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PORTRAITS

Karien, South Africa

I'm from a little place called Sasolburg. It's in the middle of South Africa.

I grew up in Afrikaans community. We speak Afrikaans, which is similar to Dutch.

People often ask me how long have I been in Africa. I tell them that I am from Africa. My family lived there for almost two and a half centuries. I look European but I'm not European.

What is Afrikaans community? Most people know about apartheid. The communities ware divided according to colour. There were Black, White, Coloured or Indian. They lived in different „parts of town”. I grew up in the last years of apartheid. I was ten years old when Nelson Mandela was released. I grew up in this turbulent years of change and was about 16 years old when we've had first Black students in our school.

I left South Africa two and a half years ago. After I've finished my MA thesis in Setswana, which is an African language spoken in Botswana and in South Africa, I got an e-mail from my research director. He said that there's a place to work here, in Poznan and that they need somebody who knows English and African languages.

Before that I was on a scholarship in East Germany so I knew what to expect coming to Poland. Some of my South African friends are shocked when they come here. The blocks, the grey colours here are really something different.

Now I live here for two and a half years. I speak Polish a little and I live in a block of flats with a Polish family. With my “Babcia”, as I call her. She is 76 years old. I've met her in a Methodist Church in Poznan. The service at the church was in Polish so first I couldn't understand anything except „amen” and „alleluia”. On the first Sunday an old lady came to me. We started to talk in German. She actually translated the whole service to German for me. We started to meet. We became friends and after some time I asked her if I can stay with her and she said, ’Yes, why not.’ In the beginning we spoke German, then we started to speak Polish. Now I'm a part of the family. If she goes to see her son in Gdansk I go with her. We spend holidays together.

What is different for me here? In South Africa we have a different approach to live. It's more „living here and now”. My philosophy is: if I can't change something – I don't bother with it, if I can – I'll do it. In Poland people complain a lot. That was hard to get used to. The space is also different. I need open spaces. Spaces without people. Here, people are everywhere. There are no open areas, open roads. And there are so many White people here! I'm also not used to that. I sometimes miss the diversity of my country. There's no one universal culture in South Africa. There's an Indian culture, loads of Black cultures, and, if I can use the old terms: the old British culture, Afrikaans culture. When you are here you don't really see different people. Most of people are Polish and speak Polish. That is something new for me.


 
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