Photo Credit: Oliver Heistein
"I left South Africa on a one-way ticket for Argentina three days before my 25th birthday. I planned to spend 10 weeks in a language course in Buenos Aires and thereafter I had no plan. I am fortunate; I left because I wanted to, not because I had to. It wasn't South Africa that pushed me away but the rest of the world that lured me. I understood my space and myself in South Africa and I wanted to change that. I wanted to be reduced by the unknown; I wanted to take my box with me and have it torn from me.
My first impression was that Argentina was built upon interaction, even more so outside of Buenos Aires. Nothing exists unless it is exchanged: insults, dinner, wine, pride, politics, the couch, telephone numbers, travel stories and friendship circles.
What I miss most about South Africa is our diversity and our attitude towards it. I've never been to a country that confronts its clash of cultures so openly. Racism exists but if you go to the street rather than the newspapers, you find that most people genuinely want to build a country where everyone can live together peacefully while having their roots respected. It's no small task - it requires both external and internal change.
In Argentina, I was made to change. I was stripped of everything that gave me confidence: my job, my language, my humour, my friends and my comfort. I had to build new tools, become more open and take larger risks. My first paid job after graduating with a Master's Degree in Economics was selling mass-produced, ornamental jewellery to passing tourists in a town of 800 residents whose jobs had closed on them. I only had that job because, when faced with being broke or going home, I stayed and a new friend reached out to me. He gave me a mattress, four square-metres of the thirty that were free in his house, sat me at the dinner table with his wife and kids and gave me a stall next to his on the road.
The three months spent there with no Internet, career prospects, access to cities, social circles or my own transport taught me a lot about culture and people. It taught me that culture and people are all you need. You can adapt to anything if the human connection is strong, loving and healthy.
Without realising it at the time, that experience defined my mission. True human connection breaks down walls. It diffuses prejudice, violence, ego, protectionism, greed, ignorance and hate, but true human connection requires vulnerability and exposure; a gift that many only receive when they migrate.
My mission then is to encourage migration: to encourage the movement of minds and attitudes, of hearts and ideas and to allow people to understand lives they do not have.
Being a migrant humbled me into being open to others. Through my writing and filmmaking, my mission is to pass this gift on to others even if they are not able to physically cross their borders. Only by migrating from our ignorance can we truly fight prejudice.
Home for me is where they understand me. Home for now is Argentina."
This story was provided by i am a migrant's partner, One Young World.