I actually can’t believe it! I mean I really, really can’t! How the hell has time flown? In the months leading up to our leaving, I was filled with so much anxiety, that at times I thought I might need medical attention. Through the endless, tearful farewells, emotional, sleepless nights, heart-wrenching “dronk verdriet” braais and constant daily anxiety, by the time August 21st 2015 rolled around I was begging for plane food, just to be done with that wretched heartache.
And now here we are. Six months later. You’ve all seen much of the journey through our enthusiastic social media sharing, but let it be known the journey has been far from simply sunshine, big smiles, beaches and fun activities. In fact, I’ve hardly known times as tough as some of those we’ve managed to endure in the last six months.
The longing. The longing for family, friends, familiarity …South Africa… is indescribable. You miss everything and everyone. You miss people you’ve never met just because they have the same accent, let alone your own daily network. You never recognise anyone, no one ever recognises you. Your phone never rings. How does one articulate such isolation? I find socialising with work colleagues often only amplifies the feeling – everyone has their history, their own life perception, their own network, making it very difficult to integrate. It’s no wonder Saffas hang out with other Saffas on the weekends, despite the general pre-emigration rhetoric: “I won’t be like that, I’m going to blend in and not be like those idiots in Perth”. The truth is that having people who talk like you, have history similar to yours, support your national sports team and watched the same TV shows growing up is extremely comforting and I am really so grateful for my Aussie-Saffa’Chinas and especially my Aussie Saffa brother & sister-in-law, and some extended Aussie family that have welcomed us with open arms. I couldn’t imagine having that sense of awkwardness and lack of familiarity in my down-time. In fact I think having a sense of association and commonality is critical for survival as a new immigrant.
Cleaning, my God the cleaning. Domestics in South Africa deserve to own mansions not clean them. I have never truly known the extent of my privilege till now. I miss our nanny and gardener more than I should be permitted to admit. I never appreciated them nearly close to enough. What miraculous and selfless human beings you are, Ruth and Fila. Once you’re done reading this, go give your domestic/nanny/maid a massive hug and say thank you with every bit of your soul. And give them a sizeable raise. Immediately. They are truly human gifts. Having said that, I have have never felt more fulfilled despite the relentless quest for cleanliness. There is no feeling like doing things yourself, even household chores. Time is never wasted when you need to do everything yourself. Between the cleaning, wiping, gardening, folding, washing, and, and, and (FYI, Nicki’s list is much longer than mine – how she does it, God alone knows!) every minute counts, but by the end of it you feel nourished. I never thought I had the capacity to change so much, in fact much of my anxiety lay in worrying about how would I cope without domestic support – so privileged I know. But yet, 6 months later, we are almost robotic in our routines, to the extent that I actually couldn’t imagine having someone clean after me now. And, as a result we sleep really well.
The thing that’s been most hard for me is the challenge of being being cut down to a rather negligible size at work. My 16 years of experience, established reputation, sizeable Twitter following and time spent in front of the cameras, mean very little in my day-to-day working life. My ego certainly didn’t need any boosting in South Africa, that’s for sure. Now I’m working 10-12 hour days like a green-eared fledgling. Theoretically, our commercial law is very similar but when you don’t know where the court building is, don’t know how to write letters like they do, have never seen their court documents before and so many more practical differences, you learn quite quickly how little you actually know. My ego is suddenly practically non existent. And they do their own typing! Another big issue for this old dog who’s relied on legal secretaries for much of his career. Having said that, and like with the cleaning thing, I feel better for it. I’m not idling by anymore. I haven’t worked this hard in at least 10 years, but my brain is exploding from the constant intel, I’m learning skills and techniques from lawyers who practice on a much bigger stage and in matters that are so much bigger than I could have ever comprehended in South Africa. You learn very quickly how big the pond actually is…and how small you really are. But you wait and see – this old dog can certainly learn new tricks!
Then there’s the other stuff – the stuff that brought us here: the sunshine and smile-making stuff. I won’t go into detail as the photos we share tell those stories much better than I ever could, but it must be said that right now it’s a Sunday night, I have a crazy-difficult, ego-bruising week ahead yet I have not an ounce of anxiety or even the slightest twinge of “Sunday Blues”. I feel like I’m on holiday all the time. I imagine the fact that there’s no Carte Blanche is also a massive help in that regard.
I am happy. We are happy.
Ps: I get admitted as a solicitor in the Supreme Court of New South Wales tomorrow. Big day.