Sunday, September 2, 2007

Post Apartheid, Bloemfontein Trek, NZ Residence Visa, 1994

When I asked why I'd been given third and fourth hockey teams to coach instead of one team, Mr. Gunn squeaked, "You had a good NZ holiday. You'll be fresh." Besides teacher sports-coaches, Selborne College used non-teacher coaches: a teacher's wife; the caretaker's brother, an old-boy; and for Norman, a professional first-team coach, who played England county-cricket, and every six months followed the sun to Selborne, where Selborne housed him in a Selborne flat and paid him a wage. He later married a Clarendon HS old-girl, became an unqualified Selborne teacher (slipped standards), then briefly Pakistan's cricket coach.

Although Norman and Mr. Gunn knew I was deaf, besides my biology teaching, Norman stupidly / maliciously timetabled me standard eight English. I couldn't hear English orals, so I graded oral tests by watching class appreciation. My teaching days were numbered. During staff-meetings, I felt like the mouse swimming around in the cats' cream-bowl. I tongue-lashed deserving Selborne boys, and spoke loudly to my family. Leah didn't deserve it. Jake and Luke sometimes did. Deafness stole my professional life, and others' spoken words were splinters.

The seven ENT specialists I'd consulted all confirmed my deafness gains, and recommended hearing-aids. No one offered counselling, or how to cope with deafness. They took my money, giving no cure.

A weekend sports excursion to Greys College, Bloemfontein, about 500 kays away, was planned. It would be nice to farewell my Koffiefontein friends before we emigrated, so I suggested to Bands, in charge of the Grey's trip, that I drive to Koffiefontein, then be at Greys timeously for my hockey matches. "Asked Mr. Gunn," said Bands.

Mr. Gunn stopped my car-trek, but his family accompanied him on the train-trek to Bloemfontein. After my teams had played, I strolled to Reitz Straat, near Greys, where mom, Fraser and I had holidayed. Aunt Dorothy had sold her Bloem property, retired to Worm City and died. Townhouses had been built on her Bloem land. A suspicious tannie, leashed to her white bull-terrier, emerged from her townhouse. She demanded to know why I was sniffing around, but softened when I told her I reminisced. I wandered into the CBD, polluted with plastic bags, cans and packets: freedom. An equestrian statue of Boer War general Christiaan de Wet glared at Bloem's lost pride and piss-in-straat piccanins.

Back in East London, I heard from London that our NZ residence-visa application was being processed. My deafness was accepted, but The Hague medical consultants needed information about Leah's old sarcoidosis, which she'd got when pregnant with Jake. NZ wanted wealthy, well qualified and work-experienced immigrants, but was scared immigrants would sponge off NZ health system. Never mind paying immigrants like us bringing family, tertiary education, skills, work-experience, money and goods to NZ, all derived from other countries. And after their arrival, immigrants stimulated NZ's economy.

We drove 600 kays return-trek to PE, where Leah consulted an Afrikaner specialist. A reply from The Hague then wanted a prognosis. We trekked 1400 kays return through Transkei to Durban, where Leah consulted an English specialist, who confirmed the Afrikaner's opinion, and gave a prognosis.

After many months, our general-category NZ residence-visa application was accepted, but because we didn't have enough points (on an arbitrary scale regularly changed by NZ Immigration Service), our application was pooled with other applicants. My age, qualifications, and chattels-valuation provided our residence-visa points. As I wasn't teaching drama full-time, my honours degree gave no points, so we needed more points before our pooled application expired, forcing us to dearly reapply for residence. Network Migration Services cheated us, when we paid and sent Network Leahs' Scottish ancestor info to get us Scottish sponsorship points. Network did nothing.

NZ / UK sponsorship organizations promised to assist British ancestry immigrants to settle in NZ, after taking immigrants' money and giving "sponsorship" for sponsorship points. We faxed sponsorship info to a NZ friend, who got us sponsorship from an Auckland Scottish society. (In 1991, NZIS points system for resident-visas began. In 1995, shortly after our emigration, sponsorship for residence-visa points was stopped by NZIS). We sent our sponsorship document to London, and sponsorship points got us out of the pool. It would've been less farcical, if NZIS gave me points for my honours degree, but less lucrative for our Scottish "sponsor" and Network, who we never heard from again.

Unrest: November 1994. The Land Rights Restitution Act promised land to dispossessed blacks, who were forcibly moved before and during apartheid. (Lets Go South Africa, Including Lesotho and Swaziland, Macmillan, 1999).

Note: Messrs Gunn & Bands are composite characters.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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