I am an immigrant – and thus by definition an emigrant, as well – by descent. Parents and grandparents on both sides of my family have upped and left their home countries in search of a better life. I grew up travelling all over the world. I was fortunate enough to be born to the right parents. I was instilled with the belief that anything, anything, anything is possible; that the world has no borders. So, I decided to leave a grey little island for a huge expanse called South Africa – the place I was born, the place that gave me life and the place I feel alive in.
I might sound like one of the characters from Made in Chelsea (according to one of the locals here), but I am South African. I worked very, very hard to get here. I surmounted a lot externally and internally to get here. Perhaps that is why I get so upset when people here take me for a mere tourist, a foreigner, someone breezing about with their pockets full of pounds.
I didn’t have a job waiting for me. I didn’t have a man waiting for me. What I did have waiting for me defied expectation. If you are on the brink of the next adventure and are not sure what to expect when you move abroad, here are just a few of the things:
- Expect communication breakdowns. Anything electronic goes haywire – I’m talking electric sockets, wifi connections, GPS devices, phone reception, banking systems. All that crazy energy and stress in the air exerts itself onto the electrical energy which most forms of communication depends upon.
- Expect things to run out ALL AT ONCE – phone credit, phone battery, shampoo, petrol, electricity, gas.
- Expect to get ill. Stress (whether you feel it or not) weakens the immune system and you get sick.
- Expect no hot water. For some reason, we are neglected to be taught in schools about the inescapable law of physics that dictates that a newly moved into house will never have working hot water immediately. This is often due to faulty plumbing. And sometimes, because the gas canisters have been stolen.
- Expect to feel weird. Discount the first week entirely. Even if you are travelling to somewhere far away with no time difference, the mere fact you have been hurtled through the atmosphere at about 500 mph is NOT small deal. Put any feelings of depression, anxiety, disorientation and distorted reality down to jet lag. It takes your metaphysical body days to catch up with your physical body.
- Expect lots and lots of breakages. Smashed plates, broken nails, beds suddenly giving way beneath you.
- Expect to get lost. Expect tears. If your GPS leads you into Khayeleitsa, make a hasty U turn.
- Expect broken sleep and disrupted appetite, compounding stress levels further.
- Expect about ten times the admin you envisaged.
- Expect delays. The time you expect thing to take…. Times them by three.
- Expect other drama to arise in the midst of the above – attempted break ins, visits from the Police, clearing up aftermath of baboon invasions.
- Expect chaos. Just when you think things cannot possibly get any more stressful… they do.
- But most surprisingly… expect to start enjoying it. At first you feel disheartened and dismayed from all the “problems”. But after enough incidents, nothing fazes you. You get a chance to creatively problem solve. This is adventure! This is survival! This is character building! Expect to amaze yourself.