After completing Matric, Jacqueline de Rozario-Knezevich, sold her first car and bought a one-year return ticket to England. The plan was to work hard, save money and come home to buy her first house cash. Little did she know it was going to be a 14-year staycation.
It all changed when I met my British husband. He always knew my heart and soul belonged in South Africa and although he would’ve moved for me, I wanted it to be his decision. So for the next 13 years, it was mine and my mom’s mission to try convince him how wonderful South Africa was.
So, apart from the mandatory family and friend visits, I made sure I showed him our country’s best assets. From vineyards in Cape Town, bunny chows in Durbs, spas, Soweto tours, Kruger National Park, Warmbaths, Bourkes Luck Potholes, riding elephants to staying at the Palace of the Lost City. We had officially seen more of SA than our friends who lived there. A tourist in “my own backyard”.
My husband’s main reason for not wanting to make the move was the then painfully slow internet, and therefore not much demand for his level of web development experience. A decade later things had changed. We took every opportunity to travel in search of somewhere similar to South Africa. However, there was nowhere that touched home. The happiest I was in England was on my way out at the airport. The weather was quite dull and travel and couple time slowed down after having our first child. I been a stay at home mom since having children. It only made sense taking into account the exorbitant fees for nursery for 2 under 2’s in the UK.
Just before the kids were school age we came for what would probably be our last holiday to SA, considering we would have to visit in school holidays which was far more expensive. We stayed for 3 months. My husband came for 3 weeks of it. At a family gathering during this trip, we were all in the pool whilst the tannies and ooms were around the braai “kuiering” and my husband finally said the words, “It’s so great here, let’s move!?” My jaw dropped, I couldn’t get a pen and paper out quick enough to have it in writing. We then went back home to start decorating for the sell-up and I enrolled the kids on the waiting list of a good school in SA.
The buying and selling procedure in England is a whirlwind on its own. After “selling” the house for the 3rd time, we eventually returned home 2 days before the kids were due to start school. The transaction only went through after we were in SA much to our relief. My husband was going to be working for his British company which fell through, so he started job hunting and was surprised to find how many interviews were set up. He was offered a job in the first week he looked. We are truly blessed that everything fell into place so smoothly. We were staying with ecstatic grandparents until we found our dream home complete with swimming pool, tennis court and “man cave” for a third of our property price in England, which given the favourable exchange rate, we could buy for cash. Mortgage-free, my dream finally realised. We also adopted our first pet, a Siberian Husky who all four of us fell in love with.
Two years in, and I am so happy and thank God every day for my kids, my marriage, my family and friends. My family have all benefited from our move back home. While I have missed out on a lot: weddings, births and other celebrations, I don’t regret my time abroad, it has made me who I am today. But I can honestly say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Since we have been back, we have been to water parks, outdoor cinemas, lively Joburg inner city rooftop bar tours, international shows and festivals including Joburg Day. We no longer need to get on a plane for a holiday, everything is on our doorstep. Our kids can enjoy their childhood a little longer as school starts later. After school, they come home and swim or ride their bikes. Our kids are in a great private school and the private medical has been faultless so far. I am still getting used to going to the doctor and actually getting diagnosed. Before, I would get discouraged from going to doctors particularly with the children, as it was difficult to get an appointment on the NHS in England and I could never get a diagnosis or was told to “wait a few days”. I take my dog for walks with the neighbours almost daily and the kids are able to play with the neighbour’s kids. We had a street braai the other month with all our neighbours. My kids are babysat by their grandparents who couldn’t be happier, and we can look forward to the occasional adult night.
SA is so child friendly too. We can eat out again, not only is it affordable, but it is geared for kids from play areas to a piece of chalk or dough in a pizzeria. It’s not only restaurants, I go to clothing stores, chemists and dentists and kids are catered for. Many of the places we go to even offer babysitting facilities. People are so friendly and helpful. I have however been surprised at some of the expenses. It’s not as cheap as I remember, but you also get what you pay for.
At the end of the day, it’s the sun beating down on sun-kissed skin straight from the pool, the smells of braais lighting up, the sight of nature, sunsets and space, food has never been so good, fresh and abundant, and the sounds of the Highveld thunderstorm. I won’t say anything about the hadedas, we have 20 living in our tree next to our bedroom. It certainly never makes us late for work or school! The unconditional love this country holds, it’s people fearless and brave…it’s good to be alive again. I have much optimism for this beloved country I call HOME.