2Years of 2Summers

Tomorrow it will be two years since I moved to Joburg.

It’s 7:41 on a Sunday morning. Even though it is technically still winter, I’m sitting on the deck in my pajamas, feeling not at all cold, sipping coffee in the sun and watching a pair of black collared barbets nibble the blooms on a cabbage tree. The Melville Cat is prowling the garden.

Barbets in the cabbage tree.

I’m really happy.

I’ve been trying to write this post since yesterday. There are so many things that I want to say but it all keeps coming out wrong. I reread the post that I wrote on the one-year anniversary of my move, 365 Days in Jozi, hoping for inspiration. That post seems so melodramatic to me now. I had no clue about anything back then.

I’ve concluded that summing up the last two years of my life in a coherent way — at least within the confines of a blog post — is impossible. And anyway, if there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time here, it’s that life is best lived in the present. So instead of digging into the past or trying to speculate on the future, I’ll explain why I’m happy right now.

I’m happy to be in this lovely house in Melville, the coolest neighborhood I’ve ever lived in, with a view of the Melville Koppies in my backyard. I’m happy to be living with Lucky, who feels almost like a brother to me, and Horst, an amazing landlord and friend. I’m happy that I wake up in the morning to the sound of doves singing on my roof. That sound means Africa for me.

I’m happy to have so many wonderful friends. Before moving to Joburg, I struggled to develop close friendships. But making friends here is easy. Friends come and go, and sometimes friendships change or fade away. But there are always new friendships around the corner. I feel really fortunate to have made lots of expat friends here, but also lots of South African friends. These friendships make me a better person.

Living overseas has made me appreciate my friends and family back home in a new way. Even though I don’t talk to them often, being far away from my family and best friends makes me feel closer to them than I did before. In a way, I feel more emotionally connected to my mother, father, and sister now than I did when I lived in the States. I’m grateful for that.

My sister posted this old photo of us on Facebook today. Her caption reads:  “Even at a very young age she was on safari…riding lions. And apparently I didn’t really want her to go…” (Photo: Tenney Mason)

I’m happy to be part of the Hillbrow Boxing Club — a place that couldn’t exist anywhere but in Joburg. Even on days like yesterday, when I left the boxing club with a fat lip and blood streaming out of my nose, I feel grateful to have discovered that place. George Khosi and his crew have shown me a side of Joburg that few outsiders get to see, and they accept me as one of them.

Padwork with George at the Hillbrow Boxing Club. (Photo: Denis Smit)

I’m happy to have found photography here. This never would have happened if I hadn’t come to Joburg. It’s kind of shocking that I lived the first 35 years of my life without realizing that there was a photographer inside of me. When I moved here, that photographer came out of hiding.

Green aloe flowers in Indaka Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been traveling around the country on a photography assignment. Two years ago, I never would have believed you if you told me I’d be doing that.

I’m happy to be discovering who I really am. Over the last two years, I’ve experienced some truly horrendous things. I lost someone who I really loved. It was horrible to watch him die, and that experience changed me forever.

But thanks to a few caring people and a lot of luck, I found help. I joined some amazing support groups. Those groups helped save my life, and now they are helping me to figure out a lot of things about myself.

It’s sad that I had to lose Jon to discover who I am. But I’m glad it’s happening, anyway.

I’m happy that the Melville Cat chose me for a friend. He is a truly great cat. And he helped save my life too.

The Melville Cat in one of his favorite spots, under my chair on the deck.

These are just a few of the things that are making me happy at the moment. There are many others. Of course my life is far from perfect and I still have a lot to figure out. But in a strange, unfathomable kind of way, I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

Early this year at a Chinese New Year celebration, I wrote a wish onto a ribbon and hung it on a plastic wishing tree. My wish was: “Before the end of 2012, I wish to feel truly happy again.”

I really didn’t believe that wish would come true. In fact, deep down I didn’t want it to. I didn’t want to be happy, because I thought that being happy would mean letting go of Jon.  When you’re living inside a cloud of grief, even the barest hint of happiness feels like a betrayal.

But over the last couple of months, I’ve realized something incredible. Two years ago, Jon gave me the greatest gift I’ve ever received: He brought me to Joburg. Jon is gone now, at least from this life, but I’m still here. I’ve lost Jon, but I’ve gained so many other things.

Jon left me with a box full of Jozi miracles. I owe it to him to take those miracles and use them to make myself happy. Hopefully I’ll contribute to the world while I’m at it.

Jozi and me. I think we go together rather well. (Photo: Ruth Hopkins)

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  • Reply Tonito August 5, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    You know despite me having never met you, your story, your blog and your experience of Jozi has been truly inspirational! I am really happy that you are happy considering what happened over the last year with you. Here is to another year of happiness!

    • Reply 2summers August 5, 2012 at 6:08 pm

      Thanks Tony. And I hope you have some great times awaiting you in SA too.

  • Reply Slowvelder August 5, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    You do go together rather well 🙂

    • Reply 2summers August 5, 2012 at 6:07 pm

      Yeah! Funny, isn’t it?

  • Reply jackie hulme August 5, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I know it has been the most hardest year Heather – and Jon will always be in your heart and always with you – but the dots are connecting with the box of miracles he left behind.

    • Reply 2summers August 5, 2012 at 6:07 pm

      Thanks Jackie. I’m glad to have you as one of my South African friends 🙂

  • Reply Jeanie freeman August 5, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Amazing post, Heather. I’m really happy for you but miss being with you. Love, Mom

  • Reply Gail Wilson August 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    So glad you have found happiness and it’s always awesome to discover oneself, wishing you many more years of happiness right here in Jozi.

  • Reply tomjsimpson August 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    A brilliant post

  • Reply Charles Visser (Chuckv) August 5, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I’m so happy that you’re so happy… Jozi is rather amazing in that way… to make strangers feel welcome and happy… I was a stranger here too some years ago.

    • Reply 2summers August 5, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      Thanks Chuck. It does seem to be that kind of city. Would would ever guess?

  • Reply beeseeker August 5, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Enjoy the writing style you have, it’s rfreshing, honest and inspirational… and the photos are sensational too. Keep blogging please.

    • Reply 2summers August 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm

      Thank you! Don’t worry — I’ve been blogging for 2 and a half years and not about to stop now.

  • Reply Melinda Swift August 5, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Yippee, happy two years and may there be many more…years..friends…photos…happy days xxx

    • Reply 2summers August 5, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      Thanks Melinda. Hope to see you soon – I miss you!

  • Reply miadidthis August 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Here’s to Heather and Jozi! Great post as always. Your life, at least the last two years, should be a movie. Much better/more inspirational than Eat, pray, love.

    You reminded me how happy I am living in Joburg.

    • Reply 2summers August 5, 2012 at 8:08 pm

      Well, thanks. You are not the first person to make that comparison. One of these days I’m going to write that book.

  • Reply Fiver August 5, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Stop writing like that! You make me realise how much I miss you and Melville and Jozi! Counting the days until I get back. Soon, soon…

    • Reply 2summers August 5, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      I miss you too! Eagerly awaiting your return.

  • Reply Nina Neubauer August 5, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Smiling after reading your post. Here’s to happiness, peace and contentment. It is a gift. Glad you are coming into it.

  • Reply thirdeyemom August 5, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    A beautiful deep and inspiring post Heather. I truly believe that life is a journey but the key to that journey is no regret and happiness. You can have anything else in the world but without being happy with your life and that life now, then you have nothing. So glad you found yourself in Jozi! 🙂 nicole

    • Reply 2summers August 5, 2012 at 9:45 pm

      So, so true. Thanks Nicole.

  • Reply Mr Bunny Chow August 6, 2012 at 11:03 am

    all I want to say is twoopuddleytwoopuddleytwoo puddleytwoo, one of the greatest sounds of Africa…….

  • Reply Howlin' Mad Heather August 6, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Congrats on two years! I’m so glad I came across 2Summers for the wonderful views of Joburg.

    • Reply 2summers August 7, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Thanks Heather! I’m glad to have found your blog too. (Although I guess I owe you because you found mine first.)

  • Reply Lu August 7, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Happy 2 year anniversary – may there be many more! If you’re anything like me, you’ll never be quite able to escape South Africa – and that is a good thing, I think!

    • Reply 2summers August 7, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Indeed it is. Thanks Lu.

  • Reply Anton August 8, 2012 at 9:13 am

    just happened upon your blog. I too moved to Melville 2 years ago (from the western suburbs) and i can confirm….there is something soooo alluring about this “village”. love it and love the fact that u do

    • Reply 2summers August 8, 2012 at 11:06 am

      Thanks Anton! I’m glad you agree and I’m glad you found my blog. I think pretty much everyone who lives in Melville agrees with us…The haters don’t know what they’re talking about.

  • Reply frenchfry36 August 9, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Lovely post… here’s to happiness!

  • Reply Mark Wiens (@migrationology) August 12, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Incredible and thoughtful post Heather. As much as we plan, we’re never certain what the future holds – and despite unfathomable challenges, there’s always hope and people that care. Inspirational post and keep with your passions – they are shining through.

    • Reply 2summers August 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

      Thanks Mark, that means a lot coming from you!

  • Reply Emily Cannell August 17, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Nicely Done!

  • Reply Owls August 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    All I can say is 🙂

  • Reply Tarara August 20, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Have known you (through the blog) for little over a year and its been quite a journey. Totally appreciate your take on life and the way you dealt with your loss. I hope and pray that you have more and more reasons to be happy with every rising sun. Cheers!

    • Reply 2summers August 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      Thanks so much Tara, I hope you’re doing well.

  • Reply Lisa August 23, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Really wonderful Heather. What a blessing it is to feel a true sense of happiness and fulfillment, which can only really be experienced in the Now. Now…here’s to another eventful and meaningful year for you here in Joeys!
    p.s. I managed to get an extension to my visa- til 2014! Woohoooooo! 🙂

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