Today I’m writing to you from Cape Town during crazy times, that I could have never imagined in my weirdest dreams. I sincerely hope that you are all doing okay wherever you are in the world and that you are healthy and staying at home during this difficult period.
As many of you know, I’m originally from Germany and all of my family live there. When things got really serious recently and countries started to close borders and stopped air traffic across the globe, I received many emotional messages from family and friends in Germany. Everybody was worried about me and even people that I haven’t spoken to in years contacted me to see whether I’m doing all right. All of a sudden I was that daughter, sister or friend stuck at the “end of the world”. To be quite honest, I wasn’t really panicking at that stage but those messages and calls from the family in Germany got me to finally register my name or existence rather on the “crisis list” by the German government. I always knew such a list existed for worst case scenarios and that many of my German expat friends here in Cape Town have registered on this system long ago. Every few days I’m now receiving a letter from the German Embassy in Pretoria with the latest updates and the process of the repatriation of German tourists stuck in South Africa. On the one hand it feels good to be on the German government’s radar but on the other hand I’m a bit panicked to receive a letter with the subject line: “please pack your bags now”.
Pack my bags???
Well, some family members and friends in Germany suggested that I leave South Africa already weeks ago, way before we entered the lockdown period. All the worry isn’t really about me catching the virus, rather the fear of wars breaking out in the informal settlements. I was literally told to catch one of the last flights out of Cape Town. This might sound easy but in reality it was almost impossible. Apart from the fact that those flights were primarily meant for tourists, I couldn’t just leave everything behind. My whole life is in Cape Town and as you can imagine, I’ve got a rent to pay, many possessions and most importantly my beloved cat Mia. Like most people, I have got commitments.How would I fit 15 years of Cape Town in one single bag? Would my permanent residence still be ‘valid’ after the crisis, returning from a high risk country? Would I still have my beautiful little garden flat? What about Mia in all of this.. where would she stay? For how long will travel bans be implemented for?
All those questions circulating in my head nonstop gave me some sleepless nights and I never expected to get into a position where I needed to make life changing decisions in such a short period of time. The only good news here was, that I can basically work from anywhere in the world and that I could move in with my mom in Munich. For me it was actually crystal clear from the start that I want to stay in Cape Town and that I won’t leave Mia behind. I do however believe that it’s important to listen to other people’s opinions and look at all pros and contras. Consulting with other expats from Europe helped me a lot with making a decision and as far as I know everyone stayed in South Africa. With no flights going out of Cape Town during the national Lockdown now anyway, I could only leave for Munich after the travel restrictions have been lifted.
I guess my overseas folk reacted the way they did, because that 10.000 km between us suddenly seemed really far away and because I’m residing in a 3rd world country that was recently officially rated as ‘junk’….Looking at the current situation, it might make sense to move back to Munich after the Lockdown to gain some financial stability and make use of Germany’s fantastic social system……
Why do I want to stay in South Africa after Lockdown?
Keep on reading if you are interested to learn the answer….
One reason why I decided to stay in South Africa after the Lockdown is because it’s my home and I don’t feel like giving that up. Applying for a permanent residence meant making many sacrifices and it was a long and hard way to get to the point where I’m today. Looking at it from a different angle, I don’t think the grass is greener on the other side. Who knows if I’d be even entitled to receive any Corona help funds from the government and if I’d easily find new clients and work? To be quite honest with you, I’d have to start my life from scratch. Yes, Germany is my home country but I’ve been away for 15 years – 16 years actually if you include my study year in London. I’d probably be better off financially in Europe, but probably very unhappy missing my Capetonian lifestyle. All countries around the world are currently facing an economic crisis and I don’t think moving continents is the answer (If you are an expat anywhere in the world right now, please let us know in the comments if you consider moving back to your home country after the Corona crisis)
Apart from all that, I want to go through this crisis with my people and that is my South African folk. We were thrown into this mess together and are now all sitting in the same boat. I’m not to leave this boat and want to fight this ‘war’ with my fellow South Africans who have become my family over the past 15 years. I don’t want to be that expat that runs away when things get difficult and I’m very much aware of the fact that I’m extremely privileged to even have a choice and to hold that German passport in my hands.
YES, it’s sometimes difficult to be so far away from the family during this time and not to know when I can visit them again. YES, it’s scary to know that I cannot just hop on a plane if something happens to a loved one in Germany and YES it all sucks but nonetheless, #ImStaying
Stay strong and healthy everyone and thank you to all the AMAZING people working at the frontline!!!! Don’t forget to support small businesses if you can and donate to soup kitchens and animal shelters etc.
***The Vegan Rainbow is currently also suffering huge losses of income and if you do see any way to support my work (or need a translation for English/German), please email Antonia on: firstname.lastname@example.org