Once upon a time, our life was like a fairytale.
We lived in a beautiful house with a garden full of trees and flowers and a swimming pool with crystal blue water.
Most of the trees bore fruit, and the mangoes would fall down from the large mango tree and into the swimming pool.
There was no winter in that blessed land, only summer during nine months, and then there were three months that were cooler, but never cold, and the sky was always blue and the sun always shone. The rain would come during the summer months, but mostly at night, and we’d wake up to the shining sun in the next morning.
We were happy, carefree children going around barefoot all day and going for a swim whenever we felt like it. In the evenings – as in Africa evenings arrive early – we would come back from school and go swimming in the dark garden with the pool lights on. The water would be warm and we would just float there looking at the stars wondering about the universe.
We would play hide and seek in the garden and get lost from each other; we would ride our bicycles and run with the dogs; sometimes we would go to the beach and lay there under the tropical coconut trees while gazing at the Indian ocean; then we’d dive into the warm waves and dry under the hot summer sun; we’d go on shopping sprees to South Africa and lose ourselves in the toys floor of the huge department stores; on weekends we’d sometimes go to our grandfather’s milk producing farm and watch the thousands of cows as they were being milked; and from time to time our family would take us to see the wild animals at the game reserve and we’d be speechless as we looked at the lions, giraffes and elephants that majestically passed us by.
Sometimes there would be a cloud passing over our paradise as we heard rumours of war in the north, and of evil men (called the “terrorists”) that wanted to invade us and put an end to our wonderful way of life. But this would soon be forgotten and we would go back to our fairytale existence and to our garden, our swimming pool, our toys, our friends.
We’d go and watch the sunset, the unique and sudden African sunset – the ball of fire in the sky that suddenly disappears in the horizon, the world abruptly turning from bright to dark ; we’d watch in awe from our balcony the imposing African thunderstorms and tremble as the voice of each thunder grew louder…and watch the night become day as each lightning lit up our world…and as the rain came pouring down and the smell of damp earth invaded our nostrils we’d simply stay there filling our senses with this most African sensation.
Oh yes, we were Africans, and for us Africa was paradise. But, regrettably, it was not paradise for all.
And as in paradise, one day the serpent came, and our paradise was no more.
There was a revolution and soon came the days of fear, of terror, of uncertainty. The days when we felt trapped inside our home as the raging mob marched on to our city butchering everyone in sight in the most appalling ways; the days when we learned that our land was not ours after all, that we were invaders, aliens, and not welcome there anymore. We learned our land would belong to others from then on, yes, to those we had learned to call “the evil men from the north”. They came down and took our homes, our companies, our property, and left us with nothing. And then one day, we simply understood it was time to leave our beautiful land of endless summer, our beautiful home with the clear blue swimming pool and the garden with the massive trees, our golden beach by the Indian Ocean and the impressive thunderstorms and sudden sunsets – and so we left.
I remember crying my heart out as I looked back and saw our beautiful house fading in the distance. I was still crying as the plane took off. Ahead of us lay a new life, in a new city, and a long, grey, rainy winter. An altogether different life, as the one we left behind us was never to be recovered.
Yes, we lived a fairytale life. But it could not go on forever, I later learned. And understood why. Fairytales do not, cannot last forever. But we will never forget our own fairytale, and we were truly privileged to have lived it for some time.
And, for that, we must be truly thankful. For our memories will remain within us forever, and they are truly precious. Unique. And Africa – will always be in our hearts.