Tag Archives: foreigners

Book Review: Always Another Country – Sisonke Msimang

Always Another Country: A Memoir of Exile and Home by [Msimang, Sisonke]
 Buy here

I read this book over the December holidays and was sooo excited, I am not sure what happened and it’s almost four months later that I am here gushing about it. Urgggh!! Please see below my thoughts under the different themes, page numbers are provided in brackets for you to follow.


  •  This is a book for us women, refugees, blacks (6) and I totally totally agree.
  • I love that our time in Nairobi overlap – when she returns from Canada. I know all the landmarks she mentions of Nairobi. It felt so good to read a book about a place that I knew and know of so intimately. Double yay!!
  • I thought it was odd that she kept referring to her folks as Mummy and Baba??? So odd coz those are two different languages in my head and I would have gone with either Mummy and Daddy or Mama and Baba.
  • I wondered also why she protects the names of her own kids but not Simon’s eldest two. Not sure what that’s about is it maybe that they are adults and the other two are minors?
  • The things said to them about a male child being preferred to daughters. And how this is often blamed on the mother in a way that gives the husband carte blanche to stray in the name of looking for a son (pp 7 – 27). I know this reality all too well and all I think is Biology lessons are important for all.
  • It’s so subtle but her talking about not participating in the street games and fights as much as the local kids do coz it could turn on you:

“I had to choose how I would distinguish myself and I knew that it had to be safe.”(9)

  • The plight of house girls and domestic workers – all too relatable ( 50).
  • Having read Pumla’s Rape, it resonated with me how she spoke about the incident of being sexually attacked: her response and that of the adults around her (52 -55). Also, in the light of #MeToo, I thought it quite bold that she opened up about this incident.
  • The urgency for them to receive their citizenship. Yeah, I get that (67 – 68).
  • I remember the following events but was probably too young to consider their true impact on history: Chris Hani, Mandelas release, the IFP-sponsored murders and the election.

Growing up Foreign

  • Being called an African monkey. While that did not happen to me, I know about being called a refugee almost as though it was a dirty swear word.
  • And the rules that their mom had them follow because growing up in another country with parents working full time, there is not a big social infrastructure to support the parents. So rules are key or in young people speak, rules are bae.

“… the immigrant child knows that outside is one thing but home is another country.” (83)

“The immigrant child knows that the key to survival is in the inflection points. … The key to survival is in blending in first, in learning how to be just like else as a first step to freedom. You have to know how the inside works before you can stand outside and make everybody laugh.” (90)

“The immigrant child doesn’t make any noise. … She is preparing for the day when she will have mastered the art of being normal so that she can stand out.” (90)


  • How she always talks of her sisters, so beautiful and in some way the story is as much about them as it is her. Yay sisterhood.


  •  I understand when she talks of her discovery of her race in the States. The same thing happened to me in RSA.
  • Being foreign in South Africa has shown me that White ones are still preferred to Black ones. Sad but fact!


  • On discovering that your mom is not just a role – mom, wife, friend, daughter – but actually a woman with dreams, feelings and thoughts quite apart from me even. GASP, SHOCKING.
  • How their mom almost became like an older fourth sister but their dad remained a dad. I find this to be the truth with us too.

“To know your mother as an adult is to finally see that she has lived many more years as a woman than you have been alive. To be a grown woman who loves her mother is to understand that it is no easy thing to raise children so beautifully that they don’t worry about you until they are grown up and ready to carry the complex burden of that anxiety.” (304)

  • Class: I enjoyed reading about her relationship with her nanny especially when they were both pregnant. I thought it was the most honest tale by a middle class Black woman that I could totally relate to.

So please go out, buy the book read, it, share it and enjoy it.

Now, to make friends with her in real life?

Sunday Reads

  1. How to read more books this year. I am definitely taking it to heart by reducing my junk TV viewing and making sure I always have a book as I go about various chores.
  2. A reading list on Kenya in case you are interested.
  3. If a story moves you, act on it!
  4. This article on insecurity made me stop and think. Really hard!
  5. Somali nicknames are hilarious 🙂
  6. So many white tears in this article. I see that they have only a given demographic of foreign spouses married to South Africans.
  7. Also, this IS cultural expropriation.
  8. More on how couples deal with finances.
  9. I didn’t know there were Nigerian Jews in Johannesburg. Today’s fact!!
  10. What does it mean to be a boy or girl? National Geographic asks 9/10 year old kids.
  11. Stealing from one of the comments, “This is by far the best article I’ve read regarding LBGT and the gospel.”
  12. Chocolate cake and another vegetarian pasta recipe.

Sunday Reads

  1. ​I read this article on miscarriage and for some reason it made me sooooooo sad 😦
  2. As a foreign worker, this paper obviously made sense to read. See also the comments, very useful.
  3. In case you are looking to stock your first kitchen, the kind folks of Food52 will help you out!
  4. How to help yourself eat a healthy lunch at the office!
  5. This life must not be easy and I am so grateful to God that I have been largely exempt from it.
  6. Beautiful ways to think of gift giving.
  7. Because beautiful book design covers.
  8. I would love to have this in my house.

Long Sunday Reads

Enjoy some lovely reads this Sunday!

  1. Five recipes to enjoy your Zuccini/ babymarrow
  2. On being a foreigner – the less obvious kind
  3. The more obvious kind of a foreigner
  4. MUST MAKE RECIPE: Pumpkin Chickpea Coconut curry
  5. I enjoyed this podcast on ivory smuggling. Until the focus shifts to where and who the users are, we shall keep talking about it to no effect.
  6. This made me feel some type of way. This does happen to friendships and the best time is when they can get past that and be reunited.
  7. Sad read about the after-effects of the land grab in Zimbabwe.
  8. Yaaaaasss!! on the benefits of having older working women at work.
  9. On the fetishisation of the black woman’s body coupled with her overall undesirability relative to a white woman.

I too am one of “them”

While writing this post, I suppose I struggled the most with the privilege that I have been afforded since moving to South Africa (incidentally, next week marks 7 years).

I have been blessed to have an income that afforded me the privilege of living in the multi-racial and international parts of Johannesburg. I have the luxury to forget my foreignness and blend in. For the most part.

Over the years, I have had certain encounters that reminded me that alas! I am one of “them” and these have always stayed with me.

  1. In 2011, the municipal bus service that I used at the time went on a protracted strike and this forced me to use a bus service whose customers are predominantly black South African. Over those four months, that was my WORST.EXPERIENCE.EVER. As I live in the suburbs, the drivers would make all kinds of assumptions about my socio-economic status and often not stop. When they did stop, the driver would not respond in English when I enquired whether he would go past my office, neither would he reply when I asked about the fare. The other customers were even worse between ignoring me when I asked for assistance and hissing “foreigner” or “English speaker” as I passed by them.
  2. Same thing about asking for directions/ the fare in a minivan taxi. Folk don’t even look at you as you repeatedly ask. Basically, they are mute and to them you don’t exist. Coupled with this is the added fear that because of my foreignness, the rest of the passengers in the taxi will somehow plot to harm me in some way or another.
  3. When I first joined my University (an English-medium school), I remember going to the Administration block to receive information for my Tutorial and the Course Administrator looked at me, spoke in what I later discovered to be seSotho and refused to speak English. To make it worse, there was a black student who wouldn’t help me. Only when I came back with the Caucasian Head Tutor did I get assistance.
  4. Going to the Puma store in Maponya Mall and having the Store Manager grill my sister and I as to why we did not speak seSotho after we enquired in English about a particular product. We left  because he needs the money, not us. He wasn’t moved by this.
  5. Constantly having to justify why after all this length of time I have been here, I still do not speak any local language. The threats that I shall get deported or have my visa rescinded because of this. Repeatedly and in the most random of places.

But even as I write this, I know that it does come off as a huge whine because never has my life been in any kind of danger. Never have I slept in fear that my neighbours will attack me or kill me. Never have I had my property taken away from me. And this, not because of anything but the grace of God and His provision for me. And, that’s why I want to do something for some of these stranded foreigners and help them in this time of their life but what?

On feeling “Other”

The reason for the blog silence around here is that I can’t quite bring myself to focus on writing something while foreigners in Gauteng (Joburg’s province) experience looting, shooting and general fear for their lives. As a foreigner, and one that’s privileged and been blessed enough to avoid all of that, my heart breaks. So I am just going to chill and process what I feel for now.

Podcasts: Making work move along since 2010

I spend almost the entire day with my earphones on, listening to podcasts in between the talk radio station I love. This week I have listened to the following:

BBC Documentaries Three Continents, Three Generations – About the Kenyan Indians.

BBC Documentaries Yellow Cab Blues – Gave me foreigner nostalgia!

BBC Womens Hour Women in Parliament; Islamophobia and the Veil; David Mckee on Elmer – Particularly for the conversation on the veil.

BBC Women’s Hour Life with a Disabled Child; Modern Slavery Bill – SO. HEARTBREAKING.

Focus on Marriage Set the Date: Embracing Young Love – Always fascinates me to hear people advocate for people getting married at a young age.

Listened to anything interesting this week?



Book review: Happiness like water

Happiness like WaterChinelo Okparanta

As promised here are my thoughts on this book.

      • For some reason, it is ridiculously priced at Exclusive Books and that’s if you can get it. I ended up getting it from Amazon at half price.
      • A part of me wanted not to compare her to that other famous Nigerian Writer and I tried most of the time.
      • The stories are divided into two parts – stories in the first half are based in Nigeria and the latter in America.
      • The predominant themes to her stories are religion, migration or identity, family dynamics and unexpectedly lesbianism, which begs the question, how many lesbians are there in Nigeria? (This scares me because of the traffic that will be lead to this blog ala this.) But in light of the recent anti-homosexuality bills in Nigeria and Uganda, it does raise the question of how difficult it is to be gay/lesbian in Africa. Culture notwithstanding.
      • She writes very simply but poignantly. A lot of the time, I had such strong feelings after most stories. Which to me is not necessarily a bad thing because I have to react to my stories to truly enjoy them otherwise it’s just not worth it.
      • I loved “On Ohaeto Street” because the description of where they lived reminded me so much of the estate I grew up in back in Nairobi. Very beautiful intro to the book. As with any short story, I was left wondering whether they got back together again?
      • The second story very touching as the wife had to go through the VERY public and then an equally private shame. Interesting also that it had to be the wife with a problem conceiving and not the guy. Like no one ever considered it could be him.
      • I also loved “America”. Quite a lot. I felt of all of them, this had the most potential to be drawn out further but maybe if it was, it wouldn’t have that same feel to it. Possibly. But reading this story, I did ponder on the issue of brain drain and how it was/is to some extent today that you haven’t quite made it in Africauntil you have gone overseas and studied/lived/worked. You can be great BUT and that’s a huge BUT.
      • As an eternal foreigner “Shelter” made me so sad. To be in a bad way and stuck in a foreign country without help or family. Worst nightmare.
      • Tumours and Butterflies” almost made me wail like a sick kid. I was probably quite emotional on the day I read it but it gutted me. Parts of you feel sorry for the mom that she is a battered lady, then you wanna feel sorry for the dad because he has Cancer and then you see him treat his daughter like that and you wanna get in there and beat him up. I thank God I am not a battered wife but her decision to side with her husband over her daughter I cannot even contemplate!
      • The title of the book comes from the story “Grace”. I felt like this story dragged on unnecessarily. However, is Happiness always fleeting … “maybe it is all about being on the verge of joy and similar small moments.” To me happiness is fleeting and joy is perpetual.

I loved this book, which is rare because I cannot be paid enough to read short stories. But this one, I would certainly give a proud 4.5 out of 5.

Happy reading!!

not at home

Twice in the last two weeks I have been travelling home in a bus where the topic of conversation switched to foreigners and the lax immigration laws. Having lived in a foreign country all my life and then moving to another foreign country, you can understand where my loyalties sympathy lies.

Always you hear of these foreigners who expect to come live here like kings and then complain if things aren’t going well … if they don’t like it, let them go home.

To be honest, I don’t know if I would feel any different if I went back home and didn’t have a house or a job and could plainly see that the foreigner who lived next door to me had a better home and a well paying  job. But, people, foreign or not, have a right to life and to obtain a livelihood without fear. When the guys from Zimbabwe risk their lives and jump the Limpopo River and then possibly trek to Joburg or other towns, risking rape, death and imprisonment, the sad reality is they come and eke out livelihoods as street hawkers, gardeners and other menial jobs. Positions that existed prior to their arrival but thought “too low” by the locals. And so when they are burnt to death, its typically for jobs like those. Which to me, is just wrong and has absolutely nothing to do with the resources or lack thereof. Its murder, plain and simple. Having said that, I am aware that some of us foreigners do come here and perpetuate horrific and even petty crimes and that tarnishes our reputation. Fact. I am sure there was crime before they opened the borders right? Unless someone has conducted a study to the contrary that might prove that a disproportionate number of prisoners if foreign, I am inclined to believe that they stand in the minority at present.

However, if the foreigners (we) don’t like it here, then let them (us) go but I always end off with, I pray that the locals are praying that the situations that led their neighbours to run here for refuge, never happens to them too. And if I am praying this, there might be one or two others out there saying the same thing and hopefully, that will stand this country in good stead.

The journey home today ..

Ok you know how the forbidden is always sweet? Well today morning I had a late assignment to hand in and then while i was waiting for the bus to come, all i could see were matatus!LITERALLY! it took a harsh battle of the will to wait for the bus … While i was waiting for the bus to come, this cop (seeing as the stage is opposite the cop station) came to chat me up! And this? How I am so freaked out of cops- i imagine they kill all their exes and even if you do get married, there is no guarantee (in my mind) that he won’t kill you…. in the ten or fifteen minutes I was waiting, he told me about his work as a cop, his high school choices and how the lack of money meant that he had to work as a cop which then made me feel so mean.

Dashing home now, the violence has abated but i dont wanna be that statistic as well

for the love of Alex

SA is burning up OK not literally but the xenophobic attacks are that bit crazy AND SOME. Over the weekend they were in the CBD and my school isn’t too far from there. They were also burning things on a road that I pass frequently enough to know it off head. Stats show that the guys they burnt are locals which causes many to say that they are criminal attacks hiding under the guise of xenophobia! The foreigners in the Townships are also freaking out as you would imagine and have gone to hide in the police stations. Suddenly I got so freaked out and decided to take only the bus that’s multiracial unlike the matatus where a black foreigner stand out like pus on a wound!

Alex in the title is the abbreviated form of Township here called Alexandra…

Exams coming up so I will be all over the place Kindly think of a sister in your prayers.