African – American Journey: Part 1

In just over 20 sleeps, after about 36 hours of travel, it was 1 year I landed at JFK, in my new country, the home of red, white and blue, the proverbial stars and stripes, leaving my hometown seaside Cape Town, South Africa. Nothing but 2 bags, big dreams mixed in with tons of fear. I recall stopping for a moment, admittedly I had to catch my breath, since I was not able to afford a cart to carry my heavy bags, that had no wheels either (you pay for them here!) looking around, wide eyed, not so bushy tailed (or fresh!) by this point. No phone yet either so completely cut off yet smack in the middle of it all. No dollars in sight. No job. No medical. Nothing. Except my life in two bags and my love next to me. And for someone that has worked every day of her life since she was 13, sometimes multiple jobs, this was a very scary moment.

And then, a bunch of yellow NYC taxis went whizzing by, nearly knocking me over, but jarring me back to the present moment, out of the fearful future. Smack back to where I was, my two feet solid on American ground. It was in that very moment I decided to take my fate in my own hands, I mean I had worked long and hard to get us to this very moment, also a novel I could probably write. I decided to hold the USA accountable for her promise to be the land of opportunity, even if it was just a reality in the movies I had been watching since I was a little girl, I decided then and there, I was going to make this a reality, and there was no turning back. And I blink…. almost a year later.

Many late nights, tears, laughter, long hours and I find myself working again, in an amazing company with people who are fast becoming my extended family, after only 2 months of arrival, we have a place to live, we have a bed to sleep in, a car to drive. Heck we even have medical! And we now just went and bought ourselves a GRILL in lieu of summer, which is still eluding us, to use on our very little deck. Come to think of it the grill may be a bit big, or the deck a bit small. Who cares. We did it. With this long-winded realization, it is with great confidence I say, that when you just pull up your sleeves, put your head down, work hard and apply yourself, no matter how many challenges come your way, and believe me landing here there were many. From social security, to bank cards, to getting my drivers license on the opposite side of the road. Even just trying to drive ourselves to job interviews was a riveting experience. Or driving in our first snowfall! I remember vividly turning to my brother, wanting to hand him the keys and say, “OK boet, I need to go to Walmart, you going to take me?” I was petrified. He politely said no, stuck me in the driver’s seat and gave me a driving lesson, at the age of 39! An old dog is never too old to learn new tricks it seems.

I can recall countless moments even when I am speaking “English” to fellow Americans and they cannot understand a darn word you are saying. Yes, you get tripped up, and what would normally be done with great ease now takes much more thought and effort. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked “Alexa” (yes, we have one of those too!) to convert inches to centimeters, miles to kilometers or pounds to kilograms. I then come to the basic realization that I have two main reasons to be deeply thankful for that got us to this point. The first, being raised as I was, one daughter out of many brothers, taught to work hard, to go out and get it, because “You not getting anything for nothing!” has been invaluable. The second, we have the most amazing family that was there to support us every step of the way when we arrived. Which let me tell you, inspired us to work even harder to become independent even faster, because it ties back to point one, I can just hear my dad’s voice in my head, telling me if I want something I must work for it. “My girl, if you want that deodorant, or that new item of clothing, you have to earn it” I think I was 12 at the time. (I love and miss you dad, I wish every day you were here to see us, you would be so proud!)

So, my message to anyone who bothered to read this far, and a message I delivered quite emphatically to my team not so long ago, in the words of Kurt Darren (Can you believe I quoted Kurt Darren in America! HA! “Nou gaan ons lekker sokkie”) “You’ve got to have the guts, to earn the glory!” And my friends, I wavered for a moment that early morning at John F Kennedy airport, but I can now confidently say, I sure do have the guts! Because I am now starting to see the glory. Peace out.

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