Recently in Re(d)patriation Category

Today, exactly 17 years ago, I set foot on U.S. soil for the very first time. 

I'll never forget the date, because I left South Africa the day after my mom's birthday (I still remember telling her that leaving the country and thereby getting out of her hair was my present to her).

I still recall the flight over too, almost in vivid detail. It was nerve-wracking, exciting and very very VERY long. Sade's album, the one on which No Ordinary Love appears, was one of British Airways' selections way back then, and I pretty much kept it on a continuous, repetitive loop. (Hearing her voice today still chills me out to the extent of jetlag. Probably not quite the listener reaction that she'd had in mind when she set out to become a musician!)

I wonder how I would have felt if I had known that once arriving there, I would not leave again for nine years. 

I think I would have totally freaked out. (To the point of not actually going in the first place.) And no one (including myself) would have believed that I would actually go through with leaving. Let alone ending up not coming home again for almost a decade. 

And if I had never gone? I wonder how life would have turned out differently for me. Kind of like a Sliding Doors effect. 

Do you have any times like that in your life where you keep on quietly wondering "what if"? Asking yourself if you would have done anything differently, how your life would have turned out instead? Would it have been better or worse? 
It is almost fitting that the good news came on Memorial Day, because although the true meaning behind the day is incredibly sombre - to remember and honour all of America's war casualties - the Memorial Day long weekend also marks the unofficial start of summer in the US. And that has traditionally always been a happy event.

Today my sunny autumn day here in South Africa became unexpectedly brighter when I found out that one of the American dreams I have harboured since returning to South Africa - a dream I had almost completely written off because I've come to believe (and I've been told) that it was simply too improbable to ever happen - is actually about to come true after all!

Here's a hint... it involves the colour green.

No, sadly, it's not THAT green thing. My South African immigration liar (note: the fact that she is the same nationality as I am was a mere coincidence and definitely not any prerequisite I had when I was frantically searching for someone to take my case) was not suddenly overcome with contrition for taking all my money and then allegedly (note: I said allegedly) never doing anything for me. (Me, bitter? Never!) My case files, which, according to her legal secretary, had inexplicably and mysteriously 'disappeared', were not miraculously retrieved all these years later and filed, leading me to realise my ultimate American Dream of finally obtaining that much coveted and long awaited Green Card (which is oddly not even green at all).

But even though it's not THAT green thing, THIS green thing is a very worthy consolation prize. It is also something I have been coveting for years.

It is this:




Just returned from a dinner party at my sister's and brother-in-law's and I'm so upset that I'm in tears.

No, not at the family. The dinner was lovely as always, the company was stellar and apart from this one girl whom I had never met before, I am acquainted with everyone else who was there.

I actually like(d?) her. Spent a long time chatting to her because she and her boyfriend were the first guests to arrive and since my sister was still getting ready, I kept her company.

She spent the whole evening talking about herself. I didn't mind, because I thought she was interesting. I'm only mentioning that she was talking about herself because of what happened so entirely out of the blue later on.

Before I get to that, here's something else that has happened to me over these past two weeks (it's related to this story). My little old car almost died last week. The mechanic managed to resurrect it for an incredible amount of money (which, luckily, I was able to afford at the time), but my brother-in-law worried that it was on its last wheels and that I would get stranded somewhere. So he went out and bought me a slightly new(er) car!!! Same make but considerably less vintage than the other one. Got it at a great price, but I've already worked out a plan to pay him back every single cent. AND I'm giving him all the money from the sale of the old car, since he had initially bought that one too and I had never been in a position to pay him back for it.

Anyway, so over the course of the evening, people came up to me and remarked about my "hot new wheels" (it really is, to me! I drove it for the first time on Thursday) and so at some point - and since it's no secret that my brother-in-law paid for it - I said: "Yes, don't I have the BEST brother-in-law?"

So this girl, whom I had been listening to all evening, and who knows nothing about me apart from the fact that I freelance and that I'm 34 years old  - turns back to me when we are alone again and says: "You know, you really ought to be more independent. I mean, at some point they are going to get sick of helping you."

I was so gobsmacked, because: She had just spent the entire evening telling me how she, at 30, was living with her parents again. Who is paying for her to study. Again. (She had attempted the university/studying thing plenty of times before but had never figured out what she wanted to do, so she never bothered to finish anything. And I had just spent the whole evening telling her how interesting that makes her!)

I was honestly so taken aback that I didn't even say anything back to her. So I just... didn't. (Luckily the party moved to the kitchen for coffee right around then, so I started speaking to someone else.) But the more I thought about it, the more upset I became. So much so that later, when I was driving home, I totally burst into tears.

I'm still crying a bit (writing is helping though), but now I'm getting a bit more angry. Now I'm asking myself where she gets off for making such a judgement about me. How DARE she? She had never even laid eyes on me before tonight, and most of our conversation had revolved around her and her life (which I seriously didn't mind! As I've said, I found her fascinating, and hey, since I'm not exactly a poster child for success in life, career or love, I am the last person to judge anyone else), so where exactly did her remarks come from?

Now of course... and I hate this about myself... the self-doubt starts to niggle at me again. That horrid voice starts to whisper. It asks: "Well, if there are no truth to her words, why are you so bothered and hurt by it?"

Well, we all know the answer to that, don't we? We all know that I HAVE relied on my family a lot since returning, tail-between-the-legs, humiliated and with absolutely NOTHING to my name from the States three years ago. But, in my own feeble defence, I've come a long way since those early days. I'm working. I live alone (yes, still in my humble little room, but at least I pay my own rent and I buy my own food and coffee). Yes, measured against other people my age, I know I fall WAY short in terms of possessions, savings, etc. But then again, what DOES constitute success exactly? Who determines it? Isn't the fact that I'm doing a job that I absolutely love and adore enough? That I'm living my passion? That I'm truly content to be by myself? That I've made strides to cultivate this independence?

Yes, bastard voice in my head. A few years ago I definitely was NOT independent. But dammit, now I am. Yes, my family still helps me an unspeakable amount, but it's considerably less than it was when I first returned home.

But still, I'm so, so, so hurt by her stupid remarks. And now the doubt is creeping in that I'm still not enough of anything and that I will never, ever be. 

She totally got to me.

Nessun Dorma

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After hearing the vague cheering (and not being able to make out whether it was cheers or jeers) through the movie I was watching, I'm delighted to tell you that we won't be getting any sleep in these parts tonight.

That's right. We won!!!

Final score: England 6, South Africa 15.

I'm lucky enough to be in Cape Town at the moment (usually my stomping grounds are a bit further inland, in Stellenbosch), where the excitement in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup (our Springbok team will be playing against England) has officially reached fever pitch.

The sun has just set on a lovely summer's day, and not even the dark, chilly fog rolling in across the sea is doing much to dampen spirits around here.

From the celebratory noises - shrill car hooters piercing the air, people blowing on vuvuzelas (for the non-South Africans among you, a vuvuzela is a metre-long, brightly coloured plastic air horn that produces a noise not unlike an elephant's trumpeting when blown on it, and very popular with South Africans showing support at sporting events), people cheering and singing - one would swear that the match has already been won. Not even New Year's Eve inspires THIS much excitement in South Africa! It is almost palpable enough for a person like me who is (and admitting this on tonight of all nights will be akin to blasphemy, I'm sure) rather indifferent to the game to also be swept up in the enthusiasm.

This neighbourhood is packed with foreign tourists, and they have been leaning over their balconies and watching the madness going on in the street and on the stretch of beach visible from here with good-natured smiles. The match kicks off in a few hours' time in Paris, and if there is a favourable outcome, I predict that we won't be able to get any sleep tonight. I wonder if the tourists will still be so understanding then? (I'll feel especially sorry for the British tourists... NOT!)

So how's YOUR weekend going?

Late this afternoon, I went to a shopping mall with my mom, my aunt and my sister.

Unlike most girls, I loathe shopping malls. But that's another story for another day.

On the way there, we drove on the three-lane highway, passing many subdivisions filled with identical houses. We also passed many advertising billboards, a big Toys "R" Us, a KFC, and a McDonald's.

At the mall, I wandered past a Nine West, a big local clothing store advertising that they're now selling clothes from the Gap, a Claire's and a Guess store.

But I almost wept from happiness when I discovered that this place* had just opened at the mall a month ago, and that they are the very first one in South Africa.

I immediately ran up to the shop, shrieking with delight. It was only once I had flung my entire body across the display counter, hugging it, that I overheard the manager telling one of the very stunned looking staff members: "She must be American. Only the American tourists have been reacting that way."

Now I only need a Starbucks.

Then again, a Green Card and a plane ticket back to D.C. won't hurt too badly either!

*What, surely you didn't think that I had gained weight in the States through sheer osmosis, did you?

In the closet

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Even though YOU probably don't know, I can assure you that all of my phantom readers are aware of my addiction to and subsequent elaborate collection of how-to books.

These books have followed me all the way back from the United States to Stellenbosch. Then from Stellies to the town of By George! And now that I have my own place (read: room), they are back in Stellenbosch with me.

The boxes containing my beloved how-to tomes arrived a bit after me. And since my has-been but ergonomically and economically friendly executive chair - the only piece of furniture I actually own - is devouring a lot of space in the room, it will take some planning to get a bookshelf in there.

So until then, the boxes and boxes of books have been carefully and lovingly stacked in the closet.

And now I'm wondering: Does that make me a closet intellectual?

My Big News

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Okay, okay... so Monday's come and gone.

In my own defence, I had actually meant NEXT Monday. So I'm going to do something frightfully out of character and reveal my news early.

Okay, honestly? I just wanted you all to hold your breaths long enough so that you could get permanent brain damage, because no one in their RIGHT minds will read this blog, and I really want readers.

And now for the news...

"Grainy," because all these pics were taken with my cell phone. Let's pretend it was done on purpose, for artistic effect, shall we?

So, if a picture really IS worth a thousand words, then prepare to settle in for a hefty epic.

By the way, most of the pics you're about to see were taken around the same time as my one and only mug shot.

Below is the view (or rather, a vague idea of the view, because it's really much more impressive in real life) from my bedroom here at my mom's house. That mountain range is known as the Outeniqua, which is a Khoisan word meaning either "they who bear honey" or "place of honey." (At least all the translators were sweet enough to agree that honey was somehow involved.)

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The bamboo wind chimes outside my mom's art studio provides a restful vibe. (Or maybe it's my recently upped dose of antidepressants?) Very Zen though, yes?

wind chimes.jpg

Room with a view.jpg

And remember that book gig I had in April? Well, these were my trusty assistants.

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Popping into the office to take my coffee orders.

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My other assistant emulating me on the job.

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The absolutely perfect and very generous welcome home present I received from my brother-in-law. A book for every year that I was gone, and one extra for pain and suffering. (He didn't specify whose pain and suffering.) Had I known I would be rewarded for every year away, I would have stuck it out for at least another decade!

welcome home present.jpg

Just some of what my mom gets up to in her art studio.

mom painting.jpg

And now I've officially pushed the limits on my daily allotted data. (I've worked out a strict "data diet" in order not to go over my cap. (And y'all KNOW how I feel about dieting! Let's just say, no wonder it contains the word "die." Suddenly all I want to do is eat all the Gigabytes my little laptop and my internet connection can possibly generate!)

Oh, these tiny bytes hurt the deepest! Only 30 days to go before I get a new share.

Suddenly I LOATHE months with 31 days...

Reality Bytes

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Patience is an annoying, torturous, gratification-delaying, highly overrated virtue.

But patience DOES pay off... Eventually.

After another three month "visit" (sheesh, didn't ANYONE pay attention and get the hint when I went to the States for a quick jaunt and ended up staying there for NINE YEARS?) on my bro-in-law and sister's farm in Stellenbosch, I returned to my mom's house in the wild, hip, happening city of By George! (Located about four hours east of Cape Town.)

When I left here three months ago, I had no laptop, no job and the internet situation was DIRE (otherwise spelled like this: D-I-A-L-U-P.)

I returned with a freelance internet writing/editing job, a laptop (yes!) AND a high speed (yes, really, even by international standards) wireless internet connection.

The laptop virtually dropped from the sky and into my lap (which, come to think of it, is a rather excellent place for a laptop to land). It's beautiful, if a tad vintage and temperamental, but a recent expert opinion has revealed that, with careful handling, it ought to see me through for a while longer.

It contains a DVD-writer (so we're happy to report that at least one true writer is associated with the laptop!).

The data usage on the wireless connection is also capped (only if you have MEGA bucks and/or live in a large metropolis can you get uncapped internet in South Africa, but their twisted definition of "uncapped" and an "all you can eat broadband!" buffet still means you are allotted only 10 Gigs to send and receive data. Scary, isn't it?), but at least I don't have to pay per minute anymore and land into this kind of trouble!

So I'm hereby the proud owner of 500 measly Megabytes per month. Yes, per MONTH, folks. That was the amount I used up in like three seconds back in the civilised world.

But even though my wireless data card has turned out to be a greedy little sucker, already devouring up scary amounts of precious megabytes from my account limit (and I've only had it since Tuesday) despite the fact that I'm not streaming anything, or downloading anything (other than opening webpages) it's still fantastic because I don't have to use THEM.

So goodbye streaming radio and video!

And fare thee well, beloved music downloads!

But hello again beloved internet and blog! Brace yerselves, 'cause I'm back.



















about
is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
Or you can stalk her send her some love via e-mail at: redsaid[AT]gmail[DOT]com

The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)

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  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Terra: YES! Wait... you didn't think that I would be this possessed to post for NO REASON, did ya???... [go]
  • Terra.Shield : OH! ... [go]
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  • Marco Author Profile Page: I personally think it is a mindset that has been cultivated over the years, and one, if not stemmed,... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Ms. Crazy Cat Lady Pants!!! Squeeeee! Sooo good to see you! (I thought NO ONE was bothering to read ... [go]
  • Ms. Pants : Kitties don't get enough credit sometimes. (All times, if you ask me, but I'm a Crazy Cat Lady.)... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Hey Tamara! I know, right?? That is a tough act to follow indeed. I adored that dentist. He used to ... [go]
  • Tamara Tipton : Well, I am not sure how any dentist could live up to that standard! LOL! I hope your appointment was... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: I'm really really glad that I'm not the only one, Po! Sometimes I drive myself mad with all the what... [go]
  • Po : Those questions run through my heads for various times in my life too, that is for sure!... [go]
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