Ramblings.

Real. Raw. Random. I’ve been wanting to write about … stuff … for ages, I just didn’t know how to frame it, or what exactly I’d be writing about. So consider this a warning: some of this may sound disjointed, nonsensical or meaningless. But I just need to get it out.

It’s been over two years since we sold up our whole lives, our “forever home” and all that we held dear and familiar, to start afresh in Sydney. When we told people we were leaving, we were met with a very mixed bag of reactions: devastation, surprise, repulsion. Yes, repulsion. We lost friends in the process, but also realized how loved and appreciated we were too. That on its own was an emotional rollercoaster, fraught with ugly crying and soaked in the hugs that you just don’t want to end. There are people I cannot believe I’ve not hugged in over two years. I remember crying so much onto these people’s shoulders in those weeks leading up to the day we left, the heartache was so intense, so unbearable. In the first days on arrival in Sydney, I couldn’t talk to or sometimes even think about those people without breaking down. It was an effort every day to get up, get the next thing on our checklist done. It felt never-ending and impossible, but a great man said, it always seems impossible until it’s done.

And now it’s done.

A fellow Saffa-turned-Sydneysider told me, leading up to our move, “Nicki, this is going to be difficult to understand now, because it is so hard saying goodbye, but you will make new friends”. She promised me that it didn’t mean that I’d forget my friends or that they’d be gone forever, but that new people would fill the gaping holes that appeared in my heart, the moment I was no longer on the same continent. I didn’t believe her, and for weeks after we left, that feeling of utter loneliness ate away at me.

But she was right. I can’t say when or how that all changed exactly – but now I have people here. I still have my people there, but now I have people here too. An amazing mix of people at that. I celebrated my 35th birthday in June and felt so much love from the people around me – only four of whom I’d known more than the 18 months of our new life in Australia – my husband, my brother and sister-in-law and best-friend/godfather-of-my-youngest. Now, I’m not one for using #blessed in any way, shape or form, but I felt it that night. And I’m grateful for and proud of it.

Dave’s just spent a week in Joburg for work and I really and truly managed, all by myself. I mean, this new support system I have in Sydney was definitely there for me – mum friends from school dropping and collecting kids, friends coming over to just hang out, drink wine, eat pizza, friends inviting us over for dinner. I was by myself for the week, but by no means alone. Again, grateful and proud.

Speaking of Dave’s work – if you aren’t a friend on Facebook, you might not know that he has been running his own practice in Sydney for a while now, after a serendipitous meeting with a local and established solicitor. Unfortunately he fell ill, but saw very quickly in Dave what we all already know – he’s a confident and very capable lawyer! And so, Dadic Legal was born…which has since grown into Pathway Lawyers & Migration Agents. Yes, he qualified as a MA and has already begun helping Saffas find their way to new lives here in Australia. It’s incredible how many people have contacted either Dave or I, saying that they’ve followed our journey and are now either on a similar journey already, or want to find out how to go about it. With our own personal experience still fresh, and Dave’s qualifications, he’s set up a business and has been an incredible support for families wanting to take a chance on something new. So, here’s a little plug for him – for us! If you or anyone you know is interested in finding out more about what kinds of visas are available, email Dave. Tell him I sent ya 😉

We moved house. It was almost as traumatic as the actual immigration. We got a dog! That we had to surrender. That was also very traumatic. Lesson learned. Then we got another dog and, despite destroying almost every fridge magnet within reach, two pairs of glasses and numerous library books, he slotted into Team Dadic and has his own hashtag on Instagram. There are times that I wonder what we were thinking when we got him, giving up the COMPLETE FREEDOM that comes with your kids evoking self-sufficient, and then he puts his paw up on my leg while we’re watching TV, or surprises me by actually BRINGING THE GODDAMN BALL BACK WHEN I THROW IT, and I know we wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s something special about a boy and his dog, or two boys and their dog 👦🏼🐶👦🏼 even though he’s 100% obsessed with me and quite literally only has eyes for me. Wacko Jacko.

This is going to catch me some serious flack, but I promised myself I’d be honest. I don’t miss Joburg. I miss the people I hold dear who are there, but that’s it. I don’t miss being anxious when I’m home alone. I don’t miss asking the boys to close their windows as we approach a traffic light. I don’t miss the panic of the house alarm being set off at 3am and the heart-pounding wait for ADT to arrive. I don’t know why I did it, but I logged back onto Twitter for the first time in months and found myself anxious for others. Highjacking videos that I once watched nonchalantly made me gasp. From the outside it looks horrific, lawless, out of control. I know that there’s hope for change, that not everything is accurately reported online, that Joburg has its pros as well as its cons. But I’ve shed a layer of anxiety since I left. We were “lucky” in that no harm befell our family since our boys were born. We had no robberies, no crime. But all around us it was happening. A family friend caught inside a mall during a violent bank robbery was my final tipping point. It was all too close to home. Being encouraged to teach my children how to remove their own seatbelt in the event of a highjacking. I just couldn’t face this reality. Especially since I had a choice, which again, I am grateful for.

That said, we haven’t always been the “lucky” ones. 20 years ago, my step-father was brutally murdered in our home in Weltevreden Park, in front of my mother, after they walked in on our home being burgled. My mother was tied to my step-father, her soulmate, while he died. My mother was never the same, a fragile and broken woman, too petrified to leave her home after dark, the idea of being alone at night so unbeatable that medication to sleep, to be awake, was necessary. A few short years later she died, in part, I believe, from a broken heart. And in between that, my father’s livelihood was swept out from under his feet when his business was annihilated by two cash-in-transit heists. He went from everything to nothing, and he did the best thing he could do for his daughters in seeking opportunities in England. I watched this all, as a teenager, and I simply carried on with my life in Joburg. Because that’s what we do…we pick up the unbroken pieces and we move on. Since then smash-and-grabs, house break-ins and stories of our kids’ friends families highjacked or held up in their homes, guns held to their children’s heads were a-plenty. You have children and your ability to simply pick up the pieces and move on dissipates. Well, mine did. And I’ll happily admit that. No problemo. I had the choice to leave. And I did. It wasn’t the “easy way out” as so many people say it is. It tested and still tests) me, my marriage, my strength and my courage in ways I’d never imagined possible. This coming from a girl who lost her step-father and mother before the age of 19, after leaving her childhood hometown of Harare, just a year or two earlier, for greener pastures in Johannesburg. Moving has been f#%king hard. Make no mistake. Two years and two months in and it feels “normal” – it has for the better part of this year. But it’s been HARD. So hard. The tears I’ve cried. The words said and those held back. It’s been intense. But I’d do it again and again and again. Despite the criticism, I stand by my choices. By our choices.

Australians are not what you assume they are. I’ve heard people say they’re laid back, too chilled, not hard-working. I mean, maybe they’re talking about Perth or “BrisVegas”, because Sydney is a thriving metropolis of hard-working people, made up of a melting pot of cultures, colours and language. People are eclectic, interesting and friendly! There a SHITLOAD of South Africans here. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear a familiar accent or word and I try to figure out “how long have you been here?” before I actually ask it. People here are passionate, political…vocal! I feel like I’ve grown in confidence since arriving. Is that just what travel and new experiences do to you? I feel like I’m more of a mum than I ever was. I don’t want to say a better mum, but I do MORE mumming! Not having constant help means that we figure out new ways to do things and that ultimately my boys are more independent, more street smart, more able and confident. They’re sporty, they walk so much … and they’ve stopped whining about how much they walk! That takes some getting used to – the walking! I had shin splints within a week of starting my first job. Walking from home to the train, from the train to work, rinse and repeat. Walking for is different from any other kids of fit. Now walking 20km coincidentally on a Saturday isn’t uncommon and is almost always enjoyable.

I always knew I loved to “chill at the beach”, but I never knew how connected I felt to the ocean. Growing up, I’d never lived near a beach: Rustenburg, Wales, Harare, Johannesburg, but this city and it’s world-class beaches have my heart. Early morning coffee, chats and walks along Bondi Beach, watching the surfers bob up and down, waiting for the perfect wave. Diving under the clear water at Shark Bay and feeling the sand gently graze your toes. These things bring me in, make me quiet and make me happy.

And that’s all that counts, right?

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About Nicki

Life goal = breakfast food for every meal. Eternally optimistic wife, mum, social media manager, runner & lover of Instagram.

15 Responses

  1. Jenny

    Nicki – my family too were affected by horrific crime but we stayed for so long and many of my family have no choice but to stay. I am so sorry for your and your mom’s experiences and for everyone affected by crime. Crime is a crazy thing – as I said on Twitter it’s like you have Stockholm Syndrome when you are there because really – what other choice is there but to brush yourself off and carry on? There’s this ridiculous pride we have about being hard and street smart and unaffected but it’s affecting the social psyche – and that is pretty obvious when you look from afar. I also faced my loved ones emigrating way before I did and I have been that turd who hated on them, called them cowards for not staying and helping the country (roll eyes). I worked in media and there was a real sense of optimism and ‘rainbow’ bullshit back then but that has changed that is for sure. I have grown and learnt that everyone has their own life choice to make and if it is making you question yours to the point of anger and shame, well then that is something for you to think about. I do believe we are incredibly lucky. And I don’t understand why Saffers who move on to different places and experiences are not celebrated and supported like other cultures are but are rather pulled down. Vilified and ostracized and afraid to admit to having dark moments because of the’ grass isn’t greener gang’ ready to say I told you so. I love Australia and love Australians. I love the culture here – the mateship, having a crack, how you going type community vibe that is amazing and something lacking behind our high fences and even higher cars in Jozi. I don’t miss it either, not one bit. I do wish I could bring everyone I love and care for here. Be brave in your truth (jeez did I really just say that?) xx

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  2. Nicki, this post has hit me really hard. First off, I am so sorry for your losses, of your mom and step dad, and for the childhood innocence that this undoubtedly stole from you. For your father’s financial losses and traumas. It is completely unacceptable! It’s bizarre that we become hardened to the crime around us as if it’s fiction that we are hearing / reading about in the news. I’ve gotten to the “head in the sand” stage where I refuse to read the news or view the hijacking videos and armed robbery photos that keep doing the rounds via social media. My brain just can’t process any more of this crap. After my armed robbery two years ago, I still feel jaded when I drive into my home, and my kids still ask me why the bad man had a gun against my head. They were only 4 and 6 years old, they should not have had to witness their mother being threatened like that, not at any damn age actually. We too have lengthy discussions, almost daily, about whether we should stay or go. We argue that our lives are “good” here …. but are they? We are prisoners behind our 8 foot walls, and in our anti-smash-and-grab clad BMWs. It’s almost as if we are waiting for one more incident to tip the scales in favour of us leaving. We have the means to leave, but as you know it’s complicated. Leaving our aged parents, our friends, my step-sons… it’s all an emotional mind-f*ck. Despite having been overseas many times, our recent trip to the USA really highlighted the unreasonable conditions we live with here in SA. I find myself hating this place more and more with each breath.
    I am so happy that you have found peace in Australia Nicki, and that you and David and the boys have found your groove. I am glad that despite all the heartache you have endured, that you are in a happy place now. Wishing you nothing but the best xx Denita

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  3. Miemie

    Hey Nicki. We immigrated to New Zealand in the beginning of the year. And moved house last week. To a new city, and like you say it was almost as tough as the initial move and I have really missed my family because I realised that my boy’s first day of school is on the same day as my first day at work, and I have no one who loves him to be there for him when I can’t. So your post gives me a little hope, that I too will have a village again one day.

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  4. Kammi

    All the feels. We have been in NZ for 8 months. Boy we love it here. I have realized that you only understand how stressed out your life is in SA when you no longer have to live in that constant fear. (Fear you dont even know is there….till its not). I miss family and friends, but I have recently stopped trying to explain our decision to people. Like you said….its not easy. Its not a cop out. We had to leave our elderly parents. Sisters. Brothers. We are ALL ALONE. But it has been worth it. All.worth.it. I find it so hard to see friends who see the issues see the scary things but they keep hanging on to a life of flash cars and big houses…too scared to give it up for a “lessor life”. If inly they knew the freedom you feel with no burglar bars. No alarms. No stress when hubby works late. The freedom to walk. Take the bus. Train. I ramble. Well done on making it this far! Good luck in the business venture.

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  5. MARIA DUARTE DU TOIT

    Nicki – the post hit me very very hard- everything you wrote was so spot on to how I felt could have not said it better .. I moved to Madeira island with hubby, mom , dad in law and brother in law – its a year now not totally settled many ups and downs but I do not regret the decision I made and I would do it all over again.. I only miss my friends and family who are still back in sa which is limited as most have also immigrated all over the world.. the love the friendship lives on forever no matter where you are.. so very happy to see you and David where you are today , happy and blessed – you both such amazing people, an inspiration and exceptional role models to so many who had the privilage of knowing you, may both of you be abundantly blessed in your lives now and forever … miss you both plenty.. big hugs to all of you.

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  6. Jolene

    Beautiful friend, so raw and real…. such strength against adversity. You’re amazing. I love you loads and so glad you relish in that is magnificent in where you are now. Just wishing I was with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Crikey. Laugh. Cry. Guilt. Confidence in knowing we have done the right thing. Anguish as I do it again. Thanks for sharing the heartache and the reminder as to why we do what we do and how we do. I will be going to SA in December, without Thomas, and he is already panicked about me driving or being out late at night or being in malls. Yes, we forget how we simply just lived day to day with a sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs in the hope that nothing would happen. We are leaving Kuching after 29 amazing months in the jungle city. I am leaving all I know here to start again in Kuwait. A tough 5 months ahead.

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      1. Natalie

        Yip. His work here is done. I am so bleak. You know I always knew that I would be an island kinda girl where the tropical rainforest become my solice. It is what it is and now we head back into the desert. S’rwak has been far too generous to us.

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