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Coming Home

LaTasha Blanton shares why she and her husband Mark decided to leave the USA and make South Africa their home…

Africa gets in your blood. It is that simple. Even the air smells different.

It didn’t take me long to fall in love with South Africa. Once you get past the long flight, you land in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The people that make this country, embody everything I wish I was as a black American. They are confident, strong and whole. They know who they are, and they have a history they can tell that doesn’t start at slavery. I was and always will be in awe of them.

Friends That Feel like Family 

In South Africa, it is easy to make friends that feel like family. Mark had met Zak on a work trip in 2010 during the FIFA World Cup, and he had insisted for over a year that Mark return to South Africa for a visit with our family.

It was during our first family visit that I had truly understood for the first time what it meant to feel at home. We had arrived at O.R. Tambo International Airport tired but excited. It was my first time going through such a long customs line, and I got my first passport stamp on the continent of Africa.

Mark, his daughter, his mother and I were dragging our bags from the arrivals terminal, not sure which way to go. As we walked through the automatic doors to the huge waiting area, we saw a sign that read, “Welcome home Blantons,” followed by the loudest “Maaaaark!”. Then we all got a welcome hug. It was real.

Overwhelmed By Emotion 

Leaving the airport, I was overwhelmed by emotion. With the car windows down, feeling the warm December breeze, I looked at the surroundings and thought to myself, “Why am I only seeing this now?” I almost cried, but no-one wants to cry in front of strangers.

Just after we arrived at their home, it started raining. The ancestors must have felt my need to cry, and that was what I did while standing outside at their pool. Yes, pool. We have pools and beautiful homes in America, but this is Africa. Their home is in a beautifully manicured gated community with houses that not only make me feel small but look small.

After the first night, I knew in my soul that I wanted to make South Africa my home.

Whatever I needed to do to accomplish that, I would do it. Mark was already convinced. He just needed me to feel and understand what he had been trying to explain during the preceding year.

A Matter of Life and Death 

Moving to South Africa was not just something we wanted to do; it was something we had to do. It was a matter of life and death for us. We felt physically different here than back in the United States. Life was taking a toll on our emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Now, each day I enjoy beautiful weather, good food and the company of amazing people who support me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Our overall health has improved, and our souls are at peace.

I have never during previous visits or in the time since I had moved here experienced anything that made me fear this country. We are black Americans, and South Africa makes us feel all the intangibles that you can only dream of. I am grateful for each day that I wake up and can call South Africa home.

LaTasha Blanton is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and runs a Johannesburg-based travel agency called The Real South Africa with her husband Mark.

 

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