The longing for belonging …

When it comes to Southern Africa, I have been privileged to live in various towns and cities and seek out the little gems of South Africa, places a lot of my fellow citizens have never even heard of.

Some of the places I have lived in are Knysna (in the forest nogal), Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Pretoria and Windhoek, to name but a few.

But this week I was floored by a question asked during a meeting. My editor asked us to ask our readers why they like living in Roodepoort. Why the heck do I live in Roodepoort?

And so this riddle became my obsession for the next few days. Keep in mind that I lived here until I left school and promised myself that I would NEVER return to Roodepoort.

Ask me my 10 favourite secret spots in Knysna and I will blurt them out without a second thought. Or what cultural attractions there are in Pretoria – I would give you an impressive list of historical monuments, buildings and museums I have visited.

Windhoek held a special enchantment for me and the Namib’s awe-inspiring beauty is world-renowned. As far as Stellenbosch is concerned, I only have one word for you – winelands.

But Roodepoort? Here I am, working for a community newspaper, and I can answer none of these questions. Special cosy unique pubs? Zero. Non-franchised restaurants full of culinary wonder? Very few. Monuments? Not that I know of. Fun places to go on weekends? You can visit the Botanical Garden and Kloofendal Nature Reserve only so many times. Camping with the family? Nope, unless you want to pitch a tent on one of our iconic mine dumps. And although I do not go clubbing any longer, I don’t think Roodepoort has much to offer our young adults by way of real nightclubs.

So dearie me, why am I back here AND the happiest I have been in my life? I then realised. This is where I met my beautiful wife. This is where my adorable baby boy was born. This is where I cut my teeth as a journalist and became part of a very special family at the Record.

And last but not least – the people. For the first time in my life, I feel a sense of community. This is because I have become involved in my community through my work. As we say in Afrikaans, julle is my dam se eende. Here I know people and they know me.

Here I can share in the ups and downs of common folk like myself. And here I can actually serve my community and sometimes make a difference.

So to the rest of South Africa – Roodepoort is not just my home. For now it is also the home of my heart …

Riaan van Zyl

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