Saturday, 2 November 2013

Time to Leave South Africa?: For This Family, The Answer's a Mixed YES!!

I am guessing this will come as much as a shock to you *taps glass* lovely peeps out there as it did to the family and friends back home but .. have you heard? We're moving back to the UK at the end of January!!

I know man :)

Er ... yeah, we'll be on a plane but go with me.
It wasn't quite as shocking to us (obviously). We had in fact discussed the very same plan for many months, even off and on throughout our years out here but it's not the kind of discussion we felt we could share with the folks back home. My darling Mum would have heard, and got excited about, the possibility of us coming back many, many times over the last six years. So we felt it best to say nothing until a definite plan had been made.

Which it now has. Woo hoo!

Actually ... emotions are very mixed. I'll be honest, I'm writing this post today in a partly cathartic fashion to help with some of my recent emotional ups and downs.

You must know, I go from over excited elation to tearful sorrow and "are we doing the right thing?" several times a week. But it was several times a day, so it's getting better - no?

The excited elation comes from thoughts of seeing friends and family, meeting nieces I've yet to meet yet and introducing our two boys to Aunts and Uncles they don't remember.

From thoughts of growing their relationships with their grandparents there and for Hubs too, who 'took me away' to South Africa not long after my parents met him, so he's keen to address the balance and get to know them better.

Being honest there are a lot of personal reasons behind our move, mainly to do with my family. Simply, it's their turn to have us now. And us them.

All those simple pleasures I've missed, time sat around kitchen tables at my best mates house or in my Mums kitchen. Family Christmas. Weddings. Seeing my younger sisters grown and doing so well, marriages being planned and careers being mapped. My younger brother and his wife, now parents - I can't wait to see them as parents and meet my nieces.

And friggin UNCAPPED INTERNET!! Yes, that I am definitely looking forward to.

But you see how, aside from the internet, it is all family and friends I look forward to going back for? That's all I miss, family, friends and internet? Where's my patriotic urges I wonder?

I should be more like this guy.

Thing is, I don't actually .... like living in the U.K. I know! Don't hate me, especially you fellow Brits. It's no accident that I married an SA man. When I was dating I was only interested in men who had or would travel, so certain was I that the U.K. was not to be my final resting place. And I was actually (kind of) born in Cyprus, so I can be forgiven methinks.

Hubs didn't have to persuade me much when, just over a year after we met, he told me he wanted us to live here in South Africa. And I've always said the same to anyone who asks me if it's difficult, living overseas.

I say "I miss my friends and family terribly, I wish they could all live here with me".

I know, not likely, but that's how I've always felt. Never homesick, just wished all my favourite people could share this awesome country with me.

And I'm not saying the U.K. is a bad place to live, I do love the country and the Brits themselves (see, there's some patrioism) but life there ... it's just not for me.

Let me tell you now what brings on the tearful sorrows and see if that helps you understand more.

When we leave South Africa, I will miss SO much;

MUST stay together.
Our dogs. Oh don't, you're going to make me cry. We are, as you'll know, the kind of folk who fall totally and recklessly in love with our dogs.

But we can't afford (... 90% certain, thinking of starting a Kickstarter ...) to take them with us. If you have dogs, then you know how hard that is for us and I don't need to say anything else. Know one thing that brightens the pain slightly, we are hoping to re-home them together and with family or a friend, so we'll always have contact and even a possibility of sending for them later, or having them back if we ever come back to SA (let me dream). Doesn't stop me dreading the part where we have to say goodbye to them though, has to be said.

And while we're dealing with the really sad stuff, Hubs' family. Goes without saying that we'll all miss them but they really are an awesome bunch of folk who have totally welcomed us into their lives since day one and deserve a special mention. They are warm, caring, upfront, outgoing, no-nonsense and very inspiring folk for this shy Brit girl to be around. I shall miss that inspiration and I imagine I will seek it out in people in the U.K.

Living here has really grown me, the experience and the people, and I don't plan on stopping the growth when I get back! It's cool, because not only am I returning home with a sense of the old familiar homecoming, I'm also MASSIVELY looking forward to living my NEW way of life there and with new confidence.

Both Hubs and I plan to find a way of having the life we love there, for the next five or six years at least, and ignoring the worriers that worry (as worriers do).

And as we don't have the internet properly, that really covers the things that I missed from the UK when I moved out here - my family and friends.

But get this, there's a whole heap of OTHER things that South Africa has that I'll miss when I get home and that bring on the tears these days, as we ready ourselves for the next part of our lives adventure.

The space. South Africa's HUGE. Ridiculously so. And that's good for the soul. It's good to be able to step outside at any given time and see SPACE. BIG horizons and BIG sky. ROAD TRIP!!

Ya, Joburg's just the other side of that big mountain, our house is in the middle. See it?!? *
And it doesn't, as you may think, make people move apart from each other, in fact the opposite. South Africans as a rule love their country's space, scenery and nature and they love to share it with others. The SA gathering, a national insitution really, the braai - every weekend, shared with friends and family all over the country. And Ubuntu, the spirit of the Village, human kindness, neighbourly friendships and community.

We have a big house and yard and when we first arrived, I felt greedy to have all that space. Now, I can't imagine not having it. 

The WEATHER. OMFG the weather. *big sigh*

My laundry dries in five minutes. I have a permanent all year tan. I don't own socks or cardigans or anything with long sleeves *sign, sigh, sigh* I wake up every day, open every window and door in the house and slip on a sundress. Or a vest or t-shirt, a floaty skirt or a pair of short pants .. and that's me. Barefoot unless we happen to be going out somewhere that REALLY requires shoes. And not many trips out do really. You know when you go somewhere hot on holiday and find yourself wearing bikinis and sarongs to the shops and going barefoot everywhere? Yup. That's my life. Pretty much EVERY FRIGGIN' DAY!!! *more big sighs*

If space is good for the soul, sunshine definitely is. And for lives too. We never have to worry about planning anything and everything can always happen outdoors.

The PEOPLE. Gee friggin whiz, I'll miss the South African people. Oppressed? Persecuted? Held back and treated badly (still) by their own friggin governments? Yes.

South Africans, at their best when watching sport!
But optimistic, change-making, hardworking, open and friendly, humble, welcoming, resourceful and positive? You bet your bum. LOVE. THEM. And I want to help them. I want to see and be a part of South Africa becoming the jewel it should be, for the people who deserve it so.

FREEDOM!! I know, South Africa's NOT free surely? But .. it is. In as far as you can live your life here, in a free-er fashion. Small business and entrepeneurship is considered SO important, that it is taught in preschool.

In the U.K., I felt driven to just 'get a job'. Preferably at 16. To get stuck in a routine, a rut if you will of monthly salaries, monthly bills and monthly tax payments to keep that enviable British economy going. Never did I feel encouraged to find my own path, do my own thing or succeed for myself. Nor did it seem easy or even possible for me to do so.

The laws here encourage self-earning and small business and they also assume a certain level of intelligence and common sense whereas the U.K., to me, has gone a little too far in governing it's people and how they live their lives. Having lived elsewhere for six years, I understand why it has the nickname of the 'Nanny State'.

I know, I feel ashamed almost. Talking so disloyally about my own country, and I DO miss it and I DO look forward to going back ... but not forever.

Hubs and I already talk about our next adventure and where we'd like to live later in life, after the boys first stage of schooling. Back to South Africa for sure (we're dreaming of Summers in SA, British Summers in the UK) but we also want to travel, we want to see the world and explore different ways of life. 

America maybe? Not sure about the gun laws and war friendly presidents, but I've always yearned a little for the "life I see in the movies". Australia! Now there's a place. The same space and weather, similar people and past issues but they've handled it better and come out .. cleaner than South Africa somehow. Southern Europe? New Zealand? Far East?! Ooo, that would be different.

It helps too if we can think of other reasons to leave the country ...

Because South Africa's also not feeling entirely stable just now. Politically it's on the verge of a complete explosion (again) as the nation finally catches on to the scale of political corruption and begins to vye, angrily and impatiently, for change.

Which means opposition parties with Berets who slaughter cattle to celebrate the launch of their Political Party and clearly want to fight but whilst their opposition should be the current ANC Government, their supporters turn up to rallys with banners like this one here and another which read "A Revolutionary must become a cold killing machine, motivated by pure hate" which apparently, the supporters made themselves because the PARTY claim it had nothing to do with them. Er ... o-k-a-y then *nervous laugh*

I'm not saying that these messages are anything close to being the way the majority of South Africans feel, far from it. But it did cause a ripple amongst worried white farming folk to run the Red October Protest against 'White Oppression' soon after. I know, WHITE oppression in South Africa?? WTF!

But that band of folk are scared. They live in rural areas, on large plots (farms) with low security. They watch news reports about Muldersdrift and think the same thing's going to happen to them. 

How's their argument; don't kill us, WE GROW FOOD!?!
Crime IS high in South Africa and house burglaries, often involving over the top violence and murder, are not uncommon. But it's not about race. It's not about historic oppression. It's all about *KERCHING* money.

And the EFF are not a large opposition party. The supporters who made those banners and stood behind them are in even smaller numbers and maybe a beret or two is exactly what's needed. If only to cause unrest. Discussion. Change.

And while unrest and change is something South Africans are very used to, it can even be exciting, Hubs in particular doesn't enjoy watching. He's tired of getting angry at the news. This is HIS country, he voted with all optimism for Mandela in 1994 as many, many other South Africans did and I see him, twenty years later sadly still wishing his country would overcome it's ills and rise to the dizzy heights it really should be at and was promised. I feel for him. 

Tallen, our eldest, is just starting primary school and we've realised that he's a little behind. The kind of school we'd like to send him to here would cost us a small fortune and while we touch on the subject of education, ALL state run systems here are dire.

They have Free education, but you really wouldn't want your kids to go to the state schools. They have free healthcare, but you really wouldn't want to be taken to a state hospital or clinic if you found yourself ill. They have a Police Force, who you really wouldn't want to call if you found yourself in trouble. 

There's many systems in place and good laws that protect their people ... but the people who run just about everything here, from President to Civil Servants, are corrupt and put as much money in their pockets and as little to the cause it should go to as possible.

So the systems don't work and fall apart, the people employed in them lose heart and the laws are not upheld.

And they lie to us. On a scary level. Anyone seen Nelson Mandela recently or heard how he's doing? *shudder*

So back to ol' Blighty we go! I've learnt to talk a whole new kind of English in my time here, it just kind of happens as you try and fit in avoid the repetitive "Are you from the U.K.?" conversations.

So I must practice now, in readiness for my return. No more U.K. for a start, it's called England. No more rands and bucks, now it's pounds and 'quid'. No more Braai, now it's 'Barbeque'. No more pants, now it's 'Trousers'.

And no more sundress, sunscreen, shades - out the door! Now it's "is it going to rain? Does it look like it might rain later? Better take a coat just in case. Will I need tights? Maybe wear my boots ... but if it gets hot later? I'll pop sandals in my bag"

Hmmm, I have a feeling** that there will be many posts over the next few months (and in years to come) about what I'll miss or am missing from this beautiful country.

England will always be my home. But South Africa? You blinkin' well snuck up on me and stole my heart.

* Actually, that beautiful photograph above was taken at the Karoo National Park, by a chap called Peter Corbett. See his site here

** .. that tonight's gonna be a good night :)