On the Beach

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

2 years on in Cape Town

It's hard to believe 2 years and 2 days have passed since we arrived to set up shop in CT. For my husband and I, it's a fraction of our lives. For my younger daughter, 2 years is more than half her life.

Has anything changed since a year ago? I'd say yes and no.

On an every day level, this past year has been less exhilarating than the first year. The first year was spent getting our feet on the ground- settling into a new home, a new job, a new school, finding our way around a new area, making friends, trying to find the supermarket, the doctor, the dentist, staring at the mountain.  It was spent getting our heads around the marvelous and the mundane.

This second year, some friendships have blossomed, some didn't have the opportunity to take off, people have left and new people have arrived. Friends have come from unexpected places and also left for them. And I am sure that will keep happening. South Africans have ants in their pants almost as much as us Poles do, they don't hang around. Most of our friends we have met through the international school where our oldest daughter is. At best international schools provide you with friends and knowledge of places you've never been (but now you have someone to visit!). At worst, they're a revolving door of friends. We've had a bit of both. It's a an odd sensation when friends here say they're leaving- you want to say: "Hey! What's with that? I just got here! I just met you- I like you!". Just shows you that just because you're standing still for a second, doesn't mean the world stands still with you.

We have been lucky enough to discover more of the Western Cape since last year and we fall more in love with it every time we travel. Cape Town definitely feels like home to me now and it certainly does to my kids. Life is cheap with them here- we don't need to buy shoes and they have dispensed with cutlery when eating like all good South African kids. The older one could pass for a bonafide South African with her accent and I don't think I have heard the younger one say "yes" since we arrived. Simply: "Ja".

On a broader scale, I loved South Africans before I arrived back here and I love them more as every day passes. In my experience they are among some of the funniest, warmest, kindest, most welcoming, honest and helpful people that I have ever come across. Nothing is too much trouble. you're always welcome in their home and the country seems to be filled with people who love children. Now, really, NOTHING is too much trouble when it comes to the kids.No restaurant- however posh- has managed to recruit a member of staff who doesn't melt when they see a small child. If you see a car broken down by the road or there's been an accident, enough other people stop to help that the helping causes a traffic jam.

On a less positive note, the longer I live here, the more despondent  I become about the state of government here. I suspect that's normal- it takes a long time to become in tune with the way a country works and to learn to truly lose hope in a government. I probably have some way to go, compared to most South Africans. The biggest issue for me is that the government doesn't  seem to care at all. Lots of people living below the poverty line really need them to care. The ruling class, however,  are far too busy discussing why the textbooks haven't been delivered and whose fault it is  that they weren't- it doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone to actually, you know, go crazy and deliver them. So many politicians are busy posturing over who has power, who will win the ANC leadership election, that they all seem to have forgotten about the people who put them there in the first place. I've said it before- and I hope I don't have to say it again- but the lack of proper investment into education in this country is a scandal. How can you expect your people to achieve if you don't educate them properly? I've heard it said that perhaps it's better for the government to keep people ill educated, because perhaps then they are less likely to question what the government does (or doesn't do).

I increasingly think that the South Africa that I live in and the South Africa I read about are 2 different places. My family and I have a lovely life, we really do (save for the bureaucratic incompetence which continues to plague us), but every time I open a paper I read about strikes, uprisings, people trying to get a living wage. I walk out of my house and I don't see any of this, I drive around and, mostly, I don't see it.  I sometimes think that The Western Cape really isn't a part of South Africa, or maybe just the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town aren't. I realise, that compared to most in this country, I lead a very privileged life.

Any regrets about leaving the UK? None so far. My life in the UK seems so far away, so distant that sometimes I have to think quite hard (even harder than usual) to conjure up an image of a place or a person in my "former life". For some reason that makes me sad, as do the pictures of my friends' children who have grown up-virtually beyond recognition in 2 years. I suppose I feel I am missing out on something- and I am- but I have made my choice

Will we be here next year? Ja, I hope so: "unless it goes like Zim" (more on that phrase another time) or unless the world has other plans....

Enjoying life in South Africa- lunch in the winelands, Roca at Dieu Donne.


  1. Bonjour! I have just discovered your blog and really enjoy it and the way it's written. I am a French mum to a 2 year old son and my hubby is from CT, southern suburbs. We lived there for a year and now back in London just doesn't feel right. The rat race, the squashed like a sardine commute, the extortionate prices of nursery and houses ect we decided to relocate to CT. I love London don't get me wrong and will always consider it my home after Paris but its difficult and don't see it much for a place to bring up children. We live in north London so nice and leafy but the schools are a worry if he doesn't get into the state one. By moving to CT we would be able to buy without a mortgage and I could work part time which is impossible here.....my hubby would keep his UK job and work frommmm home.
    His family are al over there but of course my parents are not happy.... And are worried about security over there..... We would be able to go back on holidays and he would be raised a SA/European. I speak French to him and would hopefully meet other French for him to continue both languages.

    Not easy to know if we are making the right decisions and with my parents bein so against it but we both now that it would be for the best. We are to going with the grass is greener idea but we do think instead of surviving like we do here... We would actually live and enjoy a good quality of life.

    Sorry didn't meant to write such a long comment!

    Thanks again and continue


  2. Sorry forgot to ask where you were living in the southern suburbs?

  3. Hello Fiona! Thanks for your lovely comments. Your situtaion sounds VERY similar to ours when we moved over and your reasonaing also sounds very like ours. Do you have an email address I an contact you on and we can chat further? I know quite a few French people here so you wouldn't be short of French speaking friends- there's a big community.

    We are very happy here. Nowhere is perfect but, at least for now, this is the most perfect place for us now. I totally know what you mean about London.

    We live in Upper Claremont.

    Hope to hear from you. Yvonne