Going Back To Where You Come From

I don’t know how many people have the opportunity that I had. As a person who was displaced from her place of birth due to a destructive civil war, I feel very, very fortunate to have had the opportunity of a lifetime to reconnect with my birth country, find out about my family and elements of my culture. It’s given me a greater sense of self and answered many questions I once had.

I recommend it to anyone who has never gone back to where they came from, whether you are from a small embarrassing small country town or a large city, a village or the ends of the earth. You will surprise yourself of how much a part of you or a part of your family history you will find.

I especially recommend and call on all those African experts living out of the continent to reconnect to the motherland. Yes I know that sounds cheesy but the reality of our continent is different to what we see on the various news hours. The people are bright and uplifted despite their lower standards of living.

Belonging

From the time that I was eight months I have been living in other peoples countries very much against my will. I have lived in Namibia, Zambia, and Australia. This involuntary migration has led me to me feeling like a victim of circumstance and powerless. I could not have gone back for many reasons including the war which went on for almost thirt years, almost the whole of my life.

For the longest time I felt like a baby who had been torn from it’s mother’s tit while in the middle of being breast fed and despite the new shiny country of Australia that I have spent most of my life in, I never felt a part of anything. Going back to the house that I lived in as a baby in the town my parents grew up in gave me a sense of identity and belong I never thought possible. It was the first place that I found someone else with the same name that I had. No one asked where I was from although they were a bit surprised by the way I spoke the language. This was the only place that no one could tell me ‘go back to where you came from’ a phrase I’m used to hearing on television from extreme nationalist. Despite being a stranger in my own home town I walked around like I owned the place.

This was my country and no one could ever tell me here to go back to where you come from and that ladies and gentlemen is a priceless feeling. It’s like going from renting a house to being a home owner and never having to answer to the land lord.

Everybody Knows Your Name or at Least Your Parents

Every time I saw the TV show ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ I used to feel jealous for people who could trace their family history right down to their grandparents, great grandparents, and great, great grandparents. I wondered how in the world I was ever going to find out about anyone on my family tree if no written records where kept.

I was surprised to find my great Aunt’s friends were still alive and filled in the gaps and answered all my questions. The town that I was born in is the same town my mother grew up in. Everyone knew who she was even if she hadn’t been there for over 35 years. Not only that they knew her mother, father and  her whole family, including Aunties and Uncles. It was a very surreal experience. The great African oral history had survived and I feel as if I’ve arrived just in time to transfer some of it to paper for my great, great grand children if I have any.

Knowing where we come from and our family history can be very lonely. It provides you with no point of reference of who you are. Before going back to Angola and Benguela where I was born, I felt like a strange alien that had come from a place so faraway that I could not go back. Now home is a $2300 plane ticket away and I see myself going back as often as the purse allows.

While going back in time can be scary and also traumatic, (I’m still getting over the shock of meeting both my parents families), it can also be rewarding and peaceful, although it may not necessarily feel like it at the time.

I am not sure if my positive experience is a result of the fact that I feel very fortunate to have a great family, selfless and caring individuals on both sides of my family tree. My family has been inspiring and encouraging. I am in owe of their strength of spirit and their ability to fight for survival despite having to have in one of the worst and the longest civil wars on this planet in recent times. Not only that, knowing that they fought for independence for over 500 years from the Portuguese until succeeding in 1975, makes me feel proud of being Angolan

 

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