Welkom by Petrusburg!

By Cara Luzeleine C. Sanico

A landmark in Petrusburg

Petrusburg, South Africa. Located in one of the nine provinces of the country, the Free State. Situated between two cities called Bloemfontein and Kimberley. I become an eyewitness of a simple little mixed farming town, but it has its charms.

This journey from the Philippines to South Africa was a back-breaking one. It was our first time we went abroad and it was nerve-wracking but we survived. We had our connecting flight in Singapore to reach a 10-hour flight to Johannesburg.

From Johannesburg, we rode for six hours to get to the city of Bloemfontein in the Free State, the main city of the province. From there we rode again for one hour and we arrived in the town of Petrusburg and another 30-minute drive from the town to finally reach our new home.

“This is a new ambiance.” Everything was different to me – the climate, the place, the culture, the people and the language. Am I going to fit in and make the most out of my stay here?

As the day passes by, I began to remember the little details and experiences. I remember, waking up on our second day and going outside to take a picture of our new home when I notice that it’s cold out here because I can see my breath just as how I saw in some movies. The coldness was unbearable for someone who was so used to the Philippines’ hot and dry season. I got used to it now and I can get out of the house wearing only one jacket in the afternoon. There’s no snow here at all but we’re still wearing thick jackets, stockings, and leggings for extra warmth. The feeling of being warmth by the sun and as to how the warmness touches my skin is now something I love and miss about so right now, I still have to wait for August or September to end before I can finally feel warm weather again.

In Petrusburg, there are White Africans and Black Africans. There are also Asians, but only a few—including me and my family and the other Filipino families, and the lovely Chinese people that own a store in town. The citizens here are caring and nice. They always check on each other on how they are doing. A smile and a polite greeting can really get you far. However, there’s also a case when Africans don’t know much about other Asians. Whenever they see us walking around, I’d hear someone say, “China!” or “China man!” It happened when we were in the car and there were Black African kids outside. When they saw us, they started doing Kung Fu moves and kicking around. I don’t know if I should be amused or not, but I went out being amused.

Also, I noticed that the White and Black Africans live separately. Most of the Black Africans live in a place near the town called ‘Bolokanang’, while most of the White Africans live in the town.

Most of the owners of the farms are White Africans. When it comes to their language, usually most Black Africans speak Sotho, another official language of South Africa, while the White Africans mostly speak Afrikaans. Despite that, there’s still no problem with communication. You don’t have to worry because most of the people living here can speak the universal language- ‘English’.

I’m now bit by bit learning how to speak Afrikaans but I can’t get the hang of Sotho. The Afrikaans somehow resembles English and Dutch, which are both Germanic languages. I love learning languages and I do hope I will be able to learn Afrikaans and connect more with the locals. I can’t stop being observant, whenever we ride from the farm to the town. Thousands of hectares stretch out from all sides. There are small hills and a variety of trees and plants. The grasses are mostly in lighter shades of green as it is in winter, but they turn beautifully gold especially during the slow disappearance of the sun due to horizons. Zebras, giraffes, ostriches, and deer are common things that we usually see in the fields. Most farms have cows and sheep, and they plant wheat and sunflower—I bet they all look pretty in summer. Mornings and evenings are a sight to see.

The sunrise and sunset never cease to be breath-taking.  During night time is when the moon doesn’t outshine the others, the stars come out. Amidst starry night I could see a faint outline of the Milky Way and sadly I couldn’t take a picture of it. In my one month of stay here, I did feel a little homesick. I know in my heart that I find the Philippines as my home. Albeit I’m nervous about what life would bring me here, I wanted adventures and new experiences, because how else would I grow? If you ever find yourself looking for another trip somewhere, please consider South Africa. Petrusburg isn’t the only place it has to offer. There’s Cape Town and Johannesburg and other cities in other provinces to visit. I believe every country in every continent deserves a chance to showcase its beauty to visit. The perfect time for us to delete misinterpretation with this country, the “Ay, akala ko!” and stereotypes. Every country has its pros and cons, but you’ll never be able to judge it fully if you, yourself, have not tried it out.

Every country has its hidden gems—they’re just waiting for you to find it out and have the audacity to explore and discover them.