SA CHAMP: Wayde van Niekerk

Things are finally starting to feel normal again. We’ve had two short work weeks back to back.

The municipal elections are over. It’s the last month of winter. And can you believe it — Christmas is less than 20 weeks away? The Rio Olympics is coming to an end this week and then it’s all eyes on America to find out which one is the lesser of two evils.

I am glad our elections was relatively uneventful. I don’t know if it’s just me, but South Africa suddenly seems like an extra special and wonderful place to live. The rest of the world is becoming less attractive as time passes. It wasn’t so long ago when the phrase “brain drain” was on everybody’s lips. South Africans were queuing to rush off to greener pastures across the seas.

Not a week would pass when I wouldn’t hear of some or other teenager making plans to take a gap year abroad, or going to teach English in Asia, or going to work at a summer camp somewhere. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that travelling is fabulous exposure for young people. They leave home as kids and hopefully return as adults, ready to settle down and tackle the daily grind, or at least their full time studies.

A reason why parents send their freshly-matriculated kids abroad, was because it's safe, especially in Europe. Not so much anymore. Between bombings, xenophobia and mass shootings, you can’t help having second thoughts about sending them away. Somehow, despite everything we say and read, South Africa has become more politically stable than many first world countries. And it did so seemingly without any of us noticing.

I remember how appealing the idea of working on a Kibbutz was to me as a kid. I was young and naïve and just wanted to go somewhere far away the moment I could. Over the years, there have been a few offers to live and work overseas, but for some reason I always ended up declining the offers. And the offers were fantastic.

Friends of mine took the jump and moved to Canada, Australia, Italy, Spain, Korea, Germany and even Finland. Don’t get me wrong. these developed countries were appealing. I imagined that there wouldn’t be any struggling and that I would progress based purely on merit. But in the end, I would visit, marvel, enjoy the hospitality, but always be very glad to be returning home.

I am glad to have stayed and watch my country grow from a helpless newborn, to unsteady toddler, to troublesome adolescent, to awkward teenager and finally a self-confident young adult, who is sure of herself and ready for anything. And like all young adults, she makes mistakes, anguishes over failed relationships, deals with drama, struggles to pay bills and survives on dry crackers and black coffee the day before payday.

But these are the things that make us stronger. Those who embrace the tough times and keep the faith and hope alive, will reap the rewards in the end. So when I write about the terrible things that happen politically and socially in our country and how frustrated and helpless it makes me feel, I will also be the first to say that I am starting to see us grow up. And it has become more and more stark these days when contrasted with what’s happening elsewhere in the world.

So for those looking to go live overseas, at this moment in time, there truly is no place like home. This municipal election was proof that we are finally maturing as a democracy. It’s still going to be a bumpy ride and there are still many struggles ahead, but I think our years growing up have made us tough and I think we’re going to be OK. So I for one am staying put. I’m not missing this for anything in the first world.