18 Dec

Stay or leave? That’s the question which has forced hundreds of thousands of people to do a lot of soul searching before they could make a decision to either stay and face the music in an increasingly unstable South Africa, or take a life changing gamble on the unknown and emigrate to a foreign country.

Review by Sharon Gill

For some, the answer comes easily. More often, it’s a heart-breaking, gut-wrenching decision to take what is, essentially, a leap of faith – packing up your entire life into a few boxes and leaving your country, your lifestyle, your family, friends and sometimes your pets behind, and start all over again somewhere else.

Those who embark on “the chicken run”, as it’s often called, are either castigated or envied by those choosing to stay, depending on whether the stayers are remaining in South Africa by choice or because their circumstances dictate.

Scatterlings - A Tapestry of Afri-Expat Tales by Eve Hemming

Scatterlings – A Tapestry of Afri-Expat Tales by Eve Hemming

After a few months or even years on the other side of the fence, as it were, ex-pats have a new set of questions to consider. Was this move a mistake? Do we stick with the new life we’ve chosen, or go back to what we left? Again, the answer to these questions depends on many factors, including how easily you’ve settled in your new country, whether you’ve secured a decent job, whether you’ve made friends, whether you moved to join your family or moved in the hope your family would follow you.

In this book, Eve Hemming relates anecdotes about her own childhood, the things that make her South African through and through – even though she later chose to live in New Zealand. Eve and the many contributors to this book reveal their own personal reasons for considering whether to stay or leave, and the thought processes that led them to whichever choice they made.

Emotions are raw in this book. This isn’t fiction. These are real people telling their real life experiences – South Africans who couldn’t bring themselves to leave the country of their birth, as well as the Scatterlings who relocated to other continents. It makes for heavy reading at times. I couldn’t read the whole book in one sitting; I had to read it in instalments.

Syd Kitchen wrote a song called Africa’s not for sissies. While that’s certainly true, I think emigration’s not for sissies either. Stay or leave – either way you’re pretty brave as far as I’m concerned.

If you’re looking for that magic formula, you won’t find it in this book. What you will find is one or more contributions from either stayers or leavers whose circumstances were similar to your own, which could motivate you to make a decision either way or at least be content with the decision you’ve already made.

I can’t honestly say this book was an enjoyable read, but I’m glad I read it all the same. Parts of it made me homesick, other parts gave me a sense of comfort that I’m part of a global community of expats who understand each other.

One paragraph in the book has stuck in my mind: The Theory of Justification. “Half of humanity will justify why they chose to do something. The other half will justify why they chose not to.”

I believe Scatterlings – A Tapestry of Afri-Expat Tales is essential reading for all South Africans, irrespective of where they live. If you have friends or family questioning your motives for either staying or leaving, put this book in their Christmas stocking. It will save you a lot of explaining.

Scatterlings – A Tapestry of Afri-Expat Tales is available from Exclusive Books and Amazon.com in paperback or for Kindle.

To visit the Eve Hemming’s blog, click here


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