Tuesday, 25 October 2016
Howzit? Well, impossible really.
When they - my siblings, all of four of them - followed the yellow brick road to that much-hated, no-good, smoulderingly-hot, abundantly peculiar Land of Oz, (seriously - have you actually looked at a kangaroo properly and watched it move?), smack-in-the-middle-of-nowhere, it seemed like just another country.
It’s not. It’s bizarre. It’s the only place on the planet with things like trunk-nosed-hedgehog Echnidas and mammals that lay eggs and Cassowary birds that look like delusional dinosaurs that can kill you with a flick of their dagger-ended toes. Ethereal Box Jelly fish, morbidly lethal. Man eating crocodiles in the sea. Insanely huge bats, insanely huge spiders, insanely huge pythons. Cone Snails with venom so poisonous, one drop can kill twenty adults. There is no winter. Strange sounding people that actually stop at pedestrian crossings for pedestrians to cross the road without them having to throw themselves in the way of cars to stop the flow of traffic. Strange sounding people that stop at red lights, don’t drink and drive and follow the speed limit every single day, all day long. Where the majority of people call you “mate” and pay their taxes to the government (instead of a tiny, minuscule percentage that keep the rest of the population afloat), and paying taxes means one can go to any hospital without giving up an arm and a leg - literally - in monthly medical aid rates to afford private hospitals as government ones are so under resourced and badly managed here, that they are more hazardous to your health than the reason why you would be there in the first place. Where the news headlines of “Family Tortured and Murdered for Cell Phone” are replaced with “Croc chases golfer off course” and where the leader, the Go-To-Guy, The President . . . is not under scrutiny for seven hundred and eighty three criminal charges. Seven hundred and eighty three, and still in power, and still racking up the charges. Unhindered.
“You’re going to Oz? Cool!” with scenes of breathtaking beaches and exotic holiday destinations flashing through the head as part of visiting the newly emigrated. In the beginning, exciting catch up times on Skype with stories of new homes and exciting experiences and spider encounters and snake visitors. After a while, when the expense involved and the time needed in getting there sinks in, it’s all replaced with the realisation that Oz is very, very, VERY fucking far away, and not just in distance. There is no good time to get Oz on the other side of a conversation. Night or day.
Ten thousand kilometres away in Australia, my brothers and sisters are already waking to the daily morning frenzy of getting up and out for the day. Eight hours behind them, we are still shut-eyed and sleeping, blissfully hours away from that inevitably ensuing morning frenzy. One can understand when both parties are in opposite mindsets and on opposite sides of the planet, how impossible Skype conversations are. When I’m ready to have a catch up and “howzit”, they are concentrating on just keeping their heads above chaos while bathing and eating and home-working before the nightly shut-eye escape. When they’re ready to “howzit”, I’m donning armbands and wine to survive the flood of that evening chaos. Everyone knows that a decent, controlled conversation at that time of the day is impossible, never mind with the added interference of unstable internet connections.
As well as competing with the time difference amid pixelated faces and every second word missing from descriptions of marble and coin collections and blowing kisses and pulling tongues, there are three other variables present in our house that make for unsatisfying conversations. The Pugs, The Big One and The Small One.
To save us from interruptions of lunatic flat noses frantically chasing the dustbin truck through (yes- through - although due to the laws of the planet solid masses cannot morph through other solid masses, so Pug meets steel at full speed when gate unceremoniously halts momentum) the gate while tearing each other to pieces in unadulterated pandemonium, or preventing the toddling Small One from falling head first into the toilet bowl while retrieving his bouncing ball - which is rather pivotal at this time in Gauteng due to massive water restrictions and being advised to only flush “when necessary”. It’s threatening The Big One within an inch of his life if he doesn’t stop carving his name on the dining room table instead of finishing his spelling within the next hour (as opposed to dragging it out to the usual two-and-a-half-hour-battle-to-the-death). All this while making supper. It’s like herding cats, beyond the bounds of possibility. All this adds pressure to the already close-to-exploding flood of self pity in having siblings over twenty-four-hours-on-a-plane away. Having siblings in Oz, is like not having siblings. They might as well have joined Elon Musk’s trek to Mars. A one way ticket to absent.
Like the tick on a dog - sucking the life blood of it’s host until fat and bloated. An ominous, isolated rock lurking ten thousand kilometres away in the Indian Ocean, which has the pick of the crop. Unhappy South Africans, tired of the blatant, reverse discrimination of Black Empowerment, apartheid-style business rules and the unchallenged, insidious corruption of government officials and subsequent squandering of state resources and people’s indispensable taxes are easy pickings for the hungry parasite. Misdirected anger towards Oz is like hating a step-parent for taking the place of a parent - justifiable in the reality of realising step-parent trumps parent and not willing to welcome the replacement. Yet. It could probably be placated with a state of the art teleporter, or a nice, sparkly, red pair of shoes. Actually, both - teleporter for when there’s power, and shoes for back up during load shedding.