And so here we are. Today, we are 1 year back in South Africa. And we’re a bit more worn, a bit more tanned, a year older (and hopefully wiser), and reflecting on what a wildly immeasurably beautiful 4.5 year stint in Vancouver did to us, and who we are today.
I’m an idealist. I grew up in one beautiful, warm, safe and happy house (which coincidentally, my husband I are about to buy from my parents and where we hope to raise our kids). Growing up, my friends, church and school were all around the corner. Life was happy, simple, neat and tidy.
And then I met my now husband and traveled with him, moved to Durban, traveled more and then took the big leap to Vancouver. Life got a bit messier.
Neat and tidy and messy were all good. But as I’ve grown, I’ve had to tone down on the idealism and accept more of the realism. I can’t commit myself to living in one house my whole life (which is only 1 of the things I naturally expected to happen).
I think that’s one of the deepest lessons I’ve learnt. Life is messy and not straight forward. It can be hard, raw, challenging, joyful, beautiful, mysterious, and unknown, and often (always?) out of our control. Admitting that is hard for me. I like control. And so, if I have learnt ONE lesson over the last year it’s this – while life is beautiful, it is not wrapped in its beautiful perfectly square box, with crisp neat corners, its Pinterest style (as much as I LOVE Pinterest) paper with its ribbons and raffia. We might move, we might stay, we might travel, we might change. We roll with the punches. And I’ve learnt that there is a very beautiful depth to the mess. And often, we NEED the mess to keep us real.
But even more pressing is my other HUGE life mantra: experience trumps stuff. EXPERIENCE TRUMPS STUFF. No question. Hands down.
So here they are… MY OBSERVATIONS… 1 year on.
In South Africa there are so many good people doing so many good things.
It is harder to stay green.
It is easy and important to be growing your own food. I can’t wait to get chickens.
Traffic is hectic.
Coffee is better than it was 5 years ago.
The mountain is extraordinary. Life here is in full colour.
There is no place like home.
Crime is real, and it makes me concerned.
People don’t change, are loving, caring and look out for each other.
Conversations with strangers are easy.
It is been hard hard hard HARD to find a church after our experience at Regent and Artisan.
I feel really, really privileged to have had my kids in Canada.
Don’t underestimate education.
I love how car guards interact with the boys and help them out of the trolley and into the car.
Runners/cyclists greet each other and encourage each other on the roads which is awesome. It’s not safe to run alone at night, which sucks. But running with old friends (my Natalie) is life giving.
People are generous.
Our government is abominable. Parliament is hard to watch at times.
My kids play in mud, feed farm animals and get messy and barely ever ever ever wear shoes.
Internet and free wifi is scarce (and slow).
HEROES are born and raised here.
EXPERIENCES trump things hands down.
I LOVED Christmas in the snow.
Time and space between true brotherly and sisterly friends really doesn’t change all that much.
Watching your children play with their cousins is a gift.
We have amazing sports teams.
I have more of a hunger to see and do more (when my allergy towards all airports calms down – travelling for 6 weeks with two small children halfway across the world is still exhausting to think about).
Seemingly small things, can make BIG change.
Despite loving news and sport, I have no real interest in having a TV.
Community (be it local or international) is invaluable.
And now since my husband Theran and I are so different (really, sometimes I wonder how we actually got married…), I thought I’d include his:
Education gives you new eyes and ears for the world. You cannot quantify its value.
White people in Cape Town need to catch a wake up. White privilege is not an attack on white people, its a reality needing attention.
The mountain is different every day.
You can’t over emphasize the value of friendship – whether like minded friends around the world or lifelong friends who share your story.
Don’t let 5 years of tax returns build up while you are away.
Seeing your children with their grandparents, cousins, and aunts and uncles is worth so much more than the alluring pull of the ‘first world’.
Work can take more than it’s ‘pound of flesh’ from you – you can quickly find yourself consumed by obligations to an employer, whether valid or unrealistic demands, and end up sacrificing important things you shouldn’t.
Young children grow and change every day.
Family stress and tension causes more anxiety than work tension.
A swimming pool is a waste of space and money (really Theran?).
Dentists don’t do unnecessary work on your teeth (well ours doesn’t).
I’m sure there are many, many more lessons we’ve learnt which we can’t articulate quite yet… but needless to say, it’s GOOD to be back. Familiarity is a GOOD and comforting thing. Moving to Vancouver for almost 5 years was by far the best thing we have ever done (besides the obvious God, kids, marriage decisions) and I hope we’re brave enough to make more big decisions when they come our way.