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Relocation in the Time of Covid

Three months in, and it dawned on me that I haven’t documented our most recent travel very well. In fact, I have been less than forthcoming on most of our travel for the better part of 18 months. Appalling when this is primarily a ‘what are the Wuths up to now?’  blog. So, I am going to assume here that most people know we have made a rather sudden leap across half the planet and are now residing in Canada. A beautiful little seaside town (not that different from the one we left behind in sunny South Africa in fact) called Victoria, on the south-eastern tip of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Not to be mistaken with actual Vancouver, on the mainland, which is a 2-hour ferry ride away. Yes, that’s right, we have gone and holed ourselves up on an island, on arguably the most tectonically unstable piece of ground in the world, ripe for the ultimate in earth-shattering quakes to rock the planet in centuries. Because that’s how we roll. So I guess you could say we were ready, on some level, to be shaken out our boots. What we were not ready for however, was Covid 19.

So there we were, rattled and disoriented from a largely unexpected and wholly chaotic emigration, a process we began contemplating less than a year ago. As always, our ducks were nowhere near a neat formation, they were flapping wildly in irregular patterns and we were impressed when we even caught a glimpse of them. Our move was nothing less than mayhem.

And then Covid.

Our flights were cancelled and new ones had to be booked through Hong Kong, IN THE MIDDLE of the Wuhan commotion! We went well prepared with one 30ml bottle of hand sanitizer. I mean honestly! What was I thinking?
I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking; man I’m well prepared for once in my life!  Joke was on me.

What I was not thinking was that the virus was going to travel around the world within that very week, and we were all about to end up in complete lockdown pandemonium, followed by depression, binge eating, and Zoom calls as our only social interaction!

We landed in Canada and had precisely 2.5 weeks to find a home and move into it, before shops were closed and people boarded themselves up in their houses. You think moving countries is hard, try and do it when people are avoiding each other like the plague, literally. You know no one, and instead of everyone smiling and greeting you when you walk past, they cross the road when they see you coming. Plexi glass is installed in between you and anyone you are actually allowed to come into contact with. You are not allowed to shake hands with anyone you meet, and you are literally ‘meeting’ everyone, there is almost no one you already know. Introductions are super awkward as you half move forwards before remembering yourself and the rules, and quickly pull your hand back in a simultaneously apologetic and nonchalant manner. Oh the self-consciousness of the newly arrived immigrants. Not part of the in-crowd and arriving at a time that no-one new is welcome because we might be carrying that which everyone is trying so hard to avoid.

One month in and we were elated at greeting neighbours in the street. We managed to turn “hello’s” into 10 minute conversations and we were bouncing with excitement. Slowly, the fog began to lift, the sun began to shine, and we began to adjust to our new home. As people emerged from hiding, it turned out they needed smiles and reassurance almost as much as we did. People jumped at the opportunity to help us transport furniture, and the kindness and help we were offered blew us away. Not one request for help was met with refusal. People contacted us to give away furniture they no longer needed. And the shops remained closed. Amazon became the source of our home décor and stationary supplies. There simply was no other option.

I thought our multiple extended trips roaming the planet would have prepared us well for what we were undertaking… I had no idea.

So just over 3 months in and I’m pleased to say we are coping probably better than one would expect at a time like this. Largely because the kids have managed to make friends via their online classroom, and because children are free to roam the streets here, cycling to friends’ houses and playing in the skate park, they are happy. This is probably the single biggest factor for our having been able to settle. They are now back at school for 2 days a week (as it’s on a rotational basis) and they couldn’t be happier.

I am starting to find my way around the grocery stores, and I’m less homesick for what I know back home. I still find myself inadvertently thrown into a downward spiral when I hear another South African accent or when I’ve had a rough day and long for the comforts of our home we left behind. But we’re getting there.

We have thrown ourselves into house work in a way most middle class South Africans have never had to. Until now. In a slightly twisted way, we have found comfort in knowing that everyone’s lives have been thrown into the air and we are all having to find new ways to cope. It has been a balm at a time when we feel like we’ve been picked up by the feet and shaken about. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing good about Covid, but if we had to look for the good in the situation, that would be it. A sense of camaraderie.

Shaun has firmly entrenched himself in his new company and quickly distinguished himself as one of the lead mobile developers, using his South African work ethic to consistently over-deliver. South Africans pat yourselves on the back for having that reputation around the world. We are an awesome, hardworking, rainbow-coloured nation, and we have so much to offer.

We miss the rainbow of people we are used to seeing on our streets. We miss our mountain and our trails. We miss the closeness of friends. We miss the accents, the huge variety of them from all over South Africa, there is nothing like that awesomeness here. We miss our family, our blood. We miss being understood, there is so much explaining we always seem to be doing here. We miss our people. All of this makes us homesick too.

But then we take a walk along our new coastline, knowing that our sea here is the same sea that laps the shores of South Africa, and the winds that howl through the Cape sweep past our cheeks here too, and that reminds us how close we are.

For a family as ‘globe-mobile’ as ours has been, the semi-finality of this move has been hard to swallow. It doesn’t feel like home yet, so staying put for 10 years seems like a ridiculously long time! Island life is also going to require a bit of adjusting to. So will working a ‘real’ job where we have to answer to a boss that’s not ourselves.

So many new paths to explore, so much new terrain… And I guess that‘s the one sentence that sums up why we are doing it. The adventure of it all.

So South Africa, and all of you in it, we miss you all more than you know!

See you when we see you (thanks for ruining our return travel plans Covid)…

S & M & L & L


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