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Hi Tertia,

Your posts are so interesting, I really love hearing about SA, and would love to visit someday.
As I sit here feeling like the world is going to collapse in on my poor pregnant self because it is 34 degrees and my house is so hot (we Canadians aren't meant for heat!) you've reminded me how lucky I am. Lucky to feel safe 24 hours of the day.
It is so amazing how people do adapt, and I think that also means adapting to being so lucky that we very often don't realize what really matters.


I just posted a comment on your other entry, about employing domestic help in South Africa, the Gini coefficient, etc...

I mentioned in my comment that I'm from Panama... Crime has always been very bad there as well, for very similar reasons (mainly, poverty).

It's funny, I don't live there anymore. I moved to the States for college, and haven't moved back, but I visit from time to time, and am astounded at two things: (1) how different Panama is from here, and (2) how normal both places feel to me, how I can slip back into "Panamanian zone" (locking car doors, never wearing jewelry, keeping a low profile, etc.) so quickly if I need to.

It sticks with you, I guess.

hi tertia, i live in small town america in the deep south. we rarely lock anything around here. but i also live 35 miles from the big city. there are areas there that sound much like you discribe the road between you and your sister. sadly, some things seem to be the same the world over!


I'be been to SA many many times both as a child and as an adult and it is a truely beautiful country. I only ever visited Transvaal region becuase we were over then for my fathers work, i dunno how close that is to you.

I think its human nature to adapt and make the best of what ever situations we live in and let them make you a stronger person for it. Just look at the troubles that plagued Ireland in the 70's 80's and 90's and it is appearing to be on the road to peace and a more tolerent future. I hope the same can and will be said for SA in the next few years.

Hi, T.--I just emailed you about the recent bloggy spats over in my neck of the woods and came over here to find this post. It really puts things in perspective! This was beautiful stuff--I remember reading None to Accompany Me (Nadine Gordimer, as I'm sure you know) in grad school; the scene where the protagonist and her co-worker are involved in a roadside hijack and shot seemed somehow "off" to me. Like the characters were somehow not appropriately (to an American way of looking at the events) shocked about it. Gordimer, the Nobel Laureate, does an amazing job of describing the good and the bad in SA and the way things are, but YOU made me "see" it. Thank you.

I lived with similar stuff - the stones on cars from overpasses in the middle of the day, random drive by shootings 24/7, churches burning, etc. We called it Houston. But, I lived with it. I love Houston for its culture, its opportunity, its dedication to fine arts, sports, but it isn't a pretty place to live. Not near what you go through there, but it isn't necessarily the safest place in the world, either. You are right - we are resilient creatures. Thanks for your perspective!

Wow, I can't imagine that. What an interesting post!! Here I sit, next to my un-barred picture window, looking at my unlocked car parked in the driveway with my purse inside. I know it's not smart but yet I also know I live in a town with the lowest crime rate in my whole state. Your writing really makes me appreciate my "safe" home!! But I could go back to the city where I grew up and find many of the same kinds of things you describe, so I appreciate my town even more now.

I've been living in Israel since the summer of 2000 (a couple of months before the intifada and suicide bombings started up again), and I found it all easier to live with before my daughter was born. For myself I was prepared to take the risks, but now with my six month old daughter and a war raging just a few kms north I am finding it increasingly hard to justify.

But when it was just me (and my husband) we just adapted - sitting 'strategically' in cafes in the hope that this one won't be targeted for x or y illogical reason...

We always have hope for peace, but how much longer must we wait???

Hi Tertia,
Your country is really beautiful. I would love to come and see SA one day. I have a few ties with the country myself. Someone I knew was shot a few years ago, he was a doctor, just going out to chop some wood. A terrible terrible thing. We can't imagine that over here but truth be told, violence and crime is happening more and more, even here, in safe Australia. It's not really that safe anymore. You still have to be careful, and you can still be in the worng place at the wrong time. So, no fear, your land is really no different from anyone elses. We all have to be aware and careful. Sure, we don't have bars on our windows yet, but it may come to that too one day. I pray not.

Also live in Israel...

You're right, you do adapt and just keep living. But everytime the situation changes you find yourself re-evaluating your daily life and the risks you take. Then eventually I guess you adapt to the new reality.

I really feel a difference with the new situation with Lebanon. I feel stressed, I'm worried about things that I had gotten used to previously. I hope this ends soon so that we don't have to adapt to this new reality.

Too late to put me off! I have already bought my tickets.


I cannot begin to imagine how you live let alone how the poeple in Iraq, Isreal, Lebanon and other was torn country's live. I live in Iowa, USA - I leave my keys in my car and doors unlocked. I have lived in ATL, GA - USA previously and even there (BIG city) there is crime, but nothing like you described. I think that it is noble and amazing that you continue to love your country. It is people like you that will be able to help make the change for the better.

I feel fortunate to live in a city where there is almost no place I would feel unsafe walking alone, even at night. Not that we don't have poverty or racism here on the Canadian prairies -- we do, and it is a significant social problem that has never been adequately addressed. Perhaps part of the reason it hasn't is that we DO feel so safe.

I know that people adapt, but it is still hard to imagine (for me, anyway) choosing to live in a place where you deal with the threat of violence so much. We have a lot of South African doctors here -- they often wind up in Saskatchewan for a few years when they first immigrate to Canada, then move on to larger centres -- and have heard some fascinating and horrific stories. Often, their main reason for emigrating was the violence. Understandable, but sad that they felt they needed to leave their homes.

I want to thank you for that entry.

My little secret? I read your blog only to get over my personal hatred of South Africans. Through your beautiful writing I have learned that one bad apple (and his friends) doesn't spoil the whole basket. I had a bad experience with an SA that moved (ran away) from his home. You really touched on something today.

For months now I've tried to compose a letter (privately) to you about your influence on me. I've never known how to start it.

You are a beautiful soul.

Tertia, I read your blog with great interest because my boyfriend was born in South Africa and his father, brother and sister still live there. We hope to visit over the Christmas holidays. The way he describes it and what I've seen on television are so stunningly beautiful that I am eagerly anticipating the trip, but I am all too acutely aware of the dangers. His father's vacation home was recently broken into and everything was stolen - everything. His dad is a former auto racer, world champion, pretty famous over there from what I understand, and every piece of racing memorabilia going back 3 decades that was in that house is now gone. Thank god no one was hurt, but how heartbreaking for him. Material things are just things, except when they are memories of times and people you loved who are now gone. I read of the carjackings and the rapes and the murders and I'm afraid to go, but then I remember that I am from NY and it probably isn't any worse than walking through the Bronx on the way to a Yankees game. I hope. Right? Maybe? I feel like I would be safer on safari risking being eaten by hungry lions than anywhere near civilization.

That is some scarey scarey stuff. Every once and a while you hear about kids throwing stuff off bridges at cars but it is usually isolated. Please be careful!

Hi Tertia. The crime rate issue has been an adjustment for us, but we were pretty cautious in the US. We'be been lucky so far, no bad incidents, but we had a little scare on safari a couple of weeks ago. While we were out on a game drive the lodge was robbed by men with guns who posed as guests. It was pretty sophisticated.

But, I have seen the country and it is beautiful. I drove with family from Cape Town to Pretoria in June. We took four days and I only felt a little uncomfortable in one area in the Free State. I really and truly believe that 95% of the people in South Africa are good people. And they are friendly and interesting to talk to. People who come to visit should get out of the cities and stay in a guest house and talk to the people. It was a great experience.

There are so many places I want to see here, but we only have about a year left!

this what you described here is exactly what is starting to affect me living in SA. and the older i get, the more it affects me. i will soon leave, that is for sure. there are safer places out there and i will find one. you've been lucky to not have been affected, but i've had a windscreen broken from a rock-off-an-N2-bridge, i've had a family member murdered, i have had many break-ins, etc. it is all getting too much.
and it makes me sad.

Hi Tertia,

What an honest post about the dangers of living in your country. As you know, everyone likes to promote the good about their country and minimise the bad.

I am lucky to live in the safest suburb in Auckland, New Zealand. We have the lowest crime rate and the reason for this is that we live on a peninsula, i.e. one road in and out. I have friends that leave doors open while they pop to the shops and even stopped by another friends house to discover the front door wide open and no one home. No harm done, I checked inside just in case and closed the door. This all in a city of >1 million people. Small I know compared to US, Aus, perhaps SA (sorry I don't know) cities, but a large city nonetheless. New Zealand does have it's share of terrible crime, we have horrendous child abuse (even murder) statistics, but still overall, we are a safe country. (The child abuse statistics are skewed by one racial group mainly, which is unfortunate...very political at the moment.)

I have a friend who emigrated from SA with her family 10 years ago. They couldn't sleep for weeks initially, because there were NO bars on the windows, no security gates or guards and no guns in the house "just in case." They also marvelled at kids playing in the streets, walking and riding their bikes to school. Obviously they miss SA a lot, but all the South Africans I know say they will never go back due to all the reasons you so eloquently described.

I would love to visit your country, but am put off by the stories such as yours. I always think what if...what if I took the wrong turning somewhere, stopped at a set of traffic lights, the car broke down. Now that I have my daughter I am SO much more cautious.

Anyway sorry for the ramble, just wanted to reply to yet another thought provoking post.


PS For what it's worth, I *do* get myself into tight spots, I somehow ended up driving along the Shankill Rd in Belfast and stopping to ask for directions...afterwards I found out that at that particular time in N. Ireland I shouldn't have been anywhere near that bloody road. I blame my navigator, Australian of course!

It's funny - I was going to comment that after 9/11 many of us in the US wondered if we would have to get used to the constant threat of violence, and I remember listening to a commentator on NPR [national public radio] who was talking about how Israelites have lived like that for decades [well, centuries, actually]. In a very weird way, I found it comforting to think that people do live their lives in these outwardly scary places.

Now, my car isn't unlocked in the driveway, and when I'm home alone I lock the door - but I live in a mid-sized city in the midwest and generally feel very safe. I don't worry about driving places with my windows open on a nice day, and I certainly don't think I'll be hijacked anytime soon - and God knows that my pug doesn't function in any way, shape or form as a guard dog. But I don't have your backyard views...or wine country a short drive away...or even the hope and dreams of a nation trying to make things better for their people. I guess what I mean is there are trade offs.

Keep blogging about things like this - it's so important for all of us to learn from each other...

Whoo-hoo! USA! USA! We're not #1 in gun murders! Thank you for letting us lag behind you, South Africa.

I live in a large American city, and confront poverty every day. (Homeless people, mainly, and poor neighborhoods.) But I recognize that the degree of poverty seen in America is nothing like the depth of poverty elsewhere in the world. (The urban poor might have their electricity cut off sometimes if they don't pay their bills, but they generally have excellent running water, decent heat, TVs with video games, phone service, etc.)

My in-laws are from the Philippines, which also has tremendous poverty (and I think kidnappings are more popular these days) and the sort of economy in which people who aren't abjectly poor can afford household servants--so I can see how your Rose situation is analogous.

There are areas I generally avoid going to, but the fear that drives that avoidance is much more mythical and habitual than South-Africa-real.

I met another mom at the playground who's from Nigeria. She spoke of the high crime there--home-invasion burglaries at the drop of a hat. I'll bet she finds even big-city America to be ridiculously safe in comparison.

For those from the US who posted that they understood, that there was crime in the US as well, scary neighborhoods here too, I have to say that you don't know what you are talking about. I have lived in the US and in South America. Our bad neighborhoods have electricty, running water, indoor plumbing, etc. The neighborhoods referred to here do not. Our lowest standards of living are so much greater than those elsewhere that you really can't imagine it unless you have seen it with your own eyes. We have no idea just how lucky we all are.

I live in Houston in the somewhat gentrifying 'hood and there are no bars on my windows nor big dogs guarding my doors. I can't imagine leading your life, Tertia. On the other hand, when we've always lived a certain way, it doesn't seem quite as strange to us as it does to outsiders. I'm sure there are elements to my life that others would find mystifying or unbearable.

I hope that South Africa is one day as safe as it is beautiful.

Hi T-
I've been over to SA many times. And it is one of the most beautiful countries I have EVER been to. Despite the fear one may have of traveling there it is definitely a place to see. I can tell a few stories of friends who have been robbed (a handful) and those who have been beaten and robbed as well as those who have been car jacked and robbed. It is scary enough to be so close to the violence, yet never have to actually see it on a daily basis. Which is fortunately been my reality every time I have been. As you said T, one has to adapt or to be what I'd call 'street smart.' Watch what you do: lock your doors, be aware of your surroundings and don't stop at stop lights or stop signs late night. I grew up in Washington D.C. which has been marked 'the murder capital' many times over (though I think Chicago is at the moment). Anyhow, although poverty in DC is not quite as horrific as it is in certain areas of SA, one definitely has to be 'on alert' and AWARE i.e. lock you car doors, house doors, don't drive thru certain neighborhoods etc. I now live in Southern California and it is definitely a much safer environment (but as Monique said I can easily slip back in 'street smart' mode). To this day when I hear Americans friends of mine talk of their skepticism of visiting SA, I tell them you still must visit otherwise you are missing out on one of the biggest gems in this world! I am head over heels about SA. I too have hope that SA will come out on top!

V interesting post. I hope your country will be blessed with good politicians for the future.

Here we really pay tax for all kinds of investments in addition to income tax. We get a very low crime rate in return - to mention one thing.

On the other hand it can sometimes be provoking seeing social programmes are exploited and that too many are on state benefit. - And they even complain.

They should take a trip along the highway you mentioned to get things in perspective .

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