Nieuw Rotterdam, Cape Kingdom [FN1]
30 November 1974
The envelope from the Dutch consulate was the first one that
Marinus Zaaijer saw. [FN2]
"Come here, Sannie," he called, handing the package to her as she
entered. "Open it. I'm afraid."
His wife opened the envelope expertly and removed a letter on the
stationary of the Dutch government. "Mynheer Zaaijer..."
"You don't need to read that part, Sannie."
She ignored him. "I am pleased to inform you that upon review of
your submissions, the Kingdom of the Netherlands is satisfied
that you are a Dutch citizen, and a passport in your name is
enclosed herewith. I am further pleased to inform you that the
applications of Susanna Zaaijer, Pieter Zaaijer, Adriaan Zaaijer
and Sofie Zaaijer for immigrant status has been approved, and
that they may enter the Kingdom of the Netherlands at any time
within one year of the date of this notice..."
Marinus lifted Sannie from the floor and swung her around. "We're
going home, Sannie!" he shouted. "We're going home!"
"Home?" Sannie said. "You've never even seen the place, Rijn."
Marinus had been born and raised in the Cape, but he had been sure
all his life that Holland was home. At one time, his father would
have slapped him silly if he said anything else. Old Bastiaan had
only been a minor government clerk before the war, but he believed
that if he had been given a chance, _he_ could have stopped the
German armies. To the end of his life, he'd cursed the "traitors"
in the Dutch government, describing the royal family in terms he
would have hesitated to use against mad dogs. He had gone to the
meetings and rallies and often come back in tears; Holland was the
home to which he could never return, but he had no other.
For Marinus, things had been a little different. He grew up in
the working-class quarter of Nieuw Rotterdam, angered his father
by speaking in the Cape dialect, married a native Cape girl and
raised a family. He had absorbed his father's lessons - it would
have been impossible not to - and his first loyalty was still to
a country thousands of miles to the north, but it was not the
burning passion it had been for Bastiaan. Yet it was he, and not
his father, who was returning.
The reason for that lay no further than the _other_ envelope that
had arrived that day - the one that contained his paycheck. A
week as a foreman on the Nieuw Rotterdam docks earned him less
than six thousand crowns - barely enough to pay the rent and keep
his loke running. [FN3] It wasn't bad pay in the Cape, but he
wanted his children to have more, and six thousand crowns a week
wasn't enough to provide it to them.
_Once, the Cape was where people went when they wanted something
more_. When Rijn's father had emigrated from the Netherlands, he
had found not only freedom but riches; at the time, the Cape had
a higher standard of living than Holland, and the ravages of the
war had only increased the disparity. Since the war, though, the
Dutch economy had taken off while the Cape's had not. Ironically,
conquest had been good for the Netherlands; as a member of the
Zollverein, it had duty-free access to a market of several hundred
million. As it rebuilt after the war, it found ready sources of
income in the consumers of Germany, Poland and France.
And the Cape? The Cape didn't have to rebuild, but its domestic
market consisted of barely more than five million people, and it
wasn't connected to a trading network like the Zollverein or the
United Empire. Its neighbors weren't rich, and they protected
what little industry they had. In only thirty years, the Cape's
standard of living had fallen to half that of the Netherlands,
and if nothing were done to reverse the trend, it might soon be
a third or a quarter. Those who had Dutch citizenship - even
those who had once sworn they would never return - were
increasingly thinking about going home, and many were doing more
Marinus was far from sure that he was doing the right thing.
Even aside from his father's ghost howling from beyond, he
wondered if his family was Dutch enough for the Netherlands. How
would Amsterdam treat a man who arrived home with a Coloured wife?
Would Sannie's reserved Dutch Reformed propriety be offended by
Mexican music and dance halls? Would Sannie and the children be
mocked when they spoke Cape Dutch? Would _he_?
But there were other questions that had more important answers.
Would Pieter and Adriaan be able to go to college if the family
stayed in the Cape? Would his children grow up to lead lives
like his, or even to envy him? Would they be limited to the
opportunities available in a country far away from anywhere?
"We're going home, Sannie."
[FN1] See For All Nails #101.
[FN2] Zaaijer is named in honor of a friend of my father's, now
deceased, who fought in the Dutch Resistance during World War II
and came within hours of being executed by the Nazis.
[FN3] Before independence, the Cape Kingdom and the Netherlands
shared a single currency, the guilder. After breaking away from
the Netherlands in 1941, the Cape adopted the crown as its
monetary unit, which underwent rapid inflation during the war and
slower but steadier decline in value since. Rijn Zaaijer's weekly
salary is approximately equivalent to twenty-five CNA pounds or
250 current OTL US dollars; due to the lower cost of living in the
Cape Kingdom, its purchasing power parity value is approximately
400 current OTL US dollars. His family is better off than most
families of five in the Cape Kingdom.