I’m a sentimental fool and I enjoy celebrating ‘versaries’, be it yearly, monthly or weekly (I did not write anniversaries as I don’t want to annoy the Grammar Nazis among you with more mistakes!)
However, despite my sentimentality, our busy schedule towards the end of last year, lead me to completely forget and ‘celebrate’ (by writing a sentimental blog post) the one year post mark of moving to the Rainbow nation! Shock! Horror! I think I might be turning into a normal man again!
Now, all silliness aside, it was quite a landmark moment for us as that move was a big calculated risk for which could really have gone either way, but in any case, it was always going to be the beginning of a new life for us, be it in South Africa or anywhere else life spit us out to.
We did move to South Africa and despite being a fruit of this country and continent, I hadn’t lived here in over 10 years. Not only was the South Africa of 10 years ago different, the Tonito was as well and he wasn’t too sure what things were going to be like (Yeah I know, I spoke in the third person, but I put it down to dramatic effect!)
How was I going to adapt to being here again? How was Raquel going to adapt to living here? Were things going to work out? Would we find jobs? Would we find jobs where we wanted them? Would we be able to live the life we wanted? These questions and more kept my mind constantly preoccupied and despite always attempting to show a strong front on the outside, inside I was a ball of nerves!
It’s not something that I’ve shared too often at the time or even now, but I’ve never felt so vulnerable and dependent on other people as I did at the time. At times it scared the bejesus out of me, but I needed to remain positive and strong for both Raquel and I! For the first time since 2008, I was not in control of things; I was not dependent on anyone else but by my employer; I did not know what kind of long term plans I could make.
Yes, I know that this is the nature of taking risks, but I never took this kind of risk before. When I left my job in London, I already had something lined up in the UAE, so there was no real risk their and while I was at my previous company, a next project could always be lined up when a current project was done. This time around it would be the first time that I would be completely without any options; I would be flying in the dark.
One year on from that move (okay more like one year and three months) Raquel and I really can’t complain about our choice. The first five month back we spent in my home town living with my parents which was difficult, not because my parents made things hard, but because Raquel and I longed for our own place, jobs and life.
Furthermore, despite loving the town I grew up, I did outgrow it and found it difficult to live there especially being used to bigger places with variety of options (choosing between the Spur and a local restaurant is not really the options I want).
When the job breakthroughs finally came about, the move to Joburg was a welcome one. It meant for the first time in our relationship we had our own space and weren’t sharing with anyone; our life together for the first time was in our control. It felt amazing. I was relieved.
The months following starting work were months of discovery and exploration in many ways. Well, actually in every way. There’s a line in one of my favourite recent movies, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which goes:
“Initially you’re overwhelmed. But gradually you realize it’s like a wave. Resist and you’ll be knocked over. Dive into it, and you’ll swim out the other side. This is a new and different world. The challenge is to cope with it. And not just cope, but thrive.” – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
This quote summarizes my philosophy when dealing with new expat assignments and has since it has become our philosophy behind our new life South Africa. We needed to thrive, create our space in this city, our jobs and our free time. Fortunately, all the risks we took have paid off and Raquel and I have no complaints about our new life in South Africa.
One year has gone by on our adventure in here in South Africa and there will certainly be more to come as make South Africa our own.