Sunday, 31 July 2011

Be prepared, the end is near

Even though it is Sunday, it is quite a coincidence that this sounds like a preaching. I am talking about our Big Wait before the Big Move.
You see, last year in July, we decided to apply to emigrate to Australia. In August we met the emigration agent, in September we formally started the process and 10 months later … viola… we have our visa’s.  Permanent Residency!
Everybody who’s been through this process knows that it is no Sunday school picnic.  It is time consuming and a real struggle to get the right documents to the right person by the right time. Fortunately, our process went fast.
Not that I am ungrateful that our process went so smooth and so fast, but the speed just caused a little problem …. We are not ready to go yet.
If it all depended on us, we would move tomorrow, but unfortunately there are some issues to sort out first. Sarel need to finalise some issues with his business and we need to sell our house.
The house has been in the market since January 2011 and we only had 2 couples who came and see the house!!!! I knew the house would be an obstacle, but this!!! This is ridiculous. I know you need a lot of patience to sell a house, but my patience is a bit short for now.  I will just have to bite the bullet and deal with it. Who knows when the end is here?
We know that the end can be near (or far away) and we need to be prepared, every day! (Really sounds like a Biblical preach, but I am not talking about any spiritual event.  I am talking about our Big Move.  But I am sure there is some spiritual lessen in this)
Knowing that the end may be close is filtering into our everyday live and decisions. A week or so ago I went to our local SUPERSPAR to buy some bread, milk and other everyday items.  I also saw that the large Dettol Bars of Soap are on special.  50% off! What a bargain?!!!!! A quick mental inventory check reminded me that we are low on bath soap, so there and then I decided to stock up on bars of soap.  My mother always taught me to by in bulk quantities when I see a good bargain, so I decided on a stockpile of bars. (Remember, we are a family of 5!)
But before I got to the check-out point, I realised…. The end may be near!
We use this size soap at a rate of about 1 per month and if I buy so many, I have way more than a year's worth of soap! I have too many! What if we move within the next 6 months? Can I take it with? Should I take it with? No, it is too many! How many will be enough?  Two? Six? Ten?  I don’t know!!!
I settled on few month's bars of soap.  I feel comfortable with that.
The end may be near.  I just wished I knew when, but until then, we live, knowing it can be any day now.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

I am a "late blogger”

As they say, rather late than never. 
I only recently discovered the wonderful world of blogging.  Not just blogging myself, but reading other peoples blogs.   Hopefully not a great loss … I just have so much to catch up on. Can’t believe I never really had any interest.  Obviously I knew about blogs and read a little every now and then, but never had a keen interest.
I discovered topics I never thought I would read; discovered fellow blogging friends whom I never know were blogging; and best of all, have been entertained on the same level as reading a good book, autobiography or watching a movie. (some of them!)
Thank you blogging world!
I may be a “late blogger”, but I am happy I am one now.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


After our return from our holiday in Australia in July 2010, I felt differently about South Africa. 
I am sure there are many who came to a new realisation without leaving South Africa.  Some leave SA on holiday or emigration and come back with more positive views than before they left.   I came back with a changed perspective. Not necessarily negative, just different. 
It feels to me as if I opened “Pandora’s Box”. I realized, saw, experienced and felt something which can not be undone.  I am different. Difficult to put my feelings in words, but these feelings are there. It is real, I can’t argue with it.
Did I get an insight into something others already knew? 
Please understand; I still love South Africa.  This is my country of birth.  This is the country my ancestors fought for. South Africa helped raise me, sculpted me, formed me.  But …. as it is today, it is not the same country any more.  The country I am talking about is not there anymore. 
I only realised now that most of us already emigrated - since 1994.  It was just a very slow process.  With every street name that changed.  With every “package” offered to the white employees. With every TV channel that transformed. Schools are different.  Values are different. People’s way of living is different. We all emigrated, we just did not move yet. 
This new country … some like it, some don’t. Some accepted it, some didn’t.  Some work toward a new future for all, some just toward a future for themselves.  We all experience it differently.
I feel like the little frog which ended up in a pot on a stove.  He did not realise that the water is slowly heating up; he was gradually getting used to the temperature.  By the time he realized that the water is boiling, it is too late to leap out.
I realised that my water is getting too hot for me and I want out.   
It took me a long time to come to this decision, but I feel uprooted.  I am ready to find my roots somewhere else. Somewhere, where I feel welcome.

Saturday, 23 July 2011


The general feeling in South Africa about crime is that it has to be serious before we worry about it.  The last time we were burgled, we did not even phone the police.

Serious crime is injury, rape or death.  We hear that somebody got tied up during a house robbery and we say: “Thank God you were not raped!”

Being burgled or having your car or wallet stolen are common.  It is more of a nuisance to get the insurance, ID and drivers licence sorted out.  

I believe some dinner conversations revolves about a person’s PS.  That is a Personal Story about crime. Well, I do not have a PS, because my burglary story is not news worthy.  No drama, no big losses and no valuables stolen.

Until a while ago, I believed that because we do not have a PS, crime did not affect me.

I even told everyone that crime is not the reason we are leaving South Africa.

That was until we went to watch a baseball game of my stepson, Aaron. I received a text message from a neighbour that one of the houses in our security estate got burgled. I asked Sarel that we should go home immediately to see if our house is fine.

Sarel’s reaction: “Oh, I thought you said crime does not affect you? Now you want to run home and check if all is fine? What about our family outing?”

Can it be? Even without a PS, crime affected me... in ways I forgot.  Just because we escaped the statistics on serious crime, it does not mean that it does not affect our normal life style.

Why are we emigrating?

The decision to emigrate is not necessarily an easy one.
Some people are doing it because it is the “flavour of our generation”. Others do it because they are trying to keep up wit the Jones’s or the brother or friend or whoever.
Some are doing it because of political reasons. They do not want to be ruled by a black government or they are not happy with the way our new South Africa has turned out.
There are the few who are doing it for the children and some are doing it to better their own future. For better working conditions or career development. Others are trying to get away from the Big B-word – Black Economic Empowerment or BEE.
Then there are the majority who are moving because of safety.  South Africa is not safe any more.
On our 3rd day of our holiday in Australia last year, I noticed some Afrikaans speaking people on the ferry.  I went over to them and had a quick chat.  Coincidently, they told me that they used to live about a kilometre from us in Centruion.  Small world! They’ve been in Australia for 3 months at that point. During our conversation the lady asked me if we are going to emigrate as well.  Seeing that we did not have such a decision lined up at that point, I told her no.  She tried to sell the idea to me by telling me I should consider it as Sydney is a very clean city.
These may be very nice people but at that point I did not want to chat to them any further.  How can I make a life changing decision such as emigration based on the cleanliness of a city? Now, everybody who knows South Africa knows it is not necessarily clean all over, but it is not a reason to want to leave my country of birth.
Last week, a friend asked me why we are emigrating.  In short I wanted to joke and tell him because of Malema, but then, maybe it is not a joke J.  The short reason is definitely that we want to give the kids a better future.
The long reason: I think it is a combination of all the reasons above. There is no single reason resulting in my decision.  Some people leave South Africa directly after being robbed or after a loved one or friend has been murdered. This was not the case with me. 
In Australia I felt save, I could see what your tax money gives you. Australians are 1st world people. The focus in Australia is on individual development and in the prosperity of the country. Not on who made the biggest toilet boo-boo or who can cheat the taxpayer out of most money.
I grew up in a first world.  This is how I reason, think and operate.
Only after 3 weeks holiday in a 1st world, did I realize that South Africa is long time not the 1st world country I grew up in.
I crave to be in a first world again. My decision was easy, once I realized this.

The “E” word

I never thought I would be part of this big mass departure out of South Africa.  In fact, I remember that early in the previous decade, a colleague came to greet us.  He and his family were moving to Australia ....or somewhere.  I politely greeted him and wished him and his family well on their move and new ventures. I did not think much of it, but I do remember that I thought, let them go … it leaves more work opportunities for me and my family.  Naïve thinking ???
I never thought emigration is wrong, nor did I think it is right.  I just didn’t have an opinion about it.  If you want to do it, do it. If you want to stay, stay.
My deceased husband, Jan, always had this idea of moving or working somewhere else. He wanted to drive ice trucks in Canada/USA.  The next month he wanted to go work on an oil rig and other ideas including fishing in the icy northern seas.  Most of these types of adventure jobs can be seen on the Discovery Channel now.  Jan had an invisible adventure driven motor inside him and I am sure he would have made a huge success of any of these adventure jobs, but I felt he should be with his family. My opinion: his first priority should be with his wife and kids.
This in mind, Jan came home with a new idea… let’s move to Australia.  He can drive trucks through the outback.  After thinking about it for about a second I told him I do not want our kids to be without their grandparents.  As it was at that stage, we lived more than 500 km’s from our parents.  That was an 5+ hour’s drive or 40 minutes flight to see the grandchildren. How would they feel about an 8+ hours flight to see them?  It just did not feel right to me.
My opinion did not stop Jan from seeking to quench his adventure thirst and by the time he died in a car accident in 2005, he was busy researching several other ideas.
Soon after I met Sarel in 2006, I realized that his heart is also in some other country.  Not because he has an adventure seeking personality like Jan, but because he has had so much experience in other countries.  His mother is Dutch and Sarel has been exposed to Europe since childhood. As a Software Engineer he was sent to various countries for training or to do some other work. After University he went on a tour of Europe and in his career he’s been back to Europe several times.  Also been to USA, Russia, Mexico and several other countries for work and pleasure. He also lived and worked in London for a few months.
My international experience at the time I met Sarel was limited to Namibia.  Jan worked there as a Mechanic during the time they built the tar road in the Caprivi. I went to visit him for 3 weeks.  It was an awesome holiday, but, nothing different to South Africa. It was still the bushveld – just like we are used to in South Africa. Same culture, same lifestyle …. Nothing different.
In 2007 Sarel had to attend a training session in Greece and he organized for me to accompany him on the trip.  My first real “overseas” trip!!!
I was so not impressed with the Greek. We only had time to be in Athens and did not go to the islands, but in Athens, no sign of friendliness … Except in the tourist area, Plaka.  I think they were only friendly because they wanted our tourist money.  Athens reminded me of Cape Town … Table Mountain replaced with the Parthenon. But it was not a neat city. The gardens were not maintained, cars were not washed.  I did not like it.  The food were excellent though. I would love to go back one day … for the food and to experience the islands.
After Greece we went to London for a few days. This was a wonderful experience. The people were friendly and I enjoyed it.  We were lucky enough to get the best weather.  You know those 4 days of sunshine back in 2007, those were the 4 days we were in London J
We even visited friends of Sarel in the London Suburbs. I enjoyed seeing how people lived in London.  It really helps to see normality and not just to experience all the tourist things.
I thought it is not impossible to see me living in the UK.  But only for a while, maybe only for a couple of years.  Give the kids an opportunity to see Europe and then move back to South Africa.
That e-word, E-M-I-G-R-A-T-I-O-N … yes that one … I think not …. Not for me.  Let the others go ….
My roots are here in South Africa.
Or is it?

Friday, 22 July 2011

Keeping 2 Blogs of the same topic?

Yes, I did go a bit blog-trigger-happy and started 2 blogs at the same time, BUT … there is some method in the madness….
I come from an Afrikaans (South African) background.  Many of my friends and family who will be following my blog will prefer to do so in Afrikaans. 
I also have lots and lots of English friends and they will prefer English.  Thus, instead of doing one blog and confusing all with the shifting between 2 languages, I decided to do 2 blogs.
Some of the feeds will be different and some will be translations of each other.
Since our initial decision to emigrate, I have been keeping a diary and decided to blog this info but only once we announced our emigration plans to all our loved ones. 
This done, it is time.
There are mainly 2 reasons I have this blog:
Reason 1: For my friends and family to keep track of our developments and to be able to let all know what is happing to us once we are settled down under.
Reason 2: For friends, family, acquaintances and strangers who want to learn from our process (our mistakes and successes).  I enjoy reading other emigrates’ stories via blogs and think that our move may also be a lesson to other people. 

So here go my adventures of our big migration.

Introducing: My family

Before I tell more about our emigration adventures, I would like to introduce you to my modern fashioned family.  In total we are 6 in the family. 
Me, Chantel:
The wife / MOM of the family.  Grew up in Alberton. Got my 1st degree in Social Work.  Did my post grad in Human Resource Development (Honours degree)(Both at RAU – now UJ) Been working in HR field since 1998.  Lived in Pinetown, KZN for almost 7 years and now in Centurion since Aug 2006. Was married to Jan for almost 8 years. We were blessed with 2 beautiful daughters , Neré (eldest) and Cara.   Unfortunately Jan was killed in a Motor Vehicle Accident in June 2005. As can be expected, this was a very traumatic experience. I was left alone with a 2 and 3 year old. I do believe this experience strengthened me, emotionally.   As I am the type of person who needs a partner/companion, I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful new husband, Sarel.  We were married in Aug 2007. Happily married and excited about our new adventures. I am so lucky to be given a 2nd chance on happiness!
The Husband / DAD and Genius of the family. Grew up in Pretoria and been living there ever since. (Except the few months he lived and worked in the UK).  Studied Electronic Engineering at Tuks (University of Pretoria) and completed an Honors degree in Computer Engineering.  He is a genius when it comes to all IT related stuff.  He has traveled the world (business and pleasure). He was previously married, but sadly, this marriage ended.  He has a son, Aaron and daughter Megan.  He is in partnership with an old colleague/friend and they own a very successful Software Development company. I also work for this company and the office of the company is run from our house in Centurion. 
The eldest daughter (my stepdaughter). Currently 12 and in grade 6. She stays with us half the week and every 2nd weekend.  Lovely academically and culturally strong girl. Growing up to be a typical teenager – interested in cell phones, music, fashion, etc. She is a natural blonde and I love to tease her about her absentmindedness.  I have a beautiful relationship with my stepdaughter and she is a pleasure to be with.
The middle daughter. Neré will be turning 10 in August and is in Grade 4. What a special little girl! A heart of gold and always trying to please or help others.  She is the most untidy and unorganized child ever, but has the memory of an elephant.  She remembers everything.  I call her my memory stick.  She remembers where I put everything, where my car keys are, what time I should be where, but OH boy, if only she can remember to tidy her room or where she left her homework book. LOL! She has her own cat and is the best “cat mommy” I have ever seen. She is a cat person like her mother. She will be growing up to be a very caring person. Younger children love her.
The baby in the family.  Now, 8 years and in Grade 2. She is our little miss attitude.  She always knows better and seems that she got stuck in the terrible 2’s.  I dread to see this attitude when Cara is a teenager. :-) She is a perfectionist.  Everything must be in rows or in straight lines.  Even in traffic she gets annoyed when the cars are not in a straight row.  It is a nightmare to take her shopping as she always tries to put groceries in straight lines on the shelves or in my shopping trolley. She is a natural born leader. We just need to learn to channel that attitude of her in the leadership direction.
The eldest child and only boy.  Almost 17 he is a true teenager.  He stays with his mother full time.  He a very talented sports person.  You can give him any sport and he excels in it.  He plays cricket, baseball, golf and participate in many other activities at school. Also typical teenage boy, he is big into gaming and LAN parties and events are big in his life. He is a very caring young man and a pleasure to be with.
Well, this is my family.  All 6 of us got our Visa’s.  We do not know when we will be moving to Australia as we have a lot of unfinished business in South Africa. As soon as we go, the 3 girls will come with us.  Whether Aaron joins us initially or later, depends greatly on the time we will go. Aaron did not join us on our previous trip to Australia, but all 3 girls went with.  The girls know a bit about Australia now and can't wait to move. 
The next few months - until we move - are going to be very interesting! I am looking forward to the challenge.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Facebook Status

Monday, 11 July 2011, my facebook status:  “ Today is the 1st day of the rest of our lives …. It will never be the same!!!!”
Seeing that we kept the reason for above statement very quiet, most FB friends did not know what it was about.   The few who knew … understood it immediately.
The reason for the statement: our Australian Permanent Resident Visas have been approved.  After months of stress, hard work, running/driving around and waiting, we’ve got it.  Finally!
We are all so excited about this development that our family went to a nice supper at our favourite restaurant and we celebrated.  This is the start of our NEW life.
We will not be able to emigrate soon, as we still have some unfinished business here in South Africa, but at least we have some more surety about our future and we can make some plans.
This whole process started just over a year ago. Little did we know that when we promised my Brother / Sister in law that we will come visit them in Sydney, it would have such a life changing effect on us.   We took our family holiday during the Fifa World Cup in South Africa and spent about 3 weeks in Oz. The decision to move our life over to Australia did not happen overnight.  It was more of a process during our holiday, but by the time we returned on 12 July 2010, our minds were set and we started the application process.
Oh well, one year later and we have our visa’s and we are very excited about our future.