I recently traveled home to South Africa. I was born there and my parents moved our family when I was eight-years-old. I call it home because for the first eight years of my life that’s where I lived, surrounded by cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. I was surrounded by love. I am now 34 and I have spent the majority of my life in Tennessee. I also consider Tennessee home, but when I am home I long for South Africa and when I am in South Africa, I feel as if I don’t belong.
As I explored South Africa I realized I am a visitor there as well. Whether I am at a coffee shop, a restaurant or at the mall, people ask me where I am from. Although English is spoken in South Africa, there is a lot missed in translation — the accent, the slang and dialect are different.
This left me feeling like the girl with no home.
I feel foreign no matter where I am and I felt sorry for myself. Watching my extended family talk about the previous Christmas, birthdays I had missed, and share inside jokes. Of course they had lived a life for the last 26 years while I was living a life in Tennessee.
Seeing and experiencing the cultural differences that separate me from South Africans I feel more American then ever, but I also have that South African girl inside of me that is drawn to the ocean waves, the smell of spice markets, the sounds of a big loving family. Both are entwined into me and I don’t have to fit in one place.