I remember bits and pieces of my childhood in Manzini, Swaziland. When I was about nine years old, I had two really close friends from Holland. Mary and Jane (not their real names ofcourse) and I had been in school together at an old farm school near the airport of Mbabane, but after some time their parents started home-schooling them. However, we spent every weekend together until I left for Malawi years later. We got up to mischief, a lot! We ran around the tiny town of Manzini seeking adventures and being cheeky. Mary was 12, her sister Jane was 8, and I was 9. Two blonde Dutch girls and a black kid who spoke zero Siswati. We made an interesting trio.
One of the adventures that stuck so well in my mind (besides throwing trash into a mansion up the road and getting dogs set after us HAHA!) is the day we chased a rainbow. Since Mary was the oldest, she was the natural leader and we did everything she said. So on this day, it had rained and a beautiful rainbow showed up in the sky. Mary told us that she had heard of a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, she declared that our mission for the day would be to find it so that we could be rich! We could spend the money on such things as buying the Manzini Country Club where we often went to swim; it had a big pool so naturally we wanted it all to ourselves.
So off we went, running in the direction of the end of the rainbow. We must have run for about half an hour till the rainbow began to fade. At some stage I began to wonder if there really was a pot of gold, I mean surely someone else would have found it by now right? My main interest however was to see where the rainbow actually touched the ground. So we ran and ran, out of our safe suburb, out into the bush, and finally out into several mud and grass villages. Only then did we stop and consider our surroundings. People were staring at us, and I suddenly became aware of how foolish we had been to come out into a place we had no idea of, we didn’t actually know how to get back either since we had taken turns in the paths on the way with only one objective in mind. Yes, this was careless, foolish, dangerous, and scary. It took us a while to get back, and I remember feeling so disappointed that we hadn’t found the place where the rainbow touched the ground, never mind the pot of gold. Mary assured us we would try again next time there was a rainbow, and we were off to find some other naughty adventure.
I remembered this day as I tried to sleep the other night, thinking about the little boys that drowned recently (I’m sure you’ve all heard the story and seen the pictures). It hurts me to even think about the thousands that have died before this while trying to cross those waters. They are all looking for something, somewhere to live in safety, in peace, to earn a decent wage to feed their families. With Germany being generous and allowing so many of them in, many more are left without knowing what the future holds. Some wash up on shores, some suffocate in transit trucks while being smuggled across borders.
Let’s look at those trying to get into South Africa. Did you know that people risk swimming in a crocodile infested river just to cross illegally into this country, after that they have to brave passage through forests where cross border criminals wait to rape, rob, and even harvest organs for profit. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
In Malawi, we have a refugee camp called Dzaleka where every registered refugee or asylum seeker is placed. They never live outside the camp – legally that is, and can spend a lifetime in the UN run containment zone. Yet every day, there are people walking and hitchhiking from the north, east and west of Africa coming through Malawi (among other routes), sleeping in the bush during the day and making their journey by night. Some people give them food and clothes, some of them die in the bush, some are trafficked and sold especially the women and children, and this happens all across Africa. Where are all these people going?
They have all heard a tale of a pot of gold, for some it is Europe, for others it is South Africa, America, Britain. They accept the story of a better life ‘over there’ and are willing to risk their lives to get there. Like me and my friends on that wet Saturday morning, they have only one goal and have focused every ounce of energy to get it. All the dangers along the way become insignificant compared to that glittering pot of gold.
So what am I saying? Is it better to remain in war torn Syria, or starve in South Sudan? Can anyone take their chances against Isis, Al Shabaab or Boko Haram? The crippled economy and ongoing political nightmares in most African countries that makes life unbearable, can one really be blamed for chasing rainbows?
The one thing I have learnt about human beings is their resilience. Hope springs up in the toughest of terrains. The human spirit is not easily broken regardless of what your faith is built on. I like to think of it as our inbuilt DNA from a Creator that knows no fear Himself.
So some people do find what they were looking for and get to share the story of their painful journey, while some don’t make it at all. Some keep looking until they can’t go on anymore, disillusioned and despondent, they discover-like I did those years ago, that there is no place where a rainbow touches the ground.
Bless you always.