Am wondering the last few days if there is a ‘natural’ time limit on living alone in another country. Must see if there is a rule about settling in. After a few months you have to get closer to the people around you, or move on, I feel.
And then I came across the newspaper article that moved me most, the last year. It’s a speech by the South African writer Antjie Krog in which she compares our western individualism with the African feeling of Ubuntu, “reciprocal humanness.” Ubuntu serves as a framework for African society. Its core can be explained using the Zulu expression “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” (seriously, I found it on the net)—meaning, in essence, “a person is a person through other persons.” The practice of ubuntu is fundamentally inclusive, involving respect and concern for one's family and one's neighbors. It also implies respect for one's ancestors, in a deeper spiritual sense. Our western notion of individuality is mostly about excluding others and ‘doing our own thing’. We seem not to need others; still, Kroger notices, the more we claim not to need others, the more lost and alienated we look. Ubuntu might just be a philosophy we will see more of, the coming years. And then I do NOT mean the computer program that used the name..
To bring it back to the level of banality (hey, it’s a log, not a thesis!) I immediately related it to my own situation here. I came to have ‘aloneness’. Isn’t that the upmost in individuality? And it works for me, probably being one of the more individualized westerners. Still, after four months, I feel the need to relate to others to stay myself. Here in Vancouver, though, I am not a person through other persons. I took the conscious decision to remain a stranger. I love that feeling. But after four months there is an African spirit awakening within... Back to the people that define me, in Holland.