I cast my vote in Munich
It's an overcast day today in Munich, Germany. So I guess it's like any other day. In this part of the world the sun is quite a rare phenomenon to see.
It's not like home where you are awoken by the smiling rays of the sun. Today is a very special day for South Africans living abroad, they will be taking to the polls. I already sent my boss an email yesterday that I would be coming in late to work today because I have to go cast my vote.
I have voted before, this will be my third time (I think), but I have never taken to the polls outside South Africa. I am wearing the South African 2010 jersey, hoping that maybe, just maybe, a fellow countryman will spot me in the crowd in the train station.
There are not a lot of South Africans here. But I suppose you cannot tell who is who; sometimes I wish we could be born with our national flags on our foreheads.
One evening, coming from work, I was so stressed out and just wanted to get home and sleep. As I entered the train a lady was on the phone. I didn't pay her much attention until she started speaking. Yes, I thought, she is definitely a South African, she spoke with a Cape coloured accent. I was so excited as I waited for her to finish talking, but unfortunately she got out a few stations before me while still talking on the phone. Eissshhh, next time. I was so excited and had watery eyes.
It's amazing what a little difference can make and the small things we take for granted at home. It does get lonely and sometimes meeting a south African, someone who can relate to you, is the best thing that could happen to you.
So, excited to cast my vote for the first time overseas, I marched on with pride, singing Shosholoza in my head.
Many of my German friends, who are the same age as me having been born in the 1990s, are still amazed why I take such an interest in politics and voting. Last year Germany took to the polls and none of my friends went to vote. I tell that I am going to vote because people died to have such a privilege and I will vote because I am a responsible citizen who want to make a difference.
As I walked into the South African consulate in Munich this morning I was greeted by a lady who had baked South African voter's biscuits. She had a scarf with South African flags and stood in front of the entrance of the consulate. She smiled at me and said, "Are you here to vote?" and I could pick up a very slight Afrikaans accent. "Yes," I said. She responded, "Here's a voter's biscuit, thanks for coming. After you are done just come around the corner. We are having a small get together."
As we were talking about our experiences in Germany, we were interrupted by a lady who was braaing (on an electrical stove) around the corner. "I don't have electricity anymore," she said. With a smile on my face, I said "Ahhh, it reminds me of home".
I proceeded into the consulate and was greeted by a lady with a German accent. "Can I please see your ID and passport?" she said. I gave them to her and was instructed to go to the room where I was to cast my vote. I made my mark and as I dropped that envelope into the box, my heart pounded.
I can't believe how far we have come as a country, with 20 years of freedom. I was born in 1990 and never experienced apartheid. I am enjoying and reaping the rewards of my fallen countrymen and help from the international community.
I was thanked by the officials for voting and they wished me a great day. Also, I was greeted in three of the country's official languages, namely English, Zulu and Afrikaans. I got so homesick.
I then made my way to the gathering I had been told about. There were about 15 South Africans of all ages and races. I felt at home, right in the middle of Munich. The ladies had built a little braai stand, they were serving products from South Africa, those that you simply can't find in a normal supermarket in Germany. We chatted away and compared South Africa and Germany and what made us the most homesick. I would have loved to stay longer, but I had to get to work. I was really sad having to leave my 'new found family', but we exchanged numbers, hoping for another gathering.
Ultimately, what I noticed today is that each of us that voted carried a piece of home with us. I met people who were offered the chance to take up German citizenship, but refused and held on to their South African citizenship. South Africans are proud of themselves and are actively taking part in shaping the country's future.
Good luck to all South Africans back home for next week's national elections. May the best man (or woman) win.
Sabelo Owen Simelane has been living in Munich for almost three years.