I lived in South Africa for almost ten years, and I really did love it there (how weird is it that I’m describing it in past tense, by the way!). I always described it as a first world experience in a third-world country. When people would ask about it, I would almost always give the example of the fact that I could drive from Joburg to Pretoria to get my waxing and nails done, eating sushi with my friend/beauty technician… but I’d have to drive past a township of shacks to get there. I didn’t think I had illusions about the poverty in South Africa, but it wasn’t something I was aware of on a daily basis until it all felt a lot closer to home.
To be clear, I knew there was intense poverty in the country. I saw it in the scale of the maternity ward when I did the Mother’s Day Connect event. And I even saw it when I got a domestic worker once a week to help clean my house – realizing how little she lived on and how grateful she was for anything extra that I could give her.
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.
October would have been ten years of me living in South Africa. Almost a decade of my life spent in this amazing, complicated, beautiful, bizarre country. I have lived here longer than I lived in The Netherlands, which was a huge part of my formative years, and despite the fact that South African Home Affairs never resolved the issues with my residency, I truly feel like South Africa has been my home for a decade. It’s hard to believe that in just a week, Dean, Harley and I will be getting on a plane and moving away.
On the 15th of August, we fly to the US to start our new life. It’s something we’ve been working towards for months now, something that seemed to take forever and then all of a sudden is happening so fast. We only have one week left to sort everything out. One week left to finish packing, one week left to finalize all our arrangements, one week left to say all our farewells. It’s emotional and stressful and chaotic, I’m feeling so many mixed emotions that I thought I’d try to blog them all out, but apologies if a todo list sneaks its way in – that seems to be how I think these days. Also, huge apologies for the infrequent blogging at this point; there just aren’t enough hours in the day for all the things.
Thanks to Facebook’s memory function, I learned that Sunday was actually my two-year blogversary. Two years ago, I was just far enough along in my pregnancy to be comfortable to announce to the world that I was with child. We hadn’t even picked Harley’s name yet, we didn’t even know we were having a girl yet. I didn’t have a proper theme for this blog at this point – I was just using a free WordPress theme until I proved to myself that yes, I really did want to do this blogging thing and that I could stick with it. Now, two years of blogging later, I have learned so much – about blogging, about myself.
To celebrate Born Geek’s second anniversary, or blogversary, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve figured out so far, and some of the things I’m looking to work on and learn more about going forward. I tried to do a Facebook live about it on Sunday night, but honestly I just failed – no, I’m not being hard on myself about the video or something, it’s just that Harley was really having a hard time with teething and generally being a demon child, which made my Facebook live a whole lot harder.
I’ve been talking a lot about emigration. I’ve talked about how we came to the decision to do it, how we got through doing it, and all the flurry of activity. But there’s one thing I haven’t talked about yet, and it’s probably one of the more difficult things people can go through. Whether you’re moving to another city, or another part of the world, you will be leaving people behind. Friends and family will need to be informed, and it isn’t always easy, especially when they have complicated reactions. I’ve done this so many times in my life now, I have a bit of advice for those of you who are moving and wondering how to break the news to those you care about – or deal with it when they don’t respond as you’d like.
It’s important to remember that no one wants to be left behind. Even your most enthusiastic supporters will feel sad. Not because they don’t want you to be happy, but because they will feel your loss more than you will feel theirs. No, I’m not saying that people who move away don’t miss their friends; when you move, everything and everyone is new, it’s a completely fresh experience while those who are left behind still live their normal life, but without you in it. It’s hard and sad for them, and it’s almost like they need to grieve the “normal” friendship you once had. And their reactions may be very similar to the stages of grief as we know them, but first – how do you tell those you care about that you are leaving?