30 June 2011

Coming home

I want to preface this post by saying how grateful I am for our time in England. I would not trade those experiences, memories and relationships for anything. It was absolutely where we needed to be at the time.

But now I want to talk about what it means for us to be here in New Zealand, and why it's a better fit for us. Some of you might have thought my reaction to being on Sunset Beach was a bit melodramatic. It's just a beach, right? Why all the emotion?

Remember that I was born and raised in South Africa. I spent so much time outdoors and in nature. I loved the mountains, the beaches, the rivers and the forests, the animals, plants and birds.

Going to England was like taking me from being outdoors and bringing me inside for a decade, with a low ceiling of perpetual cloud, walls of people and buildings, the air conditioner turned up too high and the gloom of half-drawn drapes. If that's what you're used to there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but for this girl from Africa it was oppressive. I know Grant felt the same way.

Being here in New Zealand feels like coming home. As I gulp in huge lungfuls of fresh, fragrant air, raise my eyes to the soaring dome of sky - impossibly blue, bruised with rainclouds or black and scattered with stars - turn in a circle on an open beach with space all around me, something inside me comes to life again.

I knew I missed wide open spaces, bright sunshine and nature. But you know that feeling when you've been apart from someone you love and it's only in the homecoming that you feel the ache of how much you've missed them? That's what I'm feeling now.

So much here reminds us of our life in Cape Town. The laid-back cheerfulness of the people, the ways of the school, certain products on shop shelves all prompt a nostalgia and bring forgotten memories to the surface.

In England there was no real connection between our past and our present. The school system was different, the surroundings were different, nothing was the same. I used to say that it felt not like a different chapter in our book but a completely different book. Here, there is the continuity of past and present and it feels like a different chapter in the same book. We can share memories with the kids and it's relevant to them.

I didn't know how much that would matter to me.

England was the right place for us at the right time. But moving on became necessary. As hard as it was to get here, every time I thought of spending the rest of my life in the UK I felt a hard panic. Now we feel like we've come home. Not to a replica of South Africa, don't get me wrong; that's not what we were looking for. But to a beautiful, relaxed, generous country that fills our empty places and makes us glad to be alive.

And spending the rest of my life here feels like the richest blessing.

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