This last week or so has been all about goodbyes. Goodbye to friends and acquaintances, goodbye to favourite haunts, goodbye to lovely, leafy Stellenbosch and the Cape.
Because this weekend, we’ll be jumping in the car with our suitcases and making the 1,200km Great Trek through the heart of South Africa to Johannesburg, as so many have done before us.
Although I have as yet to see our new place as there simply wasn’t time for me to haul my carcass up there if we wanted to secure the property, my one consolation, given my reluctance to leave our current home, is that at least it’s in our desired location, Parkhurst.
I’m looking forward to being able to walk five minutes down the street from there to Fourth Avenue to have a cup of fruit tea, or a refreshing alcoholic beverage of an evening should the fancy take me, instead of having to drive everywhere – or plan in advance to guarantee a tuk-tuk courtesy of the hard-working and enthusiastic guys at Tuk-Tuk Stellies, which finally opened its doors for business a couple of months ago.
And I’m also looking forward to seeing more of my Beloved who’ll now be coming home to me every night rather than just on a Friday.
Although he may not be quite so enthusiastic after he’s got a day’s work behind him, I’m keen to use our new-found time together productively – we’ve talked about learning to horse-ride, for instance, which could be fun, and should help our latest proposed new healthy eating/fitness regimen as well.
But I’ll miss my life in Stellenbosch too. I’ll miss sitting out on our shady patio, gaining inspiration from my lovely white and purple garden and the canopy of trees beyond it, as I write my blog or edit content from the Vision AfriKa team, the educational charity for which I do voluntary work.
I’ll miss my thrice-weekly routine of going to the gym in town, followed by a bit of food and life’s-little-necessities shopping in the Eikestad Mall.
And then there’s my always-entertaining weekly Afrikaans lesson in the Food Lover’s Market café and/or a wander around the genteel, oak-lined boulevards with their whitewashed buildings as I work down my to-do list.
But I’ll also miss our little weekend trips to beautiful and interesting places – to the coast for a spot of whale-watching, into Cape Town for a touch of urban fun or to a wine farm for a fabulous Sunday lunch with stunning views over the surrounding countryside.
While that’s not to say that Jozi won’t have its own delights, it inevitably won’t be the same – and nor should it be. Change happens for a reason, as they say, and it’s pointless getting bogged down in nostalgia. Life moves on.
Nonetheless, I’ll look back at my time in Stellenbosch with pleasure – and with gratitude. It’s been a time where I’ve learned a lot.
I’ve learned much more about South Africa’s troubled history, which, always lurking in the shadows, still seems so extant in many ways. I’ve learned some of the quirks and foibles of the country’s many and varied cultures – and what “Africa time” really means.
But at a more personal level, I’ve also learned to be less afraid. Less afraid of new encounters, less afraid of taking risks, less afraid, even, of my old bugbear, driving.
Because as life has opened up leaving my former stress-filled, work-filled, computer-filled days behind, I too have opened up, becoming happier and less anxious in the process.
The great secret, of course, will be remembering how to maintain this state of honeyed calm once I re-enter the workforce. Nevertheless, it’s taken some effort to get here.
Still, quiet voice
It’s not surprising really, but once your life slows down drastically and the potential-filled days stretch ahead to do with as you will, all that you’re really left with is yourself and the still, quiet voice within.
And so it is that you hear it, perhaps even for the first time. But it doesn’t always make for easy listening. In my case, it was all about self-criticism and duty, all the ‘I should/I ought/I really must do this and that’ – an internal dialogue that had presumably been going on for years.
But I found it was making me miserable and so I stopped it. As simple as that. I just refused to listen and focused instead on doing something that I had a yen to do at that moment.
So rather than beat myself up because I wasn’t working on the novel that I started years ago but never had time to complete, I wrote a children’s book instead.
Rather than worry in case I wasn’t doing enough regular journalism to keep my hand in, I developed an editorial strategy and became content editor for Vision AfriKa.
Which leads me to another salient point. If ever you find yourself moving to a foreign country minus a work visa, it’s definitely worth at least having some idea of how you might like spend your time.
The danger is that life can start feeling pretty pointless pretty quickly if you have no routine and drift around without any positive idea of how to fill your days.
In my case though, I’m happy to say that, some 10 months on and bar finishing that novel, I’ve pretty much managed to do everything that I wanted to do. And, excitingly, given the amusements that our new locale should have to offer, we still have just over a year to go.