Story from The Diedericks Adventure Diary.
Well, let’s get to it and just drop this bomb while it’s hot. WE ARE COMING HOME. (and no not with our tails between our legs either) Surprised? Shocked? In horror? I’m sure many of you will feel or think many different things depending on your relationship with us or your feelings about emigration and your own experience (if you have one). So let me remind you that none of you have walked in our specific shoes and none of you can confidently say you completely understand our position. And yes I am sounding defensive straight out of the starting gates as I have a good idea of the backlash from our decision and before anyone can think it’s okay to judge I want them to understand first.
Let’s get some perspective on this entire journey.
For 4 years Ashley and I have been umming and aahing about emigrating because of the state of South Africa. He was hijacked in his fire station a few years back and had guns to his face so that kind of pushed us into the flee mode. We were planning on Australia and twice we tried to submit paperwork but it just never transpired, we couldn’t seem to do it. We decided on Australia as Ashley could easily get a job as a fire fighter there which is what he has always done. Anyway, things calmed down for awhile and we kind of just carried on with life. Then Ashley’s best friend got a job in New Zealand and with all the universities burning down and the crime escalating again, we made an impulsive decision to try and follow to New Zealand, not realising how quickly things would work out for us and not even having a moment to think about it truthfully. I literally sent out my CV on the Sunday (which is the day we decided to just have a go at seeing if we could get jobs) and got a reply on Monday and by Thursday I was offered a job! LITERALLY no time at all to even think about it for 2 seconds and me being the way I am I said to Ashley well it’s clearly meant to be or it wouldn’t have happened, let’s go with it and see where it takes us! An opportunity like this doesn’t come around that often or ever if you hear other people’s desperate stories to get out of SA. We weren’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
The next few weeks were a frantic blur of getting birth certificates done, police clearance, submitting documents and doing medicals etc etc. SO frantic and so rushed that again we didn’t really have a chance to second guess or question, we just went with it. But to be honest, I think we would have only perhaps changed our minds if we had had a few months to think about it. We had been talking about it for so long that it seemed a blessing and we jumped at the chance.
Anyway most of you know the rest of the story and if you don’t then go back into my blog to read it. We gave up our jobs, our lives, our friends, family and animals and jumped on a plane to Christchurch, New Zealand. For the first few weeks, it was exciting and amazing to be in this new country that we felt so privileged to be in because you read so many stories of people desperate to come here and to get the opportunity that we had, that we couldn’t have felt anything other than sheer fortune at our luck. After all of our stuff arrived and the honeymoon period started wearing off, we looked around us with open eyes for the first time and realised that Christchurch wasn’t for us. Ashley got a job working in a joinery place and he found it extremely difficult to integrate with the local people and being treated like a lackey as well as the difficult hours he had to work. Our home and family life suffered terribly and when he was retrenched we actually breathed a sigh of relief. While we were there we made the most of it, we tried to make it home, we made friends, we explored and we did what we could to make it feel like weinside we weren’t happy and we knew that it wasn’t the place for us as it was so vastly different from home. Some familiarity in your environment can go a long way to make you feel more comfortable. Our friends who inspired us to move to NZ in the first place were also living in another area and we figured maybe it would be better to move near them to have people around who are like family and also the area they lived in was much more similar to our home in Waterfall. Green, lush and warmer! Christchurch’s cold was never going to be something we could get used to unfortunately, coming from Durban.
So with much anxiety, trepidation (we hadn’t even seen the place! another blind move) and gusto we made the cross island trek to a new area to try to start again (second time in 2 months). To say we were stressed, anxious and afraid yet excited was an understatement. We also got judged for leaving Christchurch and not giving it a proper go, but we took it in our stride and moved on. You can’t say the Diedericks family aren’t risk takers or scared of a challenge!
And so we arrived in the gorgeous hilly, green and much warmer Tauranga in the north island. Once again things happened very smoothly and we found a lovely house in a sought after beautiful area in just a few days. We got Lilli into a private school less than 1km away and Ashley even got work again with a joinery place and with better hours. But history repeated itself and Ashley again was treated like a lackey and battled to integrate and yet again we had a miserable husband and Dad and then he was retrenched due to them having not enough work for him to do. Luckily I earned enough to cover all our expenses and we decided that he needs to start his own business and be home based so that we can have some sense of normality in our home environment. Bearing in mind that I have always worked from home and Ashley has been a firefighter working 2 day shifts, 2 night shifts and 4 days off, so we have been used to him being at home with us for most of the day and Lill has had her Daddy with her since she was born, this was a huge adjustment when he went to work 8 hours a day every day. Both Lill and I battled not having him with us and so when he was retrenched again, everything went back to ‘normal’ and we were happy again. But then came the extreme challenge of what business to start. We both researched and discussed, priced things and researched more only to find that the things that Ashley knew were not feasible here. It’s too long to go into but pretty soon it became hopeless that he would be able to start a successful business. I also forgot to mention that getting into the Fire Dept is next to impossible and whilst he made it through the various rigorous rounds to get in and is in fact in the talent pool for a job and extremely lucky to even be in it, the chances of getting a job are virtually impossible. Basically, someone has to die or retire first for a spot to open. How do you tell a man that his qualifications, experience and achievements mean absolutely nothing in this country when he has worked so damn hard for them? How do you tell a man that he isn’t a failure for not wanting to do work that doesn’t make him happy? My beautiful strong and amazing husband’s whole life was wiped out and to him, it was as if his years in South Africa were meaningless and irrelevant. Not something that we felt is worth the sacrifice either.
So through all of this, we have been feeling very homesick, very lonely without our network of many friends and family from home and very anxious about our future here. Yes, we have been trying to make the most of it, trying to stay positive, trying to show a good and happy front because that’s what we have needed to do and believe just to survive here. There was no way that we could even entertain the idea of going home or that we weren’t happy. We couldn’t admit it to ourselves for we expended so much energy and spent so much money and took such a huge risk coming here that it wasn’t an option. We thought that we had to make it work or else we have failed. We felt like there was a point to prove that we could do this because we said we were going to and because we had to justify leaving in the first place. We shared posts about South Africa’s turmoils in a bid to convince ourselves that the reasons why we left were good enough reasons to stay. And yes most of them are very good reasons to stay and stick it out and suck it up. But when you see your child starting to lose her accent and refusing to speak to family because it hurts her too much and you realise that she will grow up without any family whatsoever and that she will have no support system here and that she will become a Kiwi and never know what it is to be South African, she will never understand what it is to be South African and she will never relate to our heritage and history – you wonder if it is all going to be worth it down the line. Ultimately we will never belong together because she will not share what we have. She will belong in a place that we never will. And that was the intention but when we realised that for us to belong too, it meant giving up and letting go of everything that made us who we are, we just couldn’t face that ultimate sacrifice. Losing your home is one thing but losing your identity to fit in is not something we are prepared to do and to fit in here, that’s what needs to be done. And maybe we are wrong but I don’t want to risk finding out. We have seen many South Africans flourish and settle in New Zealand and we are happy for them that have been able to make the adjustment to living here and that they have made a life for themselves. Kudos – because it takes immense sacrifice, dedication and strength. But we are not them and we have a different path to walk. Those people who emigrate with their families or who have a lot of money will always settle easier and will have a different experience to those who go over alone or who have to watch their pennies.
New Zealand is also very far and very expensive to get to. Visits home would be few and far between and visits from relatives and friends almost non-existent. Christmas would be spent alone and birthdays would have no family to share them with. A few of our family members we may never have seen again.
When we finally decided to put it out on the table how we both truly felt and we actually stopped being afraid to ADMIT to each other and to ourselves how we felt, we were able to see that this whole time we have been trying to hide how we feel and have been making the best of it because we both wouldn’t dare think that going home was possible after all it took to get here and how short we’ve been here. We also thought that admitting it was admitting failure. Failure to ourselves and failure to give our daughter the future that we thought she needed.
But upon actually discussing the pros and cons and admitting our true feelings about how we felt about living here, we realised that there was only one solution, one solution to us all being happy. We opened up to the possibility of going home and we sat down and really spoke about it. We called family and friends and asked what they thought, we weighed up everything. Have we given it enough time? Do we want to stay just to prove a point? What would that help? If we know in our hearts that we won’t be happy here and we aren’t happy for the sacrifices we have to make to be here, is it fair to us or Lilli to stay? How will we feel when people judge us for leaving? How will we handle the judgement along with this anxiety of what needs to be done to go home? Will we regret our decision when we are home? How will we ensure our daughter’s future is safe and bright (the whole reason we brought her here!) Some questions we don’t have answers to and some questions we do.
What we do know is that we took a huge risk in coming here. The unknown. We took a scary chance on a new life and we expected it to be everything we needed. It took coming to New Zealand for us to finally realise and appreciate what we have in South Africa. We can see opportunities now that we never did before. We are freed from the burden of “What if”, we have come, we have seen, we have tried as hard as WE can and we have the guts to admit that we cannot do it. We are not failures, we are not quitters. We are explorers, we are adventurers and we are writing our own future for ourselves come what may. We do not need the approval of anyone for OUR lives and we will continue to do what we can to ensure our daughter has a great future, wherever we may be. But for her to have a truly great future and be happy, her family unit needs to be strong and happy too and she needs her family around her, and that’s what we are giving her and us. The freedom to be ourselves and to live not just survive.
We feel that instead of pushing it out any longer, we should just count our blessings, cut our losses and come home. If you know, you know. There is no point prolonging the agony, getting our child into a happy routine with family and friends is our most important goal now. And so it begins! The THIRD time we have to do this in 6 months. Our souls are tired and our hearts are anxious but at least we know what is in store and we have done this before. We ask for support, not condemnation because this has been the most difficult decision we have ever made. We need understanding that our journey is not yours or anyone else’s and that our path is taking us where we are meant to go. We trust our decision and we ask our family and friends to as well.
We have tried always to do what’s best for our family and for us and we will continue to do so. Going home is our new adventure and we are excited to use our newfound wisdom to create a better life for ourselves in a land that we love despite her problems. We will endure, we will strive to help make our country great again and we will stick it out because our hearts belong in South Africa with our tribe. It took coming this far to realise this and we won’t waste the lessons we have learnt. We look forward to starting over with a better perspective, an open attitude and a clear conscience.
Get the braai’s fired up, the drinks cold, the biltong out and warn the Spur and John Dory’s that we are on our way.