I feel like a bit of a mutt, nationality-wise. My passport and birthplace call me British, my upbringing and my heart say I’m South African. Born in one place, raised in another – and now raising my own family here, there and everywhere – sometimes I’m a bit fuzzy about my national identity, about where “home” is.
I’m fuzzy, that is, until the exact moment, once a year or so, I step off a 747 on to the tarmac at Cape Town International Airport. And then it all becomes startlingly clear.
For me the simple truth is that “Home” is more than where the heart is.
Home is where the sky opens up to embrace you, where the smell in the air and the breeze on your face sing a familiar song and your heart relaxes. Where they know you without any need for explanation. Where street corners and memories are inseparable from one another and the bird song in the morning is like a language you’d almost forgotten was your mother tongue. Read More »
It’s been over two months since we hauled our lives across the world to a tropical island in the Caribbean Sea, and I feel like it’s been much longer. Perhaps because in truth we have been moving all year. Like waves, one change after another has washed over us in 2016 and now finally, with only one more house move to go in the next few weeks, I feel like the time is approaching when I might finally be able to stop paddling madly and lie back and float for a while, maybe take in the view.
When you move your life, you have to find a way to move your whole self along with it. In order to do that you adapt. You seek out the parts of yourself that will cope with the unfamiliar aspects of your new life best, and you rely on them. The landscape of who you are hasn’t changed – it just looks a bit different. You’re the same person, but you’re dusting off different parts of yourself, blowing away the cobwebs and holding them up to the light, working out how to repurpose them for this newness you’re living. It’s interesting – so I wanted to stop, take stock, and write the changes down before they become just the new normal. Read More »
A welcome beep of my iPhone, a What’s App message from half way around the world. A girlfriend sending a joke, telling me about her day, asking me about mine. A ream of (desperately solicited at 3am) advice on what to do about my 8 month old (who has mysteriously stopped sleeping through the night), an inspirational news story from the Rio Olympics, a photo, a microwave recipe for chocolate cake, five little words that make everything better: “It’s going to be fine.”
So, this week I have mostly been discovering the joys of jet lag with two small children, and ferociously reading up on ways to get over it (Too late! she cries…). Five days after our East to West relocation, I think we’re getting there, but who knows what tonight holds… One of the many things my second baby has taught me is that “well rested” is an extremely relative term.
In 1998 Semisonic sang such a beautiful and poignant line: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” It was our last year of school at the time, and as far as my friends and I were concerned, the lyric may as well have been written exclusively for us. We danced to Closing Time, clinging to each other and swearing that the passing of the years wouldn’t change our friendship.
As someone who instinctively avoids change wherever possible, I’ve always felt hugely comforted by that lovely line. It conveniently pops into my mind and gives me strength whenever I’m facing down that thing we all hate: an ending. Tonight, on my little family’s last night in Switzerland, the beginning of our time here feels like only a moment ago. Now we are saying goodbye to our life here – for the time being at least – and I’m trying like crazy to keep sadness at an arm’s length and remember that although this particular beginning is ending, a new beginning is ahead. Read More »
I’m really happy to be publishing my first Chat with a “Repat”. This feature has come about partly as a result of my nosiness (I love to hear other people’s stories), but mostly because, as an expat, I find the concept of “going home” absolutely fascinating, and I wanted to ask people who’ve done it what the experience was like for them. So here’s the first of what I hope will be many interviews with people who have gone home – in every sense of the word.
Terri-Anne Boers is a physiotherapist and mum of two. Four years ago she moved from London back to her home town of Johannesburg, and experienced all the ups and downs of repatriation. I chatted to her about her journey from then to now.
“Where are you from?” This is the question that, as an expat, I’m asked more often than any other. I always have to hesitate. Where is home? Is it where I was born? Or where I grew up? Is it where I first shared a home with my husband? Where we first became parents? Where our second daughter completed our family? Where my parents live? For me, none of the above applies to the same place. So I feel like little (and not so little) pieces of my history and my self are scattered around the world – where exactly I call “home” has become fuzzy. Read More »
The sun is shining and the mercury is rising in Switzerland. As always in the summer time, we will be spending our weekend at our local pool. If Annabel could swim all day, every day, she would – and this summer she has officially ditched the water wings. I have mixed feelings on this one… […]
I know this isn’t the first time you’ve upped and moved, but that doesn’t mean it gets easier. In some ways, it’s harder every time – you’ve gathered more stuff, you now have another set of friends you’ll only see on Facebook, and each year you (and your kids) get older, moving is that much more emotional.
So take it easy on yourself if you have days when it all gets a bit too much. Here are some mantras to keep in your back pocket and pull out when you start to feel overwhelmed.Read More »