TGC – A Year

It’s difficult to believe, while it feels much longer at the same time. We’ve finally passed the year mark.

I’ve been turning this post around in my head for weeks now, but I still don’t really know what to say. I’m late in posting as it is. 🙂 Tomorrow we’re already at a year and two weeks.

This immigration-thing has been a strange and wonderful journey.

Year one was the perfect example of a proverbial emotional roller coaster. And the truth of it is, the ride isn’t over yet. I think the emotional part is something that will differ from person to person, because it’s certainly hit me a lot harder than the hubs. People deal in different ways.

Most of the advice we got from other immigrants was that the first *insert time here* is the most difficult. Many of them used the year mark as that point of reference. I’ve learned that this is another thing that will differ according to personal perspective.

So far, I’ve hit three major lows. The three-month mark was the first of these. A lot had happened to us by that time and we faced a great amount of uncertainty. Then, around the six-month mark, I was crushed and emotional – this one was the worst. I didn’t write about it, because I didn’t want to lie to everyone back in SA. Putting up a brave face has been one of my major concerns since moving and even when I did complain about things, I tried to water it down. The last low was right after we came back from South Africa and I’m still dealing with some of the aspects of that.

It’s scary and sometimes outright depressing to immigrate. We’ve been going through this thing with some other immigrants, and it’s interesting to see how different each of us take to adapting. The absolute worst things for me are still missing the folks back home and not being able to connect with people here. This seems to be a trend with some of the others too, even the other Europeans. Germans – in my opinion – are some of the most reserved and anti-social people I’ve ever come across. Even other Germans will tell you that it’s incredibly difficult to make friends with Germans, and that’s when you speak the language.

Look, we’re settled here. I’ve become a brand-bitch for some of the local products. I have favourite stores and parks and places. In a lot of aspects, we’ve become totally European. I’ll never forget the way people stared at us with our backpack in Johannesburg malls, as if we’d lost our mind. It’s hilarious, because everyone in Europe has a backpack!

We recycle without thinking, we rarely share cubicles on the train with strangers  and we’ve picked up many little German mannerisms. We’ve gotten used the way things are done here, even when we don’t understand it. One of our most used explanations to the South African crowd is ‘Because Germany’.

The not understanding thing? Yeah, there’s a ton of things we don’t understand. Like how a nation that can be so aloof and cold – people who don’t even talk to their countrymen on the train – become so randomly social during one of their festivals (and there are many festivals). As in, they’ll wear signs that read ‘Free Hugs’, or they’ll literally grab strangers on the street and kiss them.

I’ll never get used to the fireworks in the middle of the week, often and without reason. My animal cruelty anger reaches uncharted heights at this, because I understand New Year, but all the time? Seriously? I’ll never get used to the sheer amount of paperwork involved in getting anything done here, or the rigid rules and structures (or, for that matter, being treated as a refugee). I’ll never get used to the dog poo on the sidewalk, though this is much easier to accept in the dry seasons. I’m dreading the onset of winter, when random piles of crap will become liquid under our shoes. Blegh.

I could go on here, but I’ll spare you.

During this first year, we’ve dealt with a lot. Loss in the family, worrying about illness from 14000 km away, missing birthdays and births and that dress fitting for that wedding we’ve been waiting for. We’ve felt abandoned, forgotten and replaced – this, I think, is a form of separation anxiety. We’ve struggled to find a place to live, to get our paperwork filled in and we still can’t find a kindergarten for Kayla. Those friends we have are other immigrants, because the locals haven’t had time for us (except for our landlords and their family, who have been EPIC).

Immigration isn’t easy. I think that saying the first year is the most difficult, is the same as a dentist saying this won’t hurt a bit. The first year will be difficult, but that’s not to say the difficulties won’t end once that period of time is done. You will always miss the people you left behind, no matter how long you’re away from home.

Always, like Snape.

That means that no matter how well you adapt (and we’ve adapted pretty well), there’s going to be this ever-niggling feeling in the back of your skull, never letting you forget that your loved ones are really far away.

Technology makes keeping in touch super easy. I’d probably have deflated and crashed by now, if not for Skype. Having said that, Skype isn’t the same as a coffee date, or a slice of birthday cake or a hug.

We survive here because we’re adamant to. We’ve made this decision and both Jan and I are pretty stubborn people, so we’ll stick with the choice we made, come hell or high water. Ooh, the cliches in this post. 🙂 The point is that no matter what happens, we won’t be defeated. We’ll work through whatever emotions assault us and we’ll show them who’s boss.

We’re not going back to South Africa.

I think this is the key thing for any immigrant. Fix the reason you moved in your mind and make it your mantra. As long as you make this reason your fortress, you’ll be able to push onward.

Besides, South Africa doesn’t have castles. 😀

A year, folks. A full friggen year.


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