Emigration: we have arrived


I keep starting and closing or deleting this post, I think because I don’t know quite how to write it all. Or even how to just get started. I’m writing this on an ancient laptop that will be my machine for the next few weeks or months. I am writing this from my mom’s dining room table, which will be my desk for the next few weeks or months. I suppose you could say that we’ve arrived at our new home, but that doesn’t quite feel accurate.

After a ridiculously long journey (and let’s not even talk about moving day) from Joburg to Phoenix, Dean, Harley and I have arrived at my mom’s place. The flights themselves weren’t so bad. Harley slept a lot and was generally just a trooper. The first flight was pretty nice, but the second one was a much older plane and less comfy. Regardless, eventually we made it and have started our new life here. But it all just feels a bit surreal still, and I feel so totally out of place.

I have made international moves before, and I know that a lot of these feelings are totally normal. It simply takes time for a place to feel like home, for you to settle in. Dean and I keep catching ourselves referring to South Africa as home, which we are trying to purposely change saying, but it’s just an instinct (and a truth) that will take some time to change. But this move feels so much more daunting and difficult than previous moves, and I think I know why. There are a bunch of reasons.

First of all, there’s the issue of familiarity. When I moved to Holland and to South Africa, they were completely foreign. From different languages, different cultures, and learning the lay of the land, every aspect of those moves was foreign as expected. But this time, I’ve moved “home”. I’m from the States, and while yes, I haven’t lived in Arizona before, I have had extended visits here to see my mom before and I know my way around her town. I know where the grocery store is and how to use the self-checkout. I know how to get from her house to the place with excellent breakfast burritos. I understand the language and measurements and already have a driver’s license in this country. And yet… it feels so very foreign. Somehow, that makes it all feel even more jarring.

Second is the idea of home. My mom is being amazing. She stocked her fridge and pantry with all the treats that Dean, Harley and I would like. She has an enormous king-sized bed for us in our room. We have our own bathroom. We are using her car to get around. Everything is pretty much as comfortable as someone could hope for. And yet… it doesn’t feel like MY home. I don’t have my usual frying pan when I go to make breakfast. I don’t have my usual pots and pans when I try to make spaghetti and meatballs. Even though I’m finally reunited with my pasta sauce of choice, it all just feels strange and different and not mine. Dean and I are trying to make it more ours – putting magnets on the fridge and setting up our work space – but I am still very aware that we are living in my mom’s home rather than in our own.

Oh, and do I even need to talk about jet lag? It isn’t the worst jet lag I’ve ever had, but I’m definitely sleeping and waking at the wrong times, and generally just not sleeping right. Last night was our first really good sleep, but I’m still not totally on the right side of the clock.

I know this sound like one big moan, and that isn’t the intention. There are so many things that I already love here. I love watching my mom play with Harley. I love going to the library and seeing the amazing (and totally free) facilities on offer. I love the local brewery and being able to buy coffee ice cream. I’m sure I will rant and rave about all the awesome things I’m rediscovering upon moving to Arizona. But mostly, this is a moan. Not because it’s bad here – it’s really not. But because moving is so ridiculously hard, and it’s terrible to feel out of place.

We will settle in. We will make our home. But for now, it’s day 3, and day 3 is hard. At least we have arrived.


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  • Zoe Hawkins

    thanks! suppose we just take it one day at a time 🙂

  • Yolandi North

    Moving is tough, so I can’t even imagine how hard it must be to move accross the globe. Good luck. Stay strong & big hugs. xxx

    • Zoe Hawkins

      Thanks so much!!

  • Cherice Landers

    Although you’re from the US, moving from one country to another is never easy. What made you all decide to move there?

    Side note: Eek! You just made me crave a breakfast burrito haha

    • Zoe Hawkins

      so many reasons, really. I think i explained a bunch of the push and pull factors here: http://www.borngeek.co.za/emigration-concept-hearing-congratulations/
      Really it was a combination of worries about opportunities for Harley, economy and safety in SA combined with the joy of living closer to my mom while the little one is still a kid, plus all the cool things for kids in the States and good career prospects for me and Dean here.

      Breakfast burritos are definitely the best invention!

  • I can’t even begin to imagine what an upheaval this must be for you, and all of the emotions you must be experiencing! We’ve just moved from Cape Town To Johannesburg, and despite the fact that I’ve lived in JHB before, I’m really struggling this time. Sending you so much love as you settle into your new lives in Arizona – I can’t wait to follow your adventures!

    • Welcome to Jozi!!

    • Zoe Hawkins

      thanks! Yeah, moves are an upheaval no matter where you go. I keep reminding myself it takes two years to really feel settled and know where to go for things, etc etc. But that doesn’t help when you’re in those early moments.

  • Good to hear from you and I’m glad you made it. Thinking of you at this tough time and praying for grace for your family.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      *hugs* Thanks so much! Today is already an easier day so far…

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