Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Saturday 13th June

According to me, South Africans are amazing people, for many reasons, but perhaps mainly because we have the most amazing ability to adapt, to make a plan, to make things work.

I am reminded of the old saying that  “ ‘n Boer maak a plan”, which I think is really, really true. It isn’t only the ‘boers’, though who can make a plan and make things happen. I think it is a trait of all South Africans. (Well, most of us, there are always exceptions to every rule.)

Where else, for example, would  you go off to get your ID book, or driver’s licence renewed (or something like that) and come across guys literally operating from a car battery out of a car boot, or on the side of the road?

Then there are the many, many projects that people get involved in, or the initiatives that just rock J

We met the most wonderful couple today. He is a teacher, she runs a curio shop and has training in tourism. Together, they are working to get the children in their community in KZN skilled in various ways, just because they know they can make a difference. They are just ordinary South Africans, who came through the apartheid system and have come out the other end looking for ways for us to learn and move on, productively. Lizzy and I had a wonderful chat about heritage and keeping both our bad and good histories alive and moving into the future.

She and Muzi are definitely not ‘boers’, but they are making a plan and doing good things.

Not long after spending time with Lizzy and Muzi, we found the ‘Kaalvoet Vrou’ statue that was erected in memory of the Voortrekker women; as well as a memorial to the boers of the Great Trek. Just looking at the statue and considering the terrain that those people traversed with ox wagons in those far away days made me realise how tough they must have been.

It seems to me that some of our ability in this country to be able to make the most of things, to adapt, to move on and to find ways to make things happen, comes from heritage we all carry with us somewhere. Whether we have ancestors who were, for example, in the Great Trek, or were Zulu warriors, it doesn’t matter, some of their toughness and tenacity seems to have filtered down through into us South Africans to help us move forward practically and creatively.

(Well, most of us. There are always exceptions to every rule.)

In some ways, I think it is this latent, or built-in, ability that has surfaced to a degree through this cancer thing. From both my mum and dad, I definitely get the ability to be practical and work with what I have. They must have got it from somewhere, too – some of the blood coursing through their and my veins.

Whatever we face, we South Africans, most of us can find a way to work with it. For me, recently, part of this has been the cancer thing. For someone like Lizzy, it is about taking what she has and making even a small difference in some lives in her community.

Such different things. Such different implications and outcomes. Both of them demanding personal input and moving forward determinedly. Both of them so typical of what we South Africans tend to be so good at.

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