Two years ago I arrived in South Africa with two of the largest suitcases known to humankind, an intrepid sense of adventure, and an excitement about plunging into the unknown. Only having spent 24 hours in South Africa on my way to Malawi several years prior, all that I knew about my new home was gleaned from Nelson Mandela’s autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom and two blogs www.2summers.net and www.joburgexpat.com that I compulsively consulted in the weeks leading up to my move. The former helped give me a feel for this edgy and overlooked city while the later focused on the practicalities of moving to Johannesburg, offering a myriad of helpful tips. I scoured the sites lapping in the information hoping the more I knew the lesser my anxiety about what lay ahead.
When I arrived, I was overwhelmed and exhausted from the stress of packing up my American life and relocating. Besides going to work I barely left my hotel room for a week. Figuring out where to go and what to see seemed like too much of an effort and overall all every new experience was fatiguing. Honestly moving here was the most stressful moment of my life. In addition to adapting to a new city, I was learning a new job in a new industry. Everything was unfamiliar. My immediate priority of finding a permanent place to live was accomplished relatively quickly, but it wasn’t available for another two months. In an expected twist of fate, this meant that my household goods arrived in record time and had to be stored for over a month until my perfect abode was available. It took several months to settle into my new life and in many ways I am still adjusting. Every day I find something that has taken me by surprise. Many times they are even things that I know but forget about.
From that emotionally tumultuous beginning, I can honestly say that this has been my greatest adventure to date. I never expected to end up in South Africa. I speak Spanish and always thought that if I lived abroad again, I would return to mi querida América Latina. I don’t even know if I can articulate what I love about living in Johannesburg and frankly I think any attempt to do so would sound like a laundry list of random things that don’t add up to the whole – the lifestyle, weekend escapes to the bush, the weather, my housekeeper, a pool, a diverse and rich country, the best grocery store on earth (Woolworths), and graceful hospitality. I could easily go on.
There are times in your life where you are exactly where you are meant to be, doing what you are meant to do. There are moments when I find myself with a huge smile plastered across my face because I can’t believe this is my life and that I am fortunate enough to have this experience. Normally this sensation hits, not while I am staring at a leopard with a kill, but when I wake up on a sunny day an look out to see a hadeda (a large and noisy bird) aerating my lawn with its curved beak. In South Africa I discovered that there is nothing that I can’t accomplish on my own probably because without many friends or any family I have to do everything on my own. Total self-sufficiency was an unexpected revelation and a lesson that I will carry forward for the rest of my life.
Happy two year anniversary to me and South Africa. I can’t wait to see what the next two years brings.