I will always be American.
It may seem strange to you to hear someone say that. It’s kind of like a umm...duh type of statement. But for me, well, this statement took a while to come out of my mouth.
I talk quite a bit about missing home. I talk about the things from America that I love and the family and friends I’ve left behind.
Never do I want these topics to make it seem like I do not love my life in South Africa. I do. I absolutely do.
And most of all, I don’t want the fact that I still and will always call America home to be a deterrent to the fact that South Africa is my home as well.
Yep, I have two homes. I’m pretty blessed.
I will always call America...specifically Decatur...home. Why? Because it is where I grew up. Even more...it is where I lived my entire life in America. My dad no longer lives in that town, but it is still my home. It is where I hold 19 years of memories. It is where I had many firsts. It is where the majority of those I miss still reside. It is all I really “know” in America (although I’ve travelled a lot of the country.) South Africa is also my home. My children and husband and family also reside here. And wherever they are will also be home.
If (which is a huge gigantic unbelievably long shot if) we were to ever live in America, South Africa would still be home as well.
Yet, when I moved here....it was far from home.
I never realized the negative image others held of America and Americans. It broke my heart to hear people rip the country and myself apart. At first I tried vehemently to defend my native land. Then I became embarrassed to say I was American.
I don’t think a person. can really understand what it feels like to be without a country until you are in that position. It is unfathomable. Yet, you see, that is exactly where I stood. I was in my own eyes, without a home.
I had only met Hubby Dearest 3 times in person. over a course of 8 months when I moved to South Africa. It was a big jump and gamble for both of us. We were trusting our instincts that this person we barely knew was it for ourselves.
So, when I came here....I was getting to know not only my fiancé and quickly husband and his entire family, but as well their culture, values, ideals, thoughts and ways.
I was like a fish out of water. I became known as “The American.” I was expected to be an expert of everything American and asked if I knew just about anything and everything under the sun.
A lot of times I didn’t have an opinion on certain topics pertaining to my heritage because, well, honestly I’d never thought too much about it.
Why was it a joke that we put hamburgers on a grill? Why was that considered “less” than a braai with pork chops or steak? I had to convince people that I grew up also grilling steaks, and chops, and ribs....as well as hamburgers and hotdogs. And you know what....once they taste a hamburger on the braai...they understand! ;-)
Why was my country so frowned upon because the government takes such an interest in foreign affairs? Why are citizens critized for supporting the military? I had to explain that we (Americans supporting troops) don’t always agree with where or what they are fighting but we support them. Our soldiers don’t get to pick and choose their battles. They don’t get to say I don’t believe in what the government is telling me to do. They go and fight and die to protect those of us at home...and therefore, we stand beside them100% of the way...even if we hate whatever reason the government has given for the fight.
Why was my accent so funny? I spoke normally. They were the ones with accents, right? I became too embarrassed for many years to even try to speak Hubby’s language because I was teased about it. Only when Lil Mister decided he preferred Afrikaans to English did I begin. And you know what....I’m not that bad at it! ;-)
Yet, still....there I sat, embarrassed about where I came from, scared of where I was, and unsure of where we (because there was no way Hubby and I weren’t going to be a we) were going.
Home....it didn’t exist anymore.
I wasn’t ready to call South Africa my home and I wasn’t sure I could still consider America home either. It hurt. It was lonely. It was empty.
I felt like either way I was backstabbing someone or somewhere.
Then, Hubby and I were married and Lil Mister came along. A new question started popping up. We were living in a smaller town now and almost everyone knew the basic of the story at this point. They had a little idea how we met and how we winded up here.
So...they wanted to know...when will I be South African. At first this question didn’t raise any flags to me. I would simply respond that once our son was born I could apply for my permanent residency and 5 years after that I could apply for citizenship.
I never took the time to think deeper than that. I guess....I thought....that once I got my citizenship here...I’d technically be South African. I’d have the documentation. I’d have the ID number. I’d have the right to mark that paper work with an X next to South African.....but where would I mark the X?
The plan has always been that when the day comes for me to apply for citizenship here....I will do everything in my power to legally maintaine dual citizenship.
So...then what would I be?
A few weeks back my boss made a beautiful, uplifting and revealing comment to me. I’m not sure if he realized the impact this comment had, but for the next week I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And since then it has changed my entire outlook on the matter.
As we were walking into church....discussing a conversation the kids had been having about whether they were English and speak Afrikaans or if they were Afrikaans and speak English (their dad is Afrikaans and their mom is English but they speak both) my boss asked me what do we tell or plan to tell our boys they are.
I joked and said no that we tell them they are Afrikaans with an American mom. Which is true. We view our family as Afrikaans. I refuse to take that away from my husband since we live in his culture.
My boss then looked at me and stated the most profound thing I’ve heard regarding my citizenship. “Shana, you can get citizenship and live here until you’re 80, but you’ll always be American.”
My heart stopped. I giggled and said that he was right, but my heart was crying. It broke the walls. It made me accept.
Until that point, yes for the past 4 ½ years, I have struggled with what I am. I love America. I love our culture, our people, our military and our food! I love that I love it.....I just wasn’t sure I wanted to....love it so much. It hurt to love it. It hurt to miss it. It hurt to accept that I was in fact....alone.
There are no American’s here. Just me. There are no expats here. Just me. Though I don’t consider myself an expat. I respect all expats I’m just not sure that definition fits my situation.
But that very moment resounded in my life. I will ALWAYS be American. I’m probably never going to loose my accent. I’m never going to forget all the things I love about America. I’m always going to be an individual and unique in my culture here....
And I’m finally okay with that. It was like a flood gate opening realizing that I can obtain my citizenship here. They can even deny my request for dual citizenship. They can say that my paperwork says I’m not American. But I will always be American!
I will always cheer for the USA in sports! I will always support our military and fly that flag high! I will always defend the people and culture that we are! I will always mourn the faults of the country and rejoice in the joys! I will always be American.
And nothing and no one can ever take that away!
My children.....I still have fears for their future and how my unique status affects them. I’ll discuss that in another post.
For now....I say cheers to the Americans!