I started writing this weeks ago – before the start of what turns out was a pretty amazing sporting tournament held in South Africa that also coincided with the longest set of school holidays I have ever experienced. To clarify – the longest set of school holidays I have ever experienced that wasn’t Christmas holidays – without Gina.
When I started writing this post we had been in South Africa for just under eleven months – today we have been here for 366 days – I know this because it is my sister-in-law’s birthday – Happy 40th Manos – and last year on our second day here she called us to remind us it was her birthday while we were on our first trip to the beach in Ballito on what turned out to be a standard winter’s day for Durban –warm and sunny and beach worthy.
I remember the exact moment when I thought my life was perfect. I know that because I thought it strange I had never felt that way before – I’m not sure why. I remember because I thought that if I said it out loud – even to my husband or my BFF then it would be jinxed and something would go horribly wrong. Well – need not have bothered about that – here’s the thing I know now – if you think your life is perfect even for a millisecond, tell everyone – take out an ad, hire a billboard, have a party – do anything because whether it continues or not has nothing to do with if you say it out loud or not. If you feel it – you might as well tell everyone cause it’s a really feel good kind of thing.
Of course there had been wonderful, exciting and amazing moments in my life before then. The day(s) I had gotten a job I thought I had desperately wanted, got married, given birth (especially the second time because after all I was staying for five nights in the equivalent of a luxury hotel or hotel/spital as I have seen it recently referred to on facebook) were all very happy, fulfilling and exhilarating days and times but I don’t recall actually thinking that my life was perfect.
The moment I did think it was at night, my husband and I were driving home from the Hong Kong Football Club after a dinner with friends and we were discussing the pros and cons of buying a property that would essentially be a holiday place, rather than an investment property – a waterfront spot – the last one left in a tiny hamlet on St Georges Basin on the south coast of NSW where my family had holidayed since I was very small. We decided that yes we would try to do it.
Not at the time we made the decision but during the discussion sometime I recall thinking – I love my life right now so much, it feels perfect. Immediately and subconsciously I tried to hide the thought DANGER – DANGER Will Robinson!! I thought I couldn’t say it out loud because it was difficult to explain and because I didn’t want it to change and because somehow by just thinking that I felt I had already changed it. So weird and a tad too serious for my usual thought processes but there you have it.
Why did I think my life was perfect right then? I can’t say exactly. We had been living in Hong Kong for nearly six years, we had two gorgeous children who were at times like all children quite a challenge – but generally loveable and we weren’t planning to give them away any time soon, my mother who had been diagnosed two years earlier with stage IV colon cancer was inexplicably currently ‘cancer free’, we had a wonderful group of friends who we viewed as our HK family, we both had jobs we enjoyed and found fulfilling, we were having multiple amazing holidays annually – family, boys & girls weekends and just about any other kind you can think of and we were financially at a point where we felt that we were doing the ‘right thing’ sensible savings plan and all that. There were still of course down sides to our lives – we lived far away from our families and my father in law was very sick (he passed away soon after). We lived in high pollution a lot of the time – some days you could not see from one side of the harbour to the other – a five minute ferry ride could be conducted shrouded in pollution based fog, but like most long term HK’ers we celebrated the blue sky days and put the terrible ones from our mind. Our son had been identified as having some issues and was diagnosed as ‘on the spectrum’ (aren’t we all?) and we were going through various educational support strategies with his school and teachers.
I don’t regret having that thought that night – I will just be very, very wary should I ever have it again – because it was probably a ‘perfect moment’ rather than something else that is more tangible with more longevity that I am still struggling to imagine. Too deep? Yes – for me too – I’m not even sure if I understand what that means but seriously can’t think of any other way to express it.
Almost the next week the feeling was punctured (although it had been dented when I thought of it momentarily and then immediately went into Danger mode) when the redundancies started at work – although I wasn’t made redundant in the first or second rounds my boss did mention to me that if I wanted to leave it was on the table, putting me a little off balance in the workplace – along with just about everyone else in Hong Kong who worked for an investment bank, it was by no means personal. My father in law passed away two days before we flew to Australia for Christmas holidays and then when we returned to Hong Kong after that trip my husband put South Africa on the table. ‘Perfect’ one minute to ‘spinning out of control’ in no time at all.
The rest is history – the South African thing got pushed at work but it was a good move for my husband and we made the decision together and for the right reasons, the redundancy came through – the move was on. Don’t get me wrong – so was The Festival of Farewells – it wasn’t all bad, it was just at a serious tangent from my ‘Perfect’ millisecond.
I had moved countries before – I knew approximately what I would experience in the process and estimated the time to ‘come through’ the other side of the move, settle the children, make some friends for them and some for me, get some hobbies started and hopefully get a job would be 6-9 months. I thought I was being conservative and talking it up big to everyone –
‘Oh you know – six months or so and we should be right. We’ve never moved with the kids before really so the important thing is settling them down and getting them in routine.’
Six months was Christmas and I was nowhere near settled – I’d just got my blinking phone line connected for goodness sake – South Africa was still all about
‘We’re new – we’re Australian but we have come via Hong Kong – we lived there for nearly seven years, yes we miss it very much, yes we loved it there, yes life here is very different………..’ – It is perhaps no wonder the locals were not throwing themselves at me to be my new BFF’s – it sounds like I do not like it here – do not speak to me. I can perhaps see that now – but its not how I meant it, all the time.
In fact I cringe and smile now at the number of acquaintances I see now that ask me – ‘How are you settling in now? You seemed to be struggling a little bit before’
It was that obvious? Yes Nikki – it was.
What was wrong with me? Please let me pause here and say – I did have some friends by this time – very lovely friends, friends I will have for a long time if not forever – but it isn’t only your family & friends that make somewhere home to you – if that sounds strange – you’ve still got to make your own peace with it – or I do anyway.
I don’t know the exact day that it happened – but it was made clear to me about six weeks ago when a friend – who I had added to my mental list of ‘People I would like to be better friends with because I think they are my kind of people, irrelevant of what they might think’ told me she was leaving after twelve months here, dammit, just as we had started doing Friday morning runs together – moving back to the UK, where her family had moved from as a work opportunity that couldn’t be passed up was on the table for them. I realized if that were me – of course it’s all about me 😉 I wouldn’t want to move – I was in fact settled here in sunny Durbs, making friends, still trying to win over the locals, just starting the job search process, loving my African reading theme, learning more of the local lingo (for instance if you saw the word ‘gees’ how would you pronounce it?) and enjoying learning about politics as perhaps only someone with another country’s passport can.
This is really my home now – of course it already was, my family and all my stuff have been here for some time, but now, even though we still don’t have curtains – it really does feel like HOME and the next few years are all about building up to another ‘perfect’ millisecond or many of them because now I think somewhere out there – its waiting for me and I can tell you I have started looking & I’ll definitely be having a party this time.