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5 Months of Perspective

Cape Town skyline at dusk.

Although it took a little more than closing my eyes, tapping the heels of my red shoes together and repeating “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home”, I feel rather like Dorothy returning home after her adventures in the Land of Oz. What an incredible story, but man is it good to be home!! Waking up in sunny South Africa, in our beautiful city that looks even better than it did when we left, makes it hard to believe that what we did for the past 5 months actually happened. The ending to this story could very easily be, ‘and they woke up and it was all a dream’… except for our all-consuming jetlag, lily-white complexions and lack of a house. Yes, our homelessness knows no bounds.

In planning for our trip we decided to rent our house out for 6 months in order to help cover the costs. Obviously our returning early means little to the munchkins living in our home, so until they move on, we have made camp in what can only be described as truly exceptional friends homes. We arrived at Melissa and Austin’s house on Friday morning, and positively exploded. To be clearer, I should say our luggage exploded and we collapsed. Bar the light fittings, we’ve had clothing hanging from almost every available surface. These last few days have looked like someone has begun a laundry service from the Fagan’s normally beautifully ordered home. With the utmost grace and warmth though, we have been absorbed into the home and the now 4 adult 4 child home is pulsing with life at all hours of the day and night, it is wonderful! Chaotic, yes, but after missing our friends like we have, coming back to this is exciting and replenishing.

In fact, since we arrived home on Friday, we have had no lack of excitement. We barely had time to unpack (actually we didn’t at all, we decided to sleep Friday away instead) before heading off to a 35th birthday party on Friday night, where Lincoln and Lola managed to convince their best little friend Owen, to stay awake with them until almost 2am when he passed out, only half an hour before they themselves were herded to the sleeping chambers. Eastern Standard Time seems somewhat tricky to get out of the system!

The following days consisted of beautiful sunny beach visits, 30th birthday’s and lunch’s with dearly missed friends and family, all of which exciting, none of which we were fully awake for. We reserved fully awake status for 2am when we should have been getting our extensively desired beauty rest. One week on however, and we seem to be finding our feet again.

In my sleep-deprived state during our migration from Wyoming… to New York… to London… to Cape Town, I neglected to fully illuminate the motives behind our final demise. After much interrogation from friends and family (and questioning into whether I was pregnant again – I mean really! It’s been almost 4 years since our winning streak and we’ve gleaned a thing or two on how babies are made since then), I thought it best to fill the rest of you in.

To put it simply, we were just tired. Tired of packing, tired of moving, tired of trying to fit in more than is humanly possible into 24 hours, tired of lots more besides, but more important than what we were tired of, is what we were looking forward to! We wanted friends, family, summer, stability, not living out of a suitcase, picnics on our beach, good food, date nights, our bicycles, our own beds, abundant kitchen utensils, homes with gardens, homes with more than one bedroom, homes without neighbours below us!.. a warm sun, South African accents, a currency that’s worth something in its own land, a nation of colour, a nation of diversity, a population that allows their children to run free… we longed for home.

Our arrival back in Cape Town looked rather epic.

Our arrival back in Cape Town looked rather epic.

What we learned in our 5 months in the States, is that the grass isn’t always greener. The grass may be a different shade of green, longer in some places, denser in others, but as with everything in life, there is no ‘one size fits all’ in the world’s diverse network of grasses. While I personally prefer grass that is allowed to grow on it’s own, with guidance and corrections, but ultimately forging its own path, others may enjoy the constant fussing and supervision given to the particular cultivars grown in the States. This was one of my biggest struggles while over there.

I believe I am a good parent, worrying when I should but also giving my children enough rope to explore and enjoy without constantly hovering and shielding them from every possible eventuality. Maintaining the belief that I am a responsible parent was challenged with every trip I made to the shops with the kids, and every walk we took down a sidewalk in a big city. There was always someone there to comment on how dangerous ‘insert chosen activity’ was; hiding under clothing racks in the shops, helping mum choose items off a shelf, jumping in the snow on the sidewalk, scooting down a hill, being further than 3 meters from me at any given time – it was exhausting, but the list was endless. Shop attendants fussed and passersby in the street commented. I can’t imagine what they would have done had they seen our kids climbing mountains or bouldering in the scary outdoors. There is most certainly a balance and obviously children can’t be left to their own devices entirely, but I felt like things were often a bit screwy with American parents, pandering and protecting younger children but letting high school age kids run amok, with teens telling parents when they are going out instead of asking, and fostering a culture of ‘what we want when we want it’ regardless of the consequences. I’m not saying South African teens are exempt from this, but it just feels amplified and mostly condoned there.

I am also certainly not saying this about everyone in or from the States, this is a general feel, more prominent in some areas than others, but what I can say is that when my South African friend introduced me to an American mum who let her 3 year old drink water from a fountain out of another child’s shoe, I immediately warmed to her. So there definitely are parents in the States who parent like I do, but they seem to be few and far between. I often felt judged, criticised, and as a result completely stressed out and on edge when I was out with the kids. I freaked out more, I reprimanded more, and behaved a bit like a Mum I would ordinarily feel sympathy for. This played no small part in our wanting our relaxed and happy Cape Town.

There are most certainly things about the States that we will miss, like not having to glue your handbag to your hip or having at least 7 shop attendants on hand making sure you can find what you need, but as far as we are concerned, good customer service and reduced crime just doesn’t beat a country with as much to offer as ours, despite the incredible things we saw in our 5 months there. Growing up in a third world country, the impressions most of us have about first world countries is hugely inaccurate, we believe there are no problems, that they have it all sorted. We give our country too little credit and always imagine everywhere else to be better. While the crime and poverty are definitely less, they have been replaced with other problems, it seems people are incapable of living without them. Visiting a ‘promised land’ like America offers a perspective on our own that is both inspiring and heartwarming. We have many issues in our country and it certainly isn’t all easy sailing, but no one chooses to live in Africa because it’s easy, you choose to live in Africa because of what it has to offer. To impart some of our newfound perspective, we are truly lucky to be able to call Africa our home. This land is something special, I hope everyone gets a chance to see that.

Interestingly, and absolutely coincidently, I am about to head out for the evening with 3 great girl friends, all of whom are American! I hope I don’t get a beating for my only half glowing account of their beautiful country 🙂

Ps. If you have somehow read this post in isolation, please read all my tales of how incredible American soil is! It truly is amazing. This is a post on how happy we are to be home… we certainly gushed about the States while we were there though! Xxx

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