that bored?”

He promised us that the Green Card would be issued “within weeks.” The reason for the delay, he said, was “because of 911.” The FBI is requiring “extra precautions.”

A year later the Green Card still remained elusive. Every attempt to find out its status quo was thwarted.

The man to whom I was married now started using the Green Card as a threat and his violence towards me escalated.

Most rows ended up with him vowing to throw me out on the street and “forget about your Green Card.”

I couldn’t work or drive and I was trapped in a loveless marriage.

Was I not supposed to be “Hashtag living the dream?”

After all I was in America, land of the free and home of the brave. When at first you don’t succeed remember the last four letters of American. America is the place where miracles not only happen, but where they happen all the time.

Alexis de Tocqueville said that not until he went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did he understand the secret of the genius and power.

Ronald Regan went further. He said “God has a divine purpose in placing this land between two great oceans to be found by those who had a special love of freedom and courage.”

This wasn’t the America I fetched up in.

Freedom? I was a virtual prisoner. If fear is pain arriving from the anticipation of evil it would be true to say that I lived in fear.

Six months after leaving him, the husband made good his threat.

He withdrew his petition of support for the Green Card.

I was homeless, jobless and Green Card-less in a foreign land. I had no Medical Insurance, no car and no recourse to any help.

“Since he has withdrawn your application for a Green Card you are theoretically stateless and illegally here,” my lawyer told me.


Time passes. A lot of time. The world’s second worst crime is boredom. The first is being a bore.

So I shan’t bore you with the endless, rococo details. Suffice it to say that I am now in possession of the prized Green Card.

I have a Mcjob. I pay almost $200 a month medical insurance and I have a little yellow car with rotting tires (or so the bloke at the DMV told me last week.)

Things are looking up, no?

I live in an historic river town favoured by wealthy New Yorkers. There are antique shops, countless galleries, a thriving art scene and a fabulous cheese shop. It is über gay-friendly (i.e. desirable) and when I walk my pups – even in the middle of the velvet night – I know the name of every companion animal and its caretaker we bump into.

Most nights I forget my keys on the outside of the door. I leave the car keys in the car. My little pups have a circle of furry friends. We have playdates with the Wu’s Chins. They love Finnegan (a charming rescue) who lives upstairs. There’s Henry, a Cavalier King Charles, Triscuit and Macaroon (Triscuit is a petite white Maltese and Macaroon is a glossy Newfoundland the size of a pony).

Photo credit:  Anneli Martin

Photo credit: Anneli Martin

I am CLOSE to New York City, three hours from Washington DC and 40 minutes from Philadelphia.

Yes, there’s a high price tag.

I pay $1400 (R15000) a month for a tiny flat on a car park. I overlook a Mexican restaurant.

I work six nights a week – brutal mule work under a manager who scorns us as if we are barn people or meth-cookers from the Ozarks.

Will I return to South Africa?

Certainly I wouldn’t be the first to return to South Africa.

Spiraling rates of white flight have been off-set by returning South Africans. My friend Melanie Millin-Moore (Sol Kerzner’s trusted PR) left a successful agency in New York to return.

“I missed being able to go to the bush….I missed my elis (elephants), the sound of people speaking Afrikaans.”

She admits that it was almost as difficult to give up the Green Card as it was to obtain it in the first place.

“The US Embassy in Cape Town was incredulous. They wanted to know if I had been forced to give up the elusive Card.”

Jonny Steinberg has recently written about his reasons for returning to his native land:

“It is to surrender myself to a world so much bigger than I am and to the destiny of a nation I cannot control. In this surrender is an expansion, a flowering, of what it means to be alive.”

In this surrender is an expansion, a flowering of what it means to be alive.

I have been musing on that for some time now.

I wonder what you would do if you were tenanting my very scruffy Uggs?

As TS Eliot wrote

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Will it be so for me, dear reader?