“It was too exhausting to sustain this fear.”
I’m currently reading another “Africa” book one of my lovely readers let me borrow, and this line stood out for me. Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott describes the author’s childhood in rural Botswana during the 1980s and 90s. This particular chapter was about the growing AIDS epidemic emerging in Botswana in those years, much like in other parts of Africa. Robyn, whose father was running flying doctor clinics throughout the countryside, noticed one day how he was putting plasters on every little cut and scrape on his body before going to work, and his explanation led to a whole new fear in her life. She went on to fret for several weeks, but then realized it was just too exhausting to keep it up, what with other more important events consuming her attention.
The reason I found this line memorable is that it can be applied to expat life in South Africa as much as a childhood in Botswana. Before moving here, we are often inundated with horror stories about assault and murder happening on a regular basis, and for a good while after moving here we often exhaust ourselves with an all-consuming fear, bordering on panic. But then the more mundane hassles take over your life, like getting a traffic register number and seeing the dentist, and perhaps you’re also discovering the beauty of this continent, so that bit by bit you give up indulging your worst fears.
The trials and tribulations of this unconventional family (there is also an even more eccentric grandpa who is a Botswana legend in his own right, having emigrated from South Africa to become a bush pilot and later starting one ill-fated business venture after the other) will at turns have you laughing out loud and marvel at the parents’ courage in defying conventions, and then cringe with pity for the children who, as all children do, so much long for a more “normal” family. Above all, it is another great book with unforgettable insights about life in Africa.
If you read it you’ll see why so many who’ve had the privilege of living in Africa will always hold a very special place for it in our hearts.