D.B.


As Interviewed by Lila B, March 21, 2015

D.B.: In Her Own Words

We left the middle of June; and the year was 1986. I was twelve-years-old when I left. We left because my parents wanted us to have a better future. They were afraid that with everything going on politically, my sister and I would want to exit the country, leaving them behind. They did not want our family to be separated. So my parents decided that we would move all together before we got older and left them.

I remember my parents coming to me and saying, ďIn six weeks we are leaving.Ē And although I didnít understand what was going on politically, because twelve is a pretty young age, I was still devastated. I had my dance group and all the friends I had grown up with in South Africa. I was very upset having to make such a big move at such a vulnerable age. Also, neither of my parents had a job in America before we left. We moved and then they found a job. I didnít quite understand why we were doing this. It was scary.

I was born in Cape Town. We stayed in Cape Town the whole time. My parents were born in South Africa, but my ancestors are from Lithuania and moved to South Africa. I was lucky enough to live in a place that was really beautiful. I was twenty minutes away from the beach, the mountains were very stunning, and the climate was a green. There are different regions of Africa; but the city I lived in was very pretty. Because we lived right by the ocean, seafood was very big. There were more fruits over there, like guavas and leeches. Over in Africa, houses were sturdy and made of bricks. You would see a lot of flat roofs. But every time it rained, it would leak and you would bring out buckets to collect the water.

My parents explained political issues to me, but I was so young. I didnít quite understand. There were some bleachers that would have signs that would say ďFor white people onlyĒ; there was a lot of segregation. Becoming older and more aware of the world, I realize how bad that was. Apartheid did not affect our family directly, though, because we stayed with our family and friends. If apartheid hadnít have occurred, we may have not moved. We would have continued with our life and may have been still in Africa today.

When we moved to the United States I was in eighth grade and my sister was in fourth. It was a difficult move for both of us. Adding to moving to a whole new country, I also had to transition from private to public school, which is very different. In school in South Africa, I took Hebrew. Besides that I took something called Afrikaans, which is a Dutch dialect -- I donít remember a lot of the language because I have not practiced it, but it was a language that we were required to take in school. Even though we learned those languages, English was my main language.

Back in South Africa, different from the United States, we had a full-time nanny that actually lived with us. When I was little that was the usual situation for most families in South Africa; to have a caretaker, but here it is much more rare to see. Besides this, my daily schedule was similar to what most American kids would do.

When I moved it was hard to make friends at first. I was very shy and I had left so many friends behind. But the South Africans that lived in the United States became my friends quicker than Americans. They went through the same move as I did; we had a connection. There are many ex South Africans that live in Houston

In a way I think I had more social awareness because I had lived in another country. I was more aware of the world than the kids my age. It made me realize that Americans were kind of close-minded.

Back then, I never felt unsafe. But since then, crime has increased dramatically. I would not feel safe if I went back there again.

I went back in 1989 to visit but havenít been back since then. I do not have any relatives living in South Africa, but my dadís mother moved two years ago to the United States. She was the last person to leave. Now, I would be afraid to go back because of the crime. Right now, I would not take my kids back because of the lack of safety. I would like them to see the place where Iím from, where was born. I mean, itís sad that my own husband hasnít seen the place where I grew up.

Itís just devastating what did go on there and what is going on there. I think that it was a good choice for us to move. South Africaís problems and issues have gotten worse, and I donít see them getting better anytime soon.