Goodbye Africa, Hello America

The title of this post was a shameless ploy to get people to click on it in a panic, thinking that I’m leaving Joburg forever and moving back to America. Gotcha!

I’m boarding a plane tomorrow and flying to America for a three-week visit.

(I used to call it the United States. But as with many other words and pronunciations, after three years of living here I’ve converted to the South African way of referring to my home country. “America” is shorter and easier to say than “the United States”.)

This trip is momentous for many reasons, first because I haven’t been “home” in more than two years.  It’s been two years since I’ve driven on the right side of the road. It’s been two years since I’ve watched Matt Lauer in the morning. (Is Matt Lauer still the host of the Today Show? I don’t even know.) It’s been two years since I’ve eaten legitimate Mexican food. (This dire situation will be remedied immediately upon my return.) It’s been two years since I’ve seen my mother.

After Jon died in December 2011, people were always asking if/when I was moving back to America. But not only did I not consider moving back, I didn’t even go for a visit. I suppose this might seem strange. Really though, the fact that I’ve waited so long to go back is no accident.

I’ve been through so much tumultuous change over the last two years that I could barely remember to breathe at times, let alone plan a trip across the world. So that’s one thing. But it was more than that.

In hindsight, I suffered from a kind of agoraphobia after Jon’s death. I never stopped exploring Joburg and I’ve done a lot of traveling around South Africa and Southern Africa in the last two years. But the idea of really leaving — of crossing the ocean and being away for more than a few days — terrified me. It still does, at least a little bit. But I’m ready to face that fear now. I think.

I’m looking forward to seeing (and photographing) my two home towns — Baltimore and Washington — with fresh eyes. I’m looking forward to spending time with my friends and family and visiting parts of the States that I haven’t been to before. I’m really, really looking forward to watching football.

But I’m also nervous. I’m nervous about sudden exposure to round-the-clock, in-your-face, consume-consume-consume American culture. (I recently watched Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs and wondered if I’m ready to subject myself to that kind of circus for three straight weeks. I’ll try to stay away from MTV, as well as CNN and Fox News.) I’m nervous about how my family will react to me, and how I’ll react to them, after such a long time and so much change. I’m nervous about the way America will make me feel about myself. I’m not the person I was when I last left there.

Also, this will be the longest I’ve ever been away from Joburg since moving here three years ago. I’m going to be homesick.

Graffiti and guy

I’ll miss walking around Joburg and seeing scenes like this.

Nells and Ree

I’ll miss Nells and Ree and the rest of my Instagram friends. And all of my other amazing friends, too.

Smokey sleeping

Most of all, I’ll miss the Melville Cat. This animal has gotten me through some very difficult times over the last two years. I’ve arranged for him to have a companion while I’m away, but I’m still apprehensive about leaving him for so long. The Melville Cat always does what he wants, and if he gets angry and decides to move elsewhere during my long absence there will be nothing I can do about it. Anyway, I’m doing my best to let go of my codependent feelings about the Melville Cat.

Smokey under car

I think he suspects that something is amiss.

Okay, enough self-reflection. Despite my angst, I think this trip will be great and it’s going to provide me with excellent blogging content. So don’t go away. Even if you’re not interested in my American experiences, I’ll be back in Joburg before you know it.

Maboneng skyline

See you soon, Jozi. I’ll miss you.

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42 Comments

  • Reply eremophila September 7, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Have a great trip Heather♥

    • Reply 2summers September 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Thanks! I’m sure I will.

  • Reply dawn de bruyn September 7, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    You are going back a stronger more amazing person than when you left. have an an amazing trip. we will keep the tequila cold and the sun hot in anticipation of your return.

  • Reply bifferlyjane September 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Even though I always read your blog entries, I have to admit your title made me read it immediately. As always, your writing and views on everything inspire me! Just the short comments on America caused me to chuckle. You are so right!! And, a mad cat …. It is amazing how perceptive cats are … I do hope he isn’t too angry when you return! I cannot wait to hear about your adventures in America. Even though I love it here in America, I am so proud of you for being willing to venture away from home and fall in love with another city, country, continent. You truly opened your eyes and heart and found so many wonderful characteristics of your HOME to share with us about JoBurg. I am so glad you will be returning there. Have an amazing three week trip to America!

    • Reply 2summers September 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment. I’m glad you enjoyed my thoughts on America. I’m sure there will be many more to come in the next few weeks. And by the way, IS Matt Lauer still the host of the Today Show??

  • Reply Sheryl R September 7, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Travel safely Heather. Don’t keep us in suspense too long before we hear all about the “new way of Life” ahead of you and the way in which you perceive it with new eyes. Lots of blogging please. Take care.

    • Reply 2summers September 7, 2013 at 7:38 pm

      Thanks Sheryl. I think there will be lots of blogging 🙂

  • Reply Catherine September 7, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Bon voyage!

  • Reply Dave Freeman September 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Safe trip, Heather! Wish I had the chance to see you but California is just too far away from where you will be. I hope your visit is enjoyable and any nervousness will dissipate quickly. Have a good time and say hello to everyone for me.

    • Reply 2summers September 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm

      Aw, thanks Dave. Wish I could see you too! I will say hi to everyone — please do the same for me.

  • Reply nellsified101 September 7, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Gonna miss you too H! Home is always where the heart is and we treasure yours here. Have a fantastic time at America, your roots. We love you long time, big time! Mwahzies lovie! See you when you get back.

    • Reply 2summers September 7, 2013 at 8:11 pm

      Thanks Nellsified. I’ll miss you and the family. Enjoy the spring weather when I’m gone and see you soon. xx

  • Reply amelie88 September 7, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    America is not that bad, promise. I’ve been back home for a year after living in Spain for two years. Yes, the transition was rough and I’m still in transition. But there are fantastic things about living in this country that I missed while in Spain. We do have our Miley Cyrus moments, but from what I’ve seen in the news, South Africa is not exactly exempt to hot messes either (Oscar Pistorius anyone?). There are pros and cons to wherever you live in the world. Have a good trip back and enjoy the time with your family!

    • Reply 2summers September 7, 2013 at 8:58 pm

      Well, of course. I’m certainly not saying South Africa is perfect, not by a long shot! Just different stuff, that’s all. I have no doubt I’ll be fine, I’ll just need a bit of readjustment time.

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough September 7, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Okay, you got me.

    A note about what we call the US depending on where we live– In South America folks object to our calling the US America, as they say, and rightly so, that they live in America, as well. In Asia, it seems most folks call it America, as well.

    Hope you have a wonderful visit!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • Reply 2summers September 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      Yep, makes perfect sense, of course. It’s all in the perspective 🙂

  • Reply Andrew Lindsay September 7, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    Travel safe and enjoy the trip back home and see it with Jozi eyes!

  • Reply thirdeyemom September 7, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Good luck! Yes you have changed and there are a ton of annoying and bad things a out the US but there is also so much good!!!! Keep that third eye out there and maybe you will surprise yourself with what you find. 🙂

    • Reply 2summers September 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      Oh, I have no doubt I’ll enjoy it. I joke about the negatives but of course I know there are many positives too. Most of the negatives relate to me own emotions, not the country itself.

      • Reply thirdeyemom September 10, 2013 at 12:09 am

        Good Heather. Have a nice time! 🙂

  • Reply Dean Mahlstedt September 8, 2013 at 3:57 am

    Heather, You should hook up with Mary and I once you get back!!!! Let us know. We’re at 410-409-7262 Deano Date: Sat, 7 Sep 2013 10:41:07 +0000 To: hikingtrails@hotmail.com

    • Reply 2summers September 8, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      Hi Dean, my schedule is totally insane but I’ll try! I’m going to the Ravens game on 22 Sept. — excited for that 🙂

  • Reply Charles Visser September 8, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Have a leaker time!

    • Reply chuckv88 September 8, 2013 at 11:28 am

      Leaker… autocorrect for lekker.

  • Reply Emily Rinehart September 8, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Haha, after just seven months in Australia I’ve converted to “America,” too. Now that I think about it, that’s what I always said as a kid. It was just in college that saying “the US” seemed more grown up or something ridiculous like that.

    Hope you have an awesome trip & that reverse culture shock leaves you be! I can’t wait to see your new perspective on America.

    • Reply 2summers September 8, 2013 at 2:37 pm

      Haha, yeah, America is definitely the more universal term. Thanks for the well wishes!

  • Reply SusanB September 8, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    I found your site after you lost Jon. Now, every time I visit I think of where you come from – in your heart. You’re an American in Joburg and we can say it’s only demographics, but we are shaped by our environment. I’m glad you’ve found a home for your healing heart. Safe travels, and I’m sure the inspirations from your trip to “America” will prove to be rich blogging fodder.

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      Thank you Susan, I always appreciate your comments.

  • Reply Sine September 9, 2013 at 12:21 am

    …and I thought it was a shameless ploy to use and combine the titles of two of my more popular blog posts:-) Now I’ll have to shamelessly post the link to them here:

    http://www.joburgexpat.com/2013/01/goodbye-africa.html
    and
    http://www.joburgexpat.com/2013/01/hello-america.html

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      Haha Sine, sorry for the inadvertent plagiarism! You’re welcome to post shamelessly.

      • Reply Sine September 13, 2013 at 6:52 pm

        can’t wait to hear more of your first observations. I’m already past that and have forgotten what it’s like to see “America” with fresh eyes. I guess I’ll get that benefit whenever I get the chance to return to Joburg…

        • Reply 2summers September 13, 2013 at 6:59 pm

          Of course you can appreciate these posts more than anyone, Sine. I took my first trip to a large grocery store in rural Vermont last night and that was an eye-opening experience. We had less than a dozen items and the bagging lady gave us about six plastic bags. And they were so thin and flimsy! And don’t even get me started about the massive display of packaged dessert cakes (twinkies, ho-hos, oatmeal pies, ding-dongs, etc. – there were at least 20 varieties and the display reached from floor to ceiling). I was possibly more shocked by that experience than anything else so far.

  • Reply horsesofthesun September 9, 2013 at 9:01 am

    You must miss your home – I only lived there for a year and I left my heart there. Miss it terribly

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2013 at 3:53 pm

      Yes! Although I’m actually not sure which country is ‘home’ anymore. Both, I guess.

  • Reply Freya Maye September 11, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Heather have a great visit. Had to laugh in this neck of the woods we constantly hear about visits to “Africa” drives me nuts, “are you going to Egypt or Lesotho?” there is a difference.

    • Reply 2summers September 11, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Haha, yeah, it’s a similar thing I guess 🙂

  • Reply Wenchy September 13, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I look forward to reading about the trip!

    • Reply 2summers September 14, 2013 at 12:02 am

      Thanks Wenchy! Hope you’re well.

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