I moved to Joburg a year ago yesterday. Exactly 365 days ago at exactly this time, I was sitting in the sun on my new back porch, publishing my first post from South Africa. (Here’s that post, if you’re curious.)
Sitting (and sleeping) on that porch has since become one of my favorite pastimes.
Yesterday afternoon, catching a snooze. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)
It’s been an emotional weekend, thinking back on how I got here and what’s happened since I arrived. So I’m going to veer from my normal blogging style and indulge in some introspection.
Eighteen months ago, I made a terrifying realization. I realized I’d spent my first 35 years drifting through life, not really thinking about who I was or what I wanted to be. On the outside, I was happy and successful and fulfilled. On the inside, I was wishing desperately to be somewhere else.
I had two options. Option #1: Maintain the status quo and continue to live a comfortable yet unfulfilling life, knowing that I would go to my grave wondering how I could have done things differently. Option #2: Give up everything and start over.
I chose #2.
Making that choice, and taking the necessary steps to follow it through, was like walking through thick walls of fire. Each time I passed through one fire wall, gasping for breath, another wall loomed ten feet ahead of me. I kept going because there was no turning back.
Six months after making that choice, on 6 August 2010, I landed at OR Tambo International Airport. Joe was waiting for me in International Arrivals, hefting a 15-pound bouquet of flowers with one arm and fist-pumping the air with the other. Seeing him standing there was like passing through the thickest fire wall yet. But it wasn’t the last.
My first year in Jozi has been the most incredible year of my life. You’ve read about plenty of it on this blog. But there have been lots of hard times — fu@&ing hard times, if you’ll pardon my language — that I don’t have the courage to write about yet. Times that made me sob and scream and hurl things against walls. On several occasions I was on the verge of booking the next flight home to D.C.
[Note: I’m sure lots of you are wondering what the hell I’m talking about and wishing I would just spit out the whole gory story. But I can’t, yet. The story is too long and complicated. Someday I’ll write a book, I promise.]
A year on, I’m still here and not planning to leave. I’ve stayed for three main reasons: I love Jozi, I love Joe, and I love this blog. Seriously. Maybe this sounds silly, but I can’t imagine life without 2Summers. And I can’t write 2Summers from anywhere but here.
I have lots more fire walls ahead. I’m still trying to expel the demons of my past and create my future. It’s still fu@&ing hard. But I’ve found a home in Jozi — a home that I sought out for myself, rather than just drifting in without meaning to. I love my life because it’s the life I’ve chosen, and I’ve chosen to live it in one of the most amazing cities on earth.
I thought about my choice yesterday afternoon when Joe and I visited Ernest Oppenheimer Park, a place that epitomizes what I love about Joburg. Like many other parks in the city centre, Oppenheimer Park used to be a nice little piece of green space, then became crime-ridden and filthy. Last year it was rehabilitated and re-opened, incorporating characteristic “New Jozi” style.
Basketball in Oppenheimer Park. In the background you can just see the tower of the Rissik Street Post Office, one of Joburg’s most historic buildings, which has long stood unoccupied and was gutted by fire last year. The post office is currently surrounded by scaffolding, a hopeful sign that it might soon be renovated.
Cast-iron impala statues watch over the basketball court. This used to be the site of an older, more famous impala statue, which was vandalized and eventually moved to Main Street. (Here’s my pic of the old statue in its new location.) I’m quite fond of both the new and the old statues.
I thought about my choice yesterday evening, when Joe and I took an anniversary self-portrait in front of our aloe barberae tree in the back yard.
I thought about my choice this morning, when Joe and I got up at dawn and watched the sunrise from the water tower on Northcliff Ridge, one of the best lookout points in Joburg. (Read about our last visit to Northcliff Ridge.)
Photographing the Jozi Water tower on a chilly anniversary morning. This is another thing that’s kept me here this year — my love of photography, which I wouldn’t have discovered without Joe. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)
Life here will never be easy. This is Africa, after all. But I’m happy with my choice. Happy anniversary to me.