If you’re new to this blog series and don’t know what’s happening with South Africa’s 21-day (now 35-day) lockdown, my first post  has all the details. Or read all my lockdown posts.

Welcome to Lockdown Day 16, and to my 1000th blog post of all time.

Heather and Jon
Lockdown photo Day 16: Jon and me, March 2007 (from an old photo album).

Just for today, I’ve decided to put aside all lockdown and COVID-19 talk. We’ve got a minimum of 19 more days of lockdown and I imagine you’re just as tired of reading about it as I am of writing about it.

I’ve published 1000 blog posts over the past decade. (The ten-year anniversary of 2Summers is also approaching, on 26 June.) It’s not every day that a blogger gets to say that. So today I’m going to indulge myself a bit, forget about the global pandemic, and tell you a story about how this blog started in the first place.

To do that I need to back up to March 2007, when I traveled to Tanzania.

* * * * * * * * * *

I’m 32 and it’s my first trip to Africa. Traveling to Africa for a writing-related work assignment (I work in communications for an HIV/AIDS nonprofit in Washington) is a dream come true for me. I can’t actually believe it’s happening.

I’ll be visiting Tanzania and Rwanda on this trip, and I’ve planned once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experiences around my work commitments in both countries. I shopped carefully for the right clothes and gear. I made lists and started packing my suitcase days in advance. I bought guide books and spent hours pouring over Tripadvisor traveler forums.

I figure this will be the only trip to Africa I’ll ever take. I’m happily married, living in the suburbs, and I’ll probably have a kid soon.

My plane lands at Arusha’s Kilimanjaro airport in the early evening. I disembark from the plane and manoeuvre through immigration, feeling a zing of excitement as the officer stamps my passport. I pick up my bag and walk into the arrivals area, filled with khaki-clad tourists and shuttle drivers holding signs.

At this point, it occurs to me I don’t know who is picking me up.

I pull out my Blackberry — a hockey puck with a black-and-gray screen and plastic keyboard buttons — which the IT department issued me specifically for this trip.

I fumble to find the number for Jeffrey, the logistics guy, and type it into the phone. “Your call cannot be completed as dialed,” the Blackberry tells me. I have no idea how to dial an international number on a mobile phone.

I wander outside, heart pounding, trying to act nonchalant. I look around for someone, anyone, who might be looking for me. Some cab drivers lounge near the curb.

“Taxi?” one of them asks.

“No thanks!” I call, and march back inside.

I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn around. The person standing there, I soon learn, is Jon.

Heather in Tanzania
A photo Jon took of me a few days after we met, while we were working together at a primary school in Tanzania.

* * * * * * * * * *

I’m not sure I believe in love at first sight, in the same way I’m not sure I believe in God. But if love at first sight does exist, that moment was the closest I’ll ever come to it.

Meeting Jon was not a romantic comedy meet-cute. Our relationship was messy and tumultuous and painful, kind of like a tornado. It left a lot of damage in its wake. I can’t explain what happened to us all in one blog post; I’ve been meaning to write a book about it for years. I still believe that book will happen, someday.

For now though, I thought I’d tell just a bit of that story for my 1000th blog post.

There are very few things I’m certain of — especially now — but one thing I know for sure is my life in South Africa exists because of Jon. Meeting Jon was — and always will be — the most important thing that’s ever happened to me.

Three-and-a-half years after that first meeting in Kilimanjaro Airport, I was talking to Jon on Skype. He was at home in Joburg, covering the 2010 FIFA World Cup as a photographer for the European PressPhoto Agency. I was in Washington, preparing to move across the world and start a life with him.

It was late in the afternoon for me and late at night for Jon. Joburg was cold and DC was hot. Jon was wearing a winter coat and a beanie as we spoke through our laptop screens.

“I’m going to start my blog tomorrow,” I told him. We’d been speaking about this for a while.

“Brilliant!” Jon said. “What are you going to call it?”

I was still struggling with that part. We brainstormed some ideas: switching countries, switching continents, changing hemispheres, changing…seasons.

“It’s winter there and summer here,” I pointed out. “Something about seasons?”

“You’ll be leaving America at the end of summer, and moving here just before summer begins,” Jon said.

“I’ll have two summers,” I said. “Two summers?”

Two Summers. I wrote it down. 2Summers. It looked nice.

2Summers. That was the name. The next day I went to WordPress.com and pressed the “Start your blog” button. I named the blog 2Summers and wrote my first post.

Almost ten years and 1000 posts later, here I am. Locked down at home in Joburg, still blogging. Amazingly I still haven’t run out of things to say.

Jon isn’t here anymore but I know he’s proud of me.

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