Sunday, July 24, 2011

Taking the plunge - emigration SA to NZ 2008

Taking the plunge of a lifetime            Eve Hemming

Screeds have been written about emigrating from one’s home land to adapt to a new country. It can bombard the senses and confuse one. But on another occasion one may read a string of words at just the right doldrums moment. Something could resonate and be a lifeline when one is in one of those dark desolate places. Maybe that is why we write so much about it.

It’s a very personal journey which impacts on each of us differently. But one thing is certain. It is profound and no one who has not taken the plunge can remotely identify with one’s personal life altering paradigm shift.

Thousands of South Africans can identify with the incredible journey one takes – not just because the journey to New Zealand is half way across the planet and across an immense ocean, but because it is a colossal journey of the soul.

It is easy to rationalise and say that it is at least on the same planet and that one can still communicate with family back home via skype. But that's not the point. For me I kept saying, “It’s just over there on the map… and anyway it’s already inhabited with thousands of Saffers, so it will just feel like another province…But just before leaving I had no way of feeling that I could rationalise what felt like sheer madness. I was heading off to the land of the long white cloud and may as well have been going into a different dimension; not just time zone. It was a different space, as though I was falling through Alice in Wonderland’s story and waking up a miniature extraterrestrial.
It aggravates this scenario when well-meaning souls yack on about The Global Village and “Oh well, you can chat on Skype, blah, blah, blah.” Sure there’s the entire cyber spectrum that shrinks the planet. And yes, technology creates a sense of immediacy when compared with “once upon a time” when people wrote with quills dipped in ink, their letters taking a year across the boundless ocean and another elongated year anticipating a response.

But none of this cheers me up right now. It all feels quite illusionary and surreal.
I’m off to tackle the opportunity of a lifetime as a psychologist in New Zealand. I see it as my mature rite of passage, but the feeling inside is only imaginable to anyone who has gone off to the North or South Pole at the age of 50-something, sans their precious ensemble. How does one justify this, I wonder. But I don’t think it’s about justification. It’s more about following a sort of preordained destiny as a 'path-finder'.
People, it would seem, gravitate somewhere along the optimism-pessimism trajectory correlating with their life-view. There are the Tiggers that bounce up and down patting one on the back till one’s winded, bellowing enthusiastically “Wow, well done. It’s fan-bloody-tastic that you’re going off on an adventure and I’m soooo proud of you …” and then there are the Eeyores who interrogate one in a bleakly monotone drone: “Do you actually think you’ll survive?” Or even worse, they acerbically insinuate that one’s abandoning the great ship of Africa…. That truly p&%$# me off. 
The world’s a merry-go-round and intrepid humanity has gone continent skipping ever since being water borne. People have explored every inch of the globe, but when it’s Africa that they’re departing from, the Eeyores defensively hurl abuse at them, 'gooi them with a klip' or judgmentally announce from their Piglet cotton-wool niche that it’s a veritable 'skande'. At this juncture thanks to the Tiggers for their support. 

And “ag shame” to the Eeyores. Maybe globe trotting is a walk in the park for some or a total no-no for others. Whatever it is, it’s a personal odyssey that should remain just that. I too have Africa in my bone marrow and soon I shall tell you about all the things I’m bound to miss. But I’m also a creature of the planet. And of life’s inordinate transience. Exploration is a profound life opportunity. It’s good to climb out of one’s comfort zone — to change one’s pastel daydream into a reality by pursuing one’s pilgrimage. It’s seizing the moment that makes one grow hair on one’s chest. As a woman I don’t want the latter. But I do think that adventurers should be permitted to travel the high road without the tut-tuts of the intense variety being thrown at them by the 'Bostik-bum brigade.'
A major paradigm shift brings with it excitement, challenge and massive trepidation. Above all it is horrendously painful, shredding the gut-naked stuff wedged within one’s soul. It’s not always about hedonistic pleasure or selfish gratification. It can be about making immense sacrifices which existentially grow one and all those whom one is closest to.

Published in The Witness 2008

PS. I moved to NZ for my family in July 2008. Some of our family had already started the ball rolling by applying for residency and/or planning to emigrate, when I was offered a position in Auckland. Some chose to emigrate and some to stay in SA. I am thus a mother and grandmother of two lands :)
I am happy. I love NZ. But I miss my Saffer family. And that is the reality of this life. Many Saffers share this sense of fragmentation. I allude to it as  being 'shrapnelled...'

I'm Living In Two Worlds lyrics
I'm living in two worlds, dividing my time
Unhappy in your world and lonesome in mine

When I'm in your world I just pretend
That I'm really happy though I don't fit in
Then I drift in my world, so cold and alone
I'm living in two worlds where do I belong

I'm living in two worlds, dividing my time
Unhappy in your world and lonesome in mine
[ From: ]

Old friends in your world are new friends to me
So I can't take part in your old memory
Our love shared in two worlds that don't turn the same
We each have our own worlds and neither can change

I'm living in two worlds dividing my time
Unhappy in your world and lonesome in mine

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