Part4

African – American Journey: Part 4

It is uncanny how approximately every six months I have the desire to sit quietly and pen the experiences had in my new country. Low and behold, it is so since part 3. So here goes with part 4. (at the bottom of this piece, you will find links to the first 3, should you have missed any of them, and are so inclined to follow the full story)

It is the 4th of January. Honestly, Christmas and New year was a real nonevent this time around, mostly because I was rather ill, nothing serious, just your irritating head and chest cold that slows you right down and refuses to leave. And, in part that we kept a low profile, stayed at home, and worked throughout. No exciting adventures or travels at the turn of the decade.

This would be because we are saving our days off for a 2-week visit, to go back home and visit our friends and family for the first time since we left in April 2017. By then, it will be just short of 3 years that we left our blessed Africa on a one-way ticket from Cape Town, via Dubai to New York. One of the longest, most round about journeys to get to our destination, I swear I will never do that again, but hey, the price on Emirates was right. Anyone who knows their geography will think this route to be madness, you are correct. If you do not, I encourage you to look at a world map and track this course.

Of course, the dogs, our dear Koda (golden lab) and Penelope (fawn pug) flew direct on South African Airways, no detouring via the United Arab Emirates first, nope, straight from Africa to North America. Not without their own travel issues however, as the airline went on strike just as the dogs landed in Johannesburg. That was a stressful and trying time. One I never care to relive. We planned for the best, and ended up with a major speed bump, how else did you expect that part to go?

Back to the imminent excitement at hand, we have booked a trip to visit home! Cape Town, South Africa, we are coming for you. I am even dreaming of the sights and sounds. We are counting down each sleep, we have an itinerary jam packed to go back and see everyone, experience all the things we never got to do when we still lived there. As excited as I am starting to become, I am also resisting the urge to be too happy, because we all know how it goes, we will blink and it will all be over, and we will be back at Cape Town International airport, going through security, watching our family wave us farewell, not knowing when we will ever see them again.

Emigrating is not for the faint of heart. At the center of it, you must be a tough son of a gun. I see this now. I have no regrets, don’t get me wrong, but there have been days when it was honestly very difficult, where the sadness envelopes around you like the perfect tube wave in Jeffrey’s Bay at the Billabong Classic, and all you can do is stop and wait for it to pass, breathe easy, keep your balance, keep your cool, ride it out. Because if you give into it, you will without a doubt tumble, and sink.

So that’s exciting for us in what lies ahead. Another massive undertaking and joyous moment for us that was, took place midway through 2019, was this was that we fulfilled a rather large item on our list, we bought a place we can call our own. So, in two and a half years, we arrived on US soil with nothing but two bags, and our two dogs at JFK. We started off in my brother’s attic in the remote town of Oxford, then moved into his little flatlet on the premises when we started working and earning, and then soon after that we moved to a rental apartment in a different town where there was more activity from a professional and personal point of view (we have made so many friends!) Here we slept on the floor and sat on camp chairs. Fast forward. And we are now in our own home, each driving our own car, sleeping in our own bed with couches to sit on, and spoils like a 55-inch TV streaming Netflix on our uncapped Wi-Fi. What a dream. America is a great place to be!

Sadly, as you know from part 3, my special golden labrador named Koda, is no longer with us, so instead of 2 dogs, we now have our South African born (runt of the litter) Penelope the pug still with us, but we have since adopted a rescue cat named Garcia. (Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds is a favorite of mine hence the obscure pet naming combination) I honestly did not want another pet, certainly not another dog, I am still reeling over Koda’s loss. But Penelope felt the loss too, maybe even more, because Koda is all she knew. She never left his side, followed him everywhere, always sat so close to him making sure she always touched, and of course, in an amusing way, literally climbed on and slept on his back. It was like witnessing a whale with barnacle stuck to his rear, a hairy version of this mammal phenomenon.

So, after watching her turn gray almost overnight, hearing her heartbreaking grieving wails, this coming from a dog that never barks or growls, we heard her voice for the first time, and chewing her feet till they bled, we urgently set out to find her a little friend. And along came Garcia. A grey, oddly very hairy cat, that likes to have milk in the mornings, sleeps by my feet, burrows under the blankets on our freshly made bed for an afternoon snooze, is obsessed with the gas fireplace, and loves to talk (meow) a lot. We now affectionately call her “Meeu” which is I guess an adapted Afrikaans word which sounds like “meow” but comes from “Seemeeu” which is “Seagull” and we know how vocal they can be. 

Our home is now riddled with dog and cat toys, cat trees, blankets, beds. Anything you can think of. Whatever it took to get Garcia settled in quickly, to keep Penelope happy, we did it. So our American rescue cat, a little over 6 months old now, rules the Benson-Muller household (I was warned this would happen, apparently it is a cat thing, never believed it until I started witnessing it for myself) and here we are, each of us living our little lives, in our routines between work, play, chores and more.

Honestly, I often feel like I am having an out of body experience, looking down on myself from above, especially when I walk out the front door in the mornings, heavily laden with lunch box, laptop, gym bags and such, heading out to work and to “do my American thing” for the day.

How did we get here? How did we get from the Southernmost tip of Africa, deeply entrenched in our own existence and experiences there, to living this American dream of ours? Heck we even have an American flag flapping outside our little home, and each time we find ourselves slipping into a sense of sadness, missing what could have been, what we know, we look at the flag and use it as our proverbial North star, we look at it and we say thank you, this country has been good to us. This is where we are now, and we rip ourselves right back, smack into the moment and get on with it.

I do have to say that as much as we love living here, and it has taken a lot of learning to adapt to ways things are done, there are just some things that stand out to me that are rather odd, obscure, sometimes completely illogical in my opinion.

Simple things like you do not have to wear a helmet to ride a motorbike (they call it motorcycle here) but you are not allowed to ride in the back of a bakkie!?? (this is named a truck here) I mean how on earth can it be illegal to stand up in the back of a truck (bakkie) on the open-air bed and not be able to enjoy the fresh air? We used to love doing that in South Africa, especially back in the day when we were still allowed to drive on the beaches, standing up in the back of the truck (bakkie) being able to “surf” the beach at high speed is a fond childhood memory of mine.

Wait, how about this one, young folk are not allowed to drink till they are 21 (good!), but they hand them the keys to a full-size vehicle to drive themselves at the age of 16 (bad!) This frightens me beyond belief. Have you met a 16-year-old of late They have a cell phone permanently attached and their attention span is centered around that device, not where the car is taking them? I have witnessed young folk pull up behind me, not just talking on their phones, but having a full-blown video chat while driving. One hand on the wheel, the other holding up the handset, looking into the camera, eyes darting back and forth to the road, and it goes without saying they were swerving all over and nearly rear ended me several times. This is one example, there are many. If I think of myself at the age of 16, I would be afraid of me driving a car, and we did not even have cell phones then and I was marginally responsible. I am not talking a golf cart, or a small multi-purpose vehicle for off road purposes, I mean full size cars, SUV’s even, and here they are all on the larger side, cruising along highways at full speed. Yes, so that one stands out for me and I still cannot get my head around it.

Oh wait, let me give one more, there are plenty, but this one also stands out because it literally just happened to us most recently, and of course, in my little head, this made no sense whatsoever.

Last week we ran out of propane for our gas bottle, that we use to light the grill (braai) and so after some homework on local social forums, everyone said, go to a Walmart, they can swap it out for you and they are a cheapest. To all those at home, Walmart is a lot like a Makro. Big and busy, with low prices. Anyhow, we arrive at the Walmart, completely oblivious as to what was about to happen to us.

We approach the exterior, where the gas canisters are all outside, locked in a cage. No person is in sight. It is minus 5 (Celsius) and we are freezing, so we stroll casually inside towards the customer service desk, as one typically does when in search of help in a retail environment, empty propane tank in hand.

Well let me just stop right there and tell you, that it was like the apocalypse was about to happen, the fact that we were not tackled to the ground is beyond me, it certainly was about to, I think if the hysteria lasted a few moments longer we would have ended up face down on the floor, hands behind our backs. The responses from all inside were of absolute panic, screaming with all their might “Oh my God!!!!” to “Hey, what the hell do you think you are doing?!” There was a chorus of sheer panic coming straight at us, and it took a moment to realize that we were the ones being perceived as this great threat, and that the very empty propane tank was the forbidden and feared object. When we were finally spoken to, and not at, and we had a moment to explain that we just wanted to swap it out and there was nobody outside to help, everyone calmed to a mild panic. I guess the foreign accents helped to calm the situation even quicker. Thank goodness we still have those. Customers at registers were even giving us the evil eye.

Long story short, they gave us very stern instructions to never ever do that again, after scaring the living hell out of us, and that the bottle MUST, and the emphasis is on MUST at all times be left outside and never be brought into the store. They proceeded to swap the bottle out for a full one, we paid our $15, we climbed back into our car and just sat there for a minute trying to process what had just happened. Another example of something we did not anticipate, and where we think the outcome did not match the action. Again, another example in our minds, with our backgrounds of something that makes absolutely no logical sense.

We laugh about it now. Clearly, we will never do it again. But to my original point, we don’t understand the logic behind some of the rules here. We will keep learning as we go, I guess that is a big part of being an expat, we never really know something for sure until we are faced with it. We are not here to argue. Of course, we shall abide, because we chose to be here, we want to be here. We love it here. But we sure are racking up stories and experiences that we can share at a dinner table. The point really is, no matter what their beliefs or systems, this is a place that if you put in the efforts, you shall reap the rewards.

All is well.

2020 is here, there is much to be excited for. We have planned to visit a wolf sanctuary in New York State, my birthday weekend is lined up in Salem, Massachusetts, we are heading out on a plane to South Africa, we even have a trip planned to Miami, and if all goes well, at the end of the year we want to head back out to Thailand. We have both been to Phuket, and now have Koh Samui in our sights. We crave foreign cultural influences; this is something we want to incorporate at least once a year. We are even entertaining the notion of retiring there, so we want to go and view it through that lens, do our homework, and of course enjoy the pristine beaches, the humility of the Thai people and the delicious foods.

It is not ideal to travel outside of the USA until we are citizens and still classified as Permanent Residents, but we will make sure we record it all accurately for the day we submit our applications. It will not count against us directly, but if we are asked about a trip we took and we cannot answer with absolute certainty (and paperwork to back it up I am guessing based on my past experiences with the embassy), this may constitute an additional challenge we are not in search of to be able to become citizens.

I cannot wait to be a citizen truly. It will be one of the happiest days of our lives when we are sworn in. If I have anything to do with it, we would like to have our swearing in ceremony at the historical Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts on the 4th July. We witnessed this out on the town lawns under the US flag quite by chance 2 years again, and it has stuck with me ever since. I think I may have even spoken about this in one of my previous pieces, that’s how important this day would be to us if I am indeed repeating myself.

A proper ceremony, on a historical day, in a historical setting, outside under a flag, instead of inside a grey, cold building. I am not even sure it is possible for us; I am sure there are terms, rules and a waiting list for this venue on this day. But I will try my best to make that day happen for us. I get tears in my eyes and goosebumps just thinking about it. We still have another 2 years and 4 months before we can start applying. You must live here for 5 years before you can even be considered. So of course, we are counting down to that too.

But for right this very moment, our goals for this year, are to stay in the moment, enjoy each day as it comes. Which for those that know us, is very unlike us. We are always striving for the next thing. But we worked so hard to get here, right here, that we are just going to breathe, take the pressure off ourselves, and enjoy each minute of each day. We are going to work hard, dedicate ourselves to being good community members, and enjoy what is around us, ranging from people to places and of course, each other.

If any of you have ever read “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, this concept of staying in the moment will resonate with you. It was a book I read in 2008, when I was travelling through Mozambique. We were 4 girls, backpacking, swimming with wild dolphins, we did not have connectivity or 5 cents to rub together, but this book traveled with me. It is not a very thick book at all, but it took me an age to read, because there was so much in there to absorb. And his spiritual teachings remind us of the beauty of being in the now, and how to stop yourself from wanting to move on to the next thing, to the next place, to the next person, all the while you would be missing where you are at. It was a skill I truly needed back then, and I often must practice, even in the now.

So, for me, for us, 2020 is going to be a far more purposeful expression of Tolle’s teaching, and that is to “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.”

Part 3

African – American Journey: Part 3

I blink, I blink once more, and I realize it has been approximately 6 months since my last update. Today Brenda Fassie brought me to this place, her African rhythm blaring in my ears, filling my heart with the dusty memories of home. My sound system had not been working in my car for several weeks, I was driving in complete silence. I could only hear my breathing, at first it was a little disconcerting, until eventually I caught myself getting completely lost in my own thoughts, entirely alone on whatever journey I was on. And then, I had the car sound system repaired. I suddenly felt all exhilarated, excited, I had proven to myself I could exist in silence if I had to, but I was reminded just how much I love music, and how it fuels my fire, for anyone that knows me, I have always been an avid music lover and collector, the more I can be around music, the happier I am, so those weeks of driving in silence was particularly tough for me (but enlightening!).

And of course, some of the first tunes I lined up was Mafikizolo, some Johnny Clegg, followed by one of my all-time favorites, Miriam Makeba. Nothing like some Africa to get the day going.

Changing gears here, I just have to say it, it felt like an awfully long winter this time around, there, I came right out with it. The short days, long nights, snow, ice and frigid temperatures topped off with very grey skies was a tough one to endure the last 6 months. At one point I felt the despondency, I could feel the struggle to get up each day, missing the blue skies and sunshine of Africa on my skin. Being able to walk barefoot and feel the grass beneath my feet was a foreign memory. Then I discover there is a name for this, SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Especially for someone who has grown up in the southern hemisphere and relocated all the way north. Go figure. A diagnosis for too much winter, interesting.

And then my phone rang, I knew what was coming, my beloved gran had died. Here we were, an entire continent and hemisphere away, and we were not able to be with family to properly grieve and celebrate. What an incredible woman. She was there with us till the very last day when we left South Africa, she was front and center at the airport waving us along as we went through security. Admittedly, we had to remind her a few times as to where we were going, but she knew that we were well, going. I still cannot believe the world is without one amazing, loving, special Granny Pat Ferguson, I hope to visit home one day in the near future so that I may visit her special engraved bench in lovely Hermanus in the Western Cape, and spend time where her ashes were scattered. Hermanus, in South Africa, if you have not been, I urge you to go, especially in whale season, what a glorious experience, it is a special place for our family, if you listen carefully, you will hear the souls of many of our clan roaming those mountains, paths and waters.

I then threw myself into a 6-week CrossFit challenge, I had to do something. That was tough at times, as it was always dark when I trained, I cruised through snowstorms to get to class, but I proved to myself that I could do it. Despite the dark winter and the passing of my beloved gran, I had to keep moving. Sitting still was not an option.

Then my soul dog, Koda, got very ill. You probably thinking what a depressing piece to read, come on Brigette, lighten up. But this is life right, these things happen, and this is my story. It’s what we do with it afterwards that counts.

So back to Koda, I am going to dedicate a few paragraphs to him, in fact he deserves a whole novel, that boy pretty much saved me, from me. When he came into my life nearly 13 years ago, I was a lot younger, somewhat reckless at times, as one is I suppose as we grow up, and many a time, just his sheer presence and dependency, gave me the purpose to make the right choice, as opposed to the proverbial wrong one. I went through a particularly dark time after my mother was taken from us so tragically, and I spent years in and out of court to make sure that justice was served, as you can imagine this takes its toll on a person, and Koda was my saving grace. A large, English yellow lab, with big brown eyes that would scrutinize my soul. I named him Koda because when I brought him home for the first time, he looked like a baby bear, and Disney’s Brother Bear was all the craze at the time, the main character, named Koda.

I had to make a very difficult decision to make sure he did not suffer any longer, his time had come, I sat with him on the floor, as he looked straight into my soul one last time, as he always did, and took his last breath, then resting his head on my lap, never to be lifted again. That image will be burnt into my memory forever. He had been with me for so long, traveled with me all over the world (literally!) and honestly I secretly thought (or hoped) he would be with me for always, and then his age really started to catch up with him, I could see the deterioration, in my mind he was my precious little bear that would quietly disappear and I would either find him sleeping in my sock drawer, or happily destroying my lavender bushes (I didn’t really mind because he always smelt really great as a result). He and I spent countless hours at the beach swimming, snoozing, walking, chasing seagulls (him, not me!)

We drove miles and miles together, exploring new places, sleeping in different beds, and meeting countless new people. He always made an impact on anyone he met, many have followed our journey since we left South Africa, always wanting to know what Koda was doing. From his long flight being tracked by friends with flight trackers and shared over social, to the first time he (and I!) saw snow. A big highlight was when I took him on a road trip through Maine in September last year, I thought then already that he was fading, so I wanted to spoil him with one last adventure. The old man still managed to find lakes of water, and plop himself in and paddle in circles, quietly grunting as he did as he would tire very quickly. I would have to go in after him, frightened he might exhaust himself too much, I guess he knew his own limits, but I was the paranoid one that ran after him every moment, of every day.

He stayed in a hotel for the first time with me, the Hilton in Portland, Maine to be exact, escaping the heat and lying in an air-conditioned room on the king size bed, he was in heaven. He rode on an elevator, also for the first time, enjoying new and surprising encounters with other people and their pets in this rising and falling metal box, what a laugh, and coming from South Africa, for the most part, dogs generally live in homes with big fenced in yards, touring cities and staying in hotels is just not something that happens there.

He gave me 7 more months of love and joy after that trip, for which I am eternally grateful. On his last day, I took him for his last (very slow) walk and then sat on the floor with him as we shared an entire packet of freshly fried bacon, he was in heaven. He had been on such a strict diet for so long, trying to keep his weight down to spare his hips and arthritis, that when I perched myself next to him on the floor, propped up against the couch with this joyous plate of juicy bacon, he instantly perked up so much, that I for a moment saw a glimpse of the mischievous golden pup, that used to seek out anything and everything to get himself into, from rolling in mud, to chasing cats and of course, swimming out to sea to chase those darn seagulls! Koda will forever live in my heart, I miss him still, so much, every single minute of every day. His ashes will travel with me, until the very end. Because after all, I believed we would be together, for forever and always.

So, I guess the last few months since my last update has been a little tougher than normal, but again, in between all of that, there have been some great highlights for us that we have managed to enjoy. For which I am eternally grateful. I realize that life will always throw its challenges at you, it’s inevitable, but its what you do with it that counts.

With that being said, we are enjoying great success in the building of my partner’s business. It was nerve wrecking at first having one of us go out on our own, while the other picks up the slack in a foreign country to add. But if we cannot make it here, then we cannot make it anywhere.

So, we put our heads down and just ran with it, from registering the business, marketing it, trying to figure out the tax and accounting piece, negotiating space and much more. It was slow in the beginning, so we decided to pack up and move to the town where the business operates from, because we knew if we became known around town, word of mouth would expedite the growth, I had a few sleepless nights for the first while after we moved away from family with a monthly rental we could manage, to suddenly having to pay a lot more from one salary while trying to invest in the business, it was a risk we knew we had to take, after all, we both moved to a new country with no jobs, how could we be too fearful to move 20 minutes up the road with one job (well that was my logic and I am sticking to it) and today we both breathe a sigh of relief as we start to see the benefits.

Business is coming in, and the referrals are starting to drive that. We are fast becoming local fixtures of our town, especially now that we are out and about much more with our dear Penelope, our nearly 7 year old pug, she was the runt that nobody wanted (except us), has a gammy leg that was fixed a few years ago by implanting a steel pin, and she generally makes people and dogs a little uneasy on their first encounter with her as they think she is growling at them, when in fact, that is just the sound of her breathing, I have to laugh at the thought, she is the most gentle, loving, friendly little thing. Don’t get me wrong, people and dogs become fast friends with her the moment they realize she is no threat at all, and with Koda having passed on, she is now the only fur child left, and has started going all over the show with us, making more friends of both the 2 and 4 legged nature than we can count. You cannot miss us when we are out, a chubby snorting pug with a bright pink “doggie day bag” seems to draw a lot of attention, which honestly, has helped us meet new people as well as drive the growth of the business.

All is good.

Another highlight for us was when we jetted off to Vegas in January 2019 so that I could enjoy turning 40 in style. Boy did we have a good time! What an experience. I still have to pinch myself to remind me that it really happened, that I managed to on the dawn of my 40th birthday climb into the front seat of a helicopter and fly over the Grand Canyon and watch the sun come up over the cliffs as “Fortunate Son” from Creedence Clearwater Revival played over our headsets, I was moved to tears, literally. I had tears rolling down my cheeks, from sheer gratitude. In that moment I reflected on the last 40 years in a super speed movie reel format in my mind, all the challenges and love and loss and death we had experienced, and all the perseverance and hard work that had brought me to this place, at this moment, to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience. I was moved to the core.

Looking ahead, we are both focusing now on trying to improve ourselves professionally, both learning, trying new things, completing courses, attempting new approaches, and at the same time, digging into both our past experiences in a more purposeful manner to see where we can truly add value to our current places of work, our professional lives and hopefully, this will ripple over even more to a personal level. As we have previously established, the two of us, and South Africans at the heart of it, are very hard workers, we take nothing for granted, we always aim to do better, do more, and at the same time, quietly impact those around us. We are not show ponies, we are backstage support at heart, always pushing others ahead of ourselves, for the greater good.

2019 had a difficult start, but we are taking it into our own, and going to push forward to make sure that 2019 is also one for the books!

As per our personal mantra, the fun is in the journey, the reward is in the accomplishment.

Watch this space.

 
aamap

African – American Journey: Part 2

I have been wanting to write my part 2 for some time now. And every time I begin, I hit a wall. Until now, a song came on, a song that takes me back to a time when I was in high school, in love and terribly naive. A time when you had to run to the call box (ticky box we call it in South Africa) to call someone, a time where there was one landline in the house and every time it rang, both my brother and I would run to pick it up, me mostly because there was someone I really wanted to speak to, my youngest brother purely because he was very entertained by irritating me by listening in until I screamed at the top of my lungs for him to hang up the phone in the next room.

So what is the song you ask that has opened the flood gates to record the next part of my journey, legendary Tina Turner singing with all her might. I followed her closely growing up, her story, her music. She resonates loudly with me. Sadly, I have never been able to see her perform live. I probably never will. But I still admire her from afar. Her strength to pursue through struggle and hardship, to chase her dreams, and achieve them! And as I sit here the business day closing around me, Tina giving only her best through my Samsung headphones, the sun already set (days are crazy short in the USA this time of year, a little creepy at times, but trying not to let it get to me) and the wind is howling with an icy wind and pummeling against the roof and windows, I can hear it through the music now and again, I sit and take collection of where I am and when it is, one week before Christmas.

One week. Already? There are decorations on every corner, at every home, and admittedly I am not quite feeling the spirit this year. Not because I am sad, or feeling down, just not feeling Christmas I guess. Not going to lose sleep about it, just good to remind oneself what part of the chapter we are in, and where we are going. Perhaps it is because all friends and family are now enjoying a very sunny South Africa, winding down for the year, businesses shutting down. Everyone is heading to the beach, having a braai, and of course good food and good wine. Man I miss Ostrich biltong! Let me just put that out there, not to mention Bovril. Earlier this year a friend sent some over, needless to say, the pots are empty and the cravings are kicking back in.

Having said all that, let me tie it all up for relevancy sake. Yes I may be sitting here, reminiscing, in some ways, longing. But at the same time, I am very excited to know that when I pack up here tonight, and I climb into my car and head home, I am proud to take a moment and reflect back to the frightened woman that arrived at JFK with nothing but 2 bags, my partner and 2 dogs. I have been in the USA for 19 months, and working for 17 months. We now have our own little place that we call home, we don’t own (yet!) that update will come sooner than later (I hope!), we have some furniture, and we both have cars to get around in, licences to drive them, we have traveled every spare moment we could (collecting fridge magnets and photographs as our trophies) and bank accounts that we are furiously working to save into, to be able to put a deposit on a home that we are yet to find. We have been searching, a lot. But with 2 dogs admittedly, we are finding it difficult as we are wanting to find something that they call a “condominium” here, which is really just a fancy name for a townhouse complex, the benefit being they take care of all the snow shoveling and landscaping. Having spent a full year here now, let me just say, keeping the yard tidy between snow, and the excessive leaves that come down at the end of fall (Autumn) is tough work, something we are not terribly keen on at this time. Not now. No thanks. So a free standing house will be a last resort for us.

Any way, the fun is in the journey, and the reward is in the accomplishment. We have achieved many of these over this time, some smaller, some much larger, but all with the same amount of excitement and appreciation. Why? Because we truly, deeply appreciate the opportunity to both live and work in this great country, that has embraced us with open arms. And we are now starting to slowly but surely reap the benefits.

We have always been very hard workers, sometimes juggling multiple jobs just to try and get ahead, or keep up, but truly, now for the first time, we can see the benefits first hand, which becomes a positive cycle for us, because it spurs us on to keep going. We have opened our own Personal Training business (Yes I am going to punt it now http://www.everactivetraining.com), early stages, still have no idea what I am doing administratively or how we are going to grow this (that’s my part of the job, guaranteed I am going to make some mistakes, but hey, who cares, that is how we learn)

Onward and upwards professionally for us in 2019 in the USA, we have all the want, overflowing with desire and certainly no fear of pulling up our sleeves and getting stuck in. Merry Christmas everyone.

Keep the faith.

flags1609

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.