Category Archives: Durban

Hotlanta eventually…

We made it!

All the way from the African continent to the one in the north of the Americas. (grimly holding onto the A theme)

It wasn’t without its challenges, traveling solo with my two TCK’s,  expert flyers though they are and truly thrilled with Emirates business class (as was their mother) they are still after all – kids. One of whom has anger management issues, our own little World’s Angriest Five Year Old (WAFYO), still learning to read and so has some justifiable issues operating the media equipment in that case, after all each airline has its own system idiosyncrasies and the last time she flew business class was three years ago, she was two and slept the whole time – for which her mother was very grateful.

The other junior traveller was somewhat anxious – not about flying but about the whole moving countries thing.  He was having his whole world tossed in the air to settle again somewhere he had never been, to make new friends he is not yet sure exist and after a detailed study of American television on offer in South Africa is concerned about whether or not he may get a date for the Prom. Did I mention he is nine years old?

The night before we left he had been bought home from a sleepover by his South African bff’s mother after he decided he was too anxious to stay, only to have the babysitter who was minding the other kids while their parents were at a lunchtime braai that was heading to a very late finish, not to hear the door, so a 10pm round trip return to the sleepover. Not my finest parenting moment – although I picked up the call at 10.15pm after all was resolved and well.

So it was with a slight sense of guilt and not at all thinking about the twenty three flying hours ahead that I allowed the kids to purchase some kind of giant chocolate bars at the airport in Durban after it took forty-five minutes to check in while they were playing trolley wars with several other juniors who had come to bid them farewell.

Note to self – don’t do that again.

Another item to note about Mr Nine is his absolute conviction that he doesn’t eat or drink at all while inside a flying device that takes you from one destination to another. This includes water, although after this trip we’re in negotiation for new guidelines on aircraft travel and won’t be boarding again until we have at least a water truce.

Anyway no points for guessing what happened next, apart from WAFYO watching Up six times in the next nine hours. There was also a crying baby in business class and the guy sitting between that and the vomiting nine year old must be wishing he’d missed that particular flight.

There was a vomiting lull in Dubai – as well as three hours to kill in transit so stupidly again I allowed eating and some drinking.  I should have focussed on less eating and more sensible hydration. Call me distracted, exhausted or just trying to get there.

The next leg to New York was fourteen hours. The vomiting started after ten or so and by hour thirteen the poor kid was practically passed out refusing water from his desperate mother.

We limped through the JFK wheelchair line with an almost passed out, definitely dehydrated, paler than paper kid whose father asked as he greeted us ‘Was he just a bit tired?’

Yes sure, they give out wheelchairs to all parents who suggest their kids are a bit tired and wouldn’t like to walk from the plane.

Happily as we were out of the aircraft and away from customs liquids were now an option and fifteen hours later after a few litres of the stuff and a good night’s sleep No 1 son was ready for a day of adventure in Central Park and at the Museum of Natural History – where the first exhibit in the Large African Mammals room was a Tiger, but I am sure there is a perfectly good explanation for that.

Three child tourism oriented days in New York and memories of the horror flight had faded somewhat, the Atlanta hop was only three hours and blissfully vomit free, even if we were in economy.

We landed in ‘Hotlanta’ as they call it on the steamiest weekend of the year so far, the day before the hottest day ever recorded in the history of the city 42 degrees celsius or around 106 degrees in the new terminology we will be learning – it was here that WAFYO picked up the mantle and produced one of the world’s biggest vomits  on the trip from the airport to the apartment in her father’s two week old car.

To use an American expression – Awesome!

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How many degrees of Kevin Bacon?

Do you remember six degrees of Kevin Bacon? If you can that means you can remember back to 1994 which according to that impressive reference site Wikipedia, is when the ‘small world experiment’ game first came into being.

The small world theory meaning you should be able to prove that there are six degrees or less of separation between you and everyone in the world, as well as six degrees or less between Kevin Bacon and everyone in Hollywood.  There were some studies – based on people’s ‘social networks’ – in a time before what we commonly currently use the term social networks for. It was before Myspace,  Facebook, Twitter and even before the first blog which was apparently circa 1997 (using the same solid reference point I found the term ‘web log’ was apparently coined then so lets say the practice wasn’t widely spread prior to that point.)

Recent events have made me think about the Kevin Bacon game – who by the way, the whole world can now follow on Twitter (@kevinbacon has the magic tick) so if he replies or RT’s you does that count as being one degree from Kevin Bacon?

Last week I reposted a photo on facebook – it was this one.

I know, I know you’ve seen it before, but it is still gold (and so true, my 9 year old asked me what was that thing above the pencil).

A friend of mine from Hong Kong commented that they still had all their car mixed tapes from 1995 but nothing to play them on, then another friend admittedly another Australian in Durban (I know I said I’m the only one, its a long story and you really need to hear her accent – if they did a spoken test I worry about her ability to renew her passport, she has been here a VERY long time)  asked how many blasts from the past was I supplying in one day? Turns out the previous commenter was her neighbour from the 80’s and a suburb in Melbourne I have never visited.

One in Hong Kong and one in Durban – both many miles and many years from home, reconnected, through my facebook page. It gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

Remember my first blog stalker who prompted me to put an email contact on the blog? I am happy to say I have corresponded since via email with several people who were seeking information about moving to the Durban area, some making comparisons, some thinking about it and some actually doing it.  One of those doing it – was living in Kenya at the time and wanted the feedback of someone who had gone before in dealing with a whole range of things, schools, neighbourhoods, internet connections etc. I was happy to provide any info I could, after all I had found it very tricky in the beginning for a number of reasons.  I followed her progress with interest, maintaining a semi-regular email contact about plans, schools, suburbs etc. Then I found out she had moved, turns out into the same suburb as we live and the same street.  Our street has FOUR houses! What a coincidence – no really it was, well, I have no proof she previously knew where we lived… Maybe one day, now we know each other in real life, because I always take my new neighbours wine and chocolates, she might become my facebook friend and when I am living in another country she may find I have met a friend of hers and so the connections will continue. Or not – who knows?

The world is a small place and ‘social networks’ are making it smaller. Over Easter I met someone who wasn’t on Facebook (or Twitter before you ask), a girlfriend of a very good friend of mine, someone I would normally probably  pop a facebook friend request to after spending the amount of time together that we did over the term of her visit coupled with the fact she might end up with my friend forever more. If she accepted – then I would get to keep up with her news – even if she chose to mute my news stream (I’m sure it happens to the over-sharers amongst us), if not – well, I may never see or hear from her again. It occurs to me I didn’t even get her email address to send the photos that I took of our kids on their Easter egg hunts. Note to self – sort that.

I know some people are nodding their head and saying, yes – thats right, that’s how the world should work. Who would jump into someone else’s life so quickly and start sharing pictures of their kids, dentist visits and what they had for dinner? These people may not have heard of variable privacy settings, or they might not have friends and family on just about every continent there is.

I can’t remember why I joined facebook, perhaps it was because I wanted to see what it was all about, but once in I was hooked. For someone like me who has lived in several different places at different times of my life and has grandchildren separated by an ocean or two from their grandparents and extended family – its a good place for me to be. I have at times prefaced photos or posts as ‘Grandparents only need read / see’, these kind of things include ballet recital videos and judo belt presentations ceremony photos. I didn’t opt out like some of the cool kids who decided to ditch it in preference for Twitter only. Its a place I keep for my friends and family, pretty much people I know in real life .  Now I know two people, in real life, who live on two different continents, who knew each other long ago – I think that’s a nice thing, not a freaky one. I’m not sure where that leaves Kevin Bacon but it may leave me just where Mark Zuckerberg wants me.

Me – the Ferrari photographer

I know its called Random thoughts….etc etc…. (longest blog name in history) and I promise you (as they say here in South Africa) this is straight from the file marked ‘Random’.

Last weekend while minding my own business I got a message from someone at my favourite local cafe telling me their photographer for an event the next day had fallen through and asking would I mind coming to take some photos. I imagine he had been through a slightly stressful time and was some way down a lengthy list of names.

I thought about it for about a second, checked that my husband could ‘parent’ (not babysit) our children during the early hours of Sunday morning and replied that if no professional could be found then I would happily step in and wave my camera around.

Just call me professional expat, amateur mountain climber, wannabe marathon runner, novice surfer, social media addict and now semi-professional photographer with a huge tongue in your cheek. I think the title is apt because I was paid in kind with one of my favourite currencies, food. In particular a delightful eggs benedict and a range of breads from my favourite bakery on earth.  My family also breakfasted on my camera, there were further bacon and eggs, pancakes and milkshakes in the mix, of which they were most appreciative.

It was, according to the signage, a meeting of the Southern Equitorial Ferrari Automobili Club.  They were gathering at Remo’s Fratelli Cafe, Flanders Mall, Mount Edgecombe to check out each other’s cars, allow others to check their cars out, wear their best red clothing, eat breakfast and catch the Aussie Grand Prix on the tele – what multi taskers they all are.

My ‘brief’ as it were, was to photograph the cars, the people and the cafe and the staff. To do this I was allowed behind the counter!!! It was really so exciting and ended up being so much fun. I love to take photos, I am now inspired to take many many more and perhaps learn some more editing techniques.

I offer you a tiny sample of my wares, so if you need a ‘semi-professional’ photographer at your next function – I also accept payment in South African Sauvignon Blanc.

So many red Ferraris, one yellow, one dark grey.

                                 A junior inspector in full gear was cutest on ground

 

 

 

 

 

A little bit of old school

 

 

 

 

The people and inside the cafe were really my favourite part.

The Baristas

 

 

Ferraris of every size (as long as they were red)

 

 

 

Never too early to own a red t-shirt and start supporting Ferrari.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Remos scooter (not a Ferrari)

                  Remo’s Village loaf – go no further in your search for the perfect bread!

                         The Gingerbread people – just before they got their eyes….

THE END (the part where I head off to work out how to better put multiple photos on blog in future – you know just in case of new assignments)

Surfer Girl

I grew up on the coast but never learnt to surf.

The first part of that is unsurprising given that more than 80% of Australians live in coastal areas – in fact I have spent my whole life bar a few years during University living within a ‘few kays’* (as we say in Aus)  of the water.

That I never learnt to surf – hmmm not sure about that. Do you always take advantage of the things that are right there on your doorstep? Probably not, mostly because you can do them any time you like, sometimes you just never do.  Then, you don’t live there anymore, have other ‘important’ things occupying your life, are too old or feel that your opportunity has come and gone.

As an expat I have met many people of other nationalities enamored of the gloriously beautiful country that is my homeland.  They are always keen to hear my opinion of the amazing places they visited during their trip and quite often I have to ‘fess up and say ‘I haven’t been there’. My own country and I haven’t taken advantage of all there is to see and do – which seems especially bizarre as I have now buggered off and am seeing great slabs of the rest of the world. To be fair – its quite a large country and its quicker to get to New Zealand from Sydney than it is to Perth.  However, no excuses and the Aussie bucket list has built up quite a bit during our time away, the more people I meet the more places I add. One day, the grey nomads brigade** for us…..

Back to the surf.

As the mid-life crisis our time in Durban rolls on surf lessons were a Christmas gift from my hopeful husband, something to get me out of the house and away from our monthly broadband allocation. Sorry – can still do both!

To say I have taken to it like a duck to water would be a gross overstatement – in fact here is a recent facebook status update

The 'clumsy jeans' are an invention of the WAFYO - but its true three of us have inherited them - but ours are with a 'g' not a 'j'

The 'clumsy jeans' are an invention of the WAFYO - but its true 3 family members have inherited them - but with a 'g' not a 'j'

That being said – I LOVE IT.

If you know anything about surfing – you will know that a 10 foot board is for super super beginners, because if you are just a beginner – you get a 9 foot board, which is what I started with. My friend D, lets call her ‘the surfing demon’ also started with a 9 foot board and after four lessons she is on a 7 foot and I am on a 10 foot one. Does that help you paint the picture?

I think actually standing up on the board for longer than say 0.2 seconds is totally over rated if you can actually lie on the board, paddle it around and not knock yourself (or others) out or split anyones head open with your enormous board while navigating the sand underneath a giant dumping wave.

Of course I am just saying that until I can stand up all the way to the beach and step off like some kind of – I don’t know – surfer.

Not exactly what we look like - close?

Not exactly what we look like - not even vaguely

Our ‘surfer chick’ group made up of a mix of local types and expats seeking new and exciting things seem to have become totally obsessed. We grip our phones tightly each morning and any phone call or text message is pounced upon to see if the surf is ‘right’. None of us of course really know what that means, but we drive around with our gear in the car just in case we get the call during the school run, or heaven forbid shortly after entering the supermarket or gym car park – we are ready to abandon trolleys and kettle bells on the ping of a text message and head to the beach.

We have become (in our minds) spontaneous and random –  you can’t plan your day until you ‘hear’.

I might be able to get to that tomorrow, or not, it depends on the surf, can I let you know in the morning?

And then of course – dolphins.

We were surfing the other day and the dolphins were like this close (imagine arms showing distance here)

Need I go on?

I live in Durban, there are miles and miles of beaches, it is called the Dolphin Coast,  so I am taking every opportunity and becoming a Surfer Girl.***

Is there an opportunity you didn’t take the first time around and have now, or wished you had? Are you a surfer girl too?

* Kilometres – isn’t it obvious?

** People who don’t dye their hair anymore and have purchased a caravan or some kind of motor home and spend their ‘golden years’ traversing the country – keeping to the northern parts of the continent particularly in the winter months to stay a little bit toasty.

*** Well, kind of, promise to update when I can legitimately claim this title and can consistently  – paddle onto my own wave, stay upright for most of the time and have graduated ‘back’ to a 9 foot board. Watch this space!

It’s only a game……..

Are you from a ‘sporting nation’? Do you and or your countrymen go nuts seasonally for certain sports? Is every four years when the Olympics comes around a medal tallying affair? Do you have national teams that regularly win ‘World Cups’ in your acknowledged strongest sports? Are there grown men (and women) crying in the streets if and when your teams are knocked out?

If you answered yes and your chosen national sports of interest include cricket, rugby, netball and hockey – and you are from the Southern Hemisphere there is a good chance you are Australian, South African or a Kiwi (from New Zealand).

If you are from one of these countries and happen to be in the ‘sports mad’ group (strangely not everyone is) it is likely you were bought up to barrack for a) your home country and b) whoever is playing the other two.

As I am Australian and programmed from an early age, after all I did live there for the first thirty two years of my life – that means I support Australia and anyone playing South Africa or New Zealand (and England, am thinking its our historical link). In my sojourn here in South Africa I haven’t found it much different.

A small difference is that in Australia people tend to choose a sport or two as their area of ‘special interest’ rather than follow every one equally.  There are four codes of ‘ball’ sports in Aus with followings so not everyone is the rugby nut that I have become, daughter of a rugby coach it was a bit tricky not to catch the bug at some stage. Others follow Soccer, rugby league (never to be called rugby or confused with it) and that sport we ourselves invented Australian Rules (not sure what the Irish have to say on that one).

Thats where the problem of being an Aussie in South Africa has come in over the last few weeks. All South Africans follow rugby, passionately. If I had $1 for every time I have heard on the radio or read in print media in the just over two years I have been here ‘Reigning World Champions – the Springboks’ (the name of their cherished national rugby team) I would honestly be a gazillionaire. Every time I heard it – I would roll my eyes and think I can’t wait for the next bloody world cup so they can’t say that anymore, well programmed Aussie that I am.

Now it is here, the next world cup and as of today Australia and South Africa are no longer participants in the greatest rugby show on earth – South Africa knocked out by Australia last week  and today New Zealand put our hopes and dreams to bed for another four years. The three great Southern hemisphere rivals all ended up on the same side of the draw and knocked each other out before the final.

It should be that simple – you would think, but it’s not. Last week the Springboks were beaten by Australia in a very close game (points wise) – one that my husband and I watched bunkered down in our own living room, declining invitations to watch with the locals, too much at stake too nervous of the outcome.

At the conclusion of that game, which generated much excitement and screaming in our house – you couldn’t see a twitter stream or South African facebook comment that didn’t accuse the Referee (known as ‘the ref’) of cheating, apparently in conjunction with one particular Aussie player. It was brutal and relentless, someone texted my husband and suggested he travel to work the next day with a security detail – of course it was a joke, kind of.

This week has honestly been hell for South Africans and for lone Aussies like us living here. I thought I might enjoy it – but I haven’t really. From Twitter and Facebook to everyman, every radio station, every newspaper, every South African beside themselves about the referee and the ‘cheating Aussies’.

A man in a furniture shop this week heard my accent and asked me – didn’t I think the ref should be banned and we should re-play the game? I said no, not really – I was happy with the result – a risky answer given I didn’t know if he was carrying a concealed weapon. We parted friends but it was touch and go there for a while. I use this as an illustration to show I am not above a bit of banter myself and ribbing the opposition. I am not always entirely blameless in the exchanges.

I am now resigned to another week of ‘you deserved that cheating Aussies’, ‘we could have beaten the Kiwis if we had played them’ & ‘that’s how to ref a game Bryce’ – much along the same lines of twitter and facebook today. Luckily I have a mid-week escape plan in the form of a trip to Aus for my brother’s birthday. It can be exhausting living in a country when you and your countrymen seem like public enemy number one. As my American expat friends point out – they enjoy living here because South Africans in general like them (Americans) more than they like us (Aussies) , a global anomaly in most people’s books.

By the time I return things hopefully will have calmed down and we can all go back to our ‘friendly rivalry’.  After all – it’s only a game.

It’s my stalkee-versary!

I know the internet has been here forever, you’ve met people on the internet ALL the time that turn out to be normal, everyday types that have seamlessly crossed over from internet to IRL (in real life) friends. Old, boring, yawn. People have even met and married via the interwebs and had children and their children are probably already on Facebook (or Google +) trawling around looking for their love match.

But did you find them or did they ‘find’ (aka stalk) you? Were you living in another country with little or no friends and not many options at the time?  Is your stalker to real life friend story as special as mine? Maybe it is because all my stories are special – its like MY wedding, or the first time MY baby spoke, walked, passed fluids – because its mine it’s special and I’ll talk about it for as long as I want. Yours might be special too, if you want to write about it I will read your story – maybe, if you make it interesting, but for now I will settle for you reading on.

It starts with an email from a random on Facebook and ends up several months later with me arriving at said random’s house after closing time at the public house with two carloads of people, most of whom they have never met. That’s the measure of a true friend, one who invites you for a drink and you know its fine to bring half a pub with you, without warning! (well I didn’t actually know if it would be OK, but it was – we’re still friends so yay)

It was around the time of what I call the ‘great Aussie twitter scandal’ of the winter of 2010. A gripping saga I was glued to from my seat in far off South Africa.  A person – who can’t be named (because I genuinely don’t know her real name) had been posing on Twitter as a cancer sufferer and befriending people there and the natural extension of that for those living close by – in real life.  She had been to their houses, posed for Twitpics and from what I understand was slowly working her way around to seeking monetary assistance for future medical procedures. It was hard to keep up, different time zone and all and just a sideline watcher really. I came across her one day when my stream was filled with special wishes and good thoughts for her as she lay apparently dying in hospital and her ‘friend’ who had rushed from the US to be with her was tweeting updates. Luckily she survived and went on to befriend a whole range of seemingly lovely tweeple (people on twitter – keep up) etc etc. But watch out young players – cyberspace is a mean and nasty place and people can *shock & horror* lie about who they really are. She did lie about it and a lot of people got hurt in the process but are probably slightly wiser for it – as I am.  I was all – noone is going to fool me like that.

So when I got an email to my Facebook account – which is actually pretty hard to find for an amateur like me – I mean all my privacy settings are set exactly like Mark Zuckerberg told me. I was very suspicious about the motives of such a person wanting to befriend me just because they happened to *say* they were a fellow lonely expat in Durban. Who were they? Why were they using Facebook and not Twitter (that was back when I had the rule of IRL friends only on FB – what was I thinking)? Why had they read all my blog posts and referred to them in a humorous ego-stroking manner in their email? Were they looking for a kidney to sell on the black market?

It seems these people were fairly switched on stalkers and had created a whole backstory which basically was a blog that went back over two years. Clever huh? Their blog also had many many photos of this couple and feedback from people who seemingly knew them in real life and had for years, they even had their parents on there. As perfect a cover for kidney-stealing randoms I ever saw.

Proceed with caution was the order of the day. I was after all living in a country where I wasn’t fully at home yet – all my flesh and blood type friends who didn’t dabble too much in the online world thought the whole thing was too out there and I had best just leave it alone. However, I was also desperately seeking friends and these ones did know how to use the internet, my kind of people. So I set this person up as a friend on Facebook – obviously with various privacy settings so they couldn’t see photos of my kids etc as thats obviously the sensible thing to do. Of course I did the whole thing wrong and the next email said something along the lines of, I have been looking around your fb page, your kids are gorgeous. Obviously I had to meet these people as soon as possible to determine whether they were the real deal, as well as disabuse them of their incorrect assumptions regarding the small people.

We had to meet in a public place, where others knew I would be in case of emergency exit or kidnap situation, joking on the kidnap – maybe. Anyway a perfect opportunity threw itself our way when we both realised we would be attending the Durban July – Durban’s answer to the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne all in one day. We exchanged phone numbers and text messages and promised to arrange to meet up.  The Durban July is quite a lively social occasion and  we were being hosted in a marquee by a work connection of my husband. Free flowing champagne from 10am and a few hours and about 20 text messages later  I was falling over the railing of our enclosure waving my arms wildly screaming ‘Liz, Liz – over here’ at a girl in a bright orange dress. It’s a moment that she may have regretted months later when I arrived at 1 am with 10 people and not a bottle between us at her house but she and Johnny G diverted their path into ours and a beautiful wine laden friendship was born. We extended the friendship to pineapple martinis a couple of weeks later when we had them over to dinner at our house to introduce them to some other friends. Thinking back that’s when we could have lost the kidneys – all of us, and none of us would remember, but it seems more likely to have been a liver damage situation.

For this year’s Durban July we travelled together by taxi and toasted our Stalkee-versary en route with champagne.

As a tribute to my very special friendship with my former stalker-but-not-really I am including my very first photo in a post. It is the wine glass name I am given when I attend (invited) a function at their house.

(Now I have worked out how to do photos they may appear more often – who knows?)

My special glass at the Hawthorne house

Peace at last….looking for the next perfect moment

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.

Anyway-

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.