Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

It was almost a month ago that I was fortunate enough to have gone to Reunion island for the Mascarun South Africa. If you had followed my blogs you would have been able to keep up with all the amazing activities we got to participate in as well as the love I developed for this beautiful, captivating island. Well, now you can see it for yourself as well. The Reunion Island Tourism Board put together this 5 minute video for us on our adventures in Reunion over the Mascarun challenge – Now I can share it with you in the hopes that it will inspire and motivate you to visit the island and have as much fun as I did. Happy viewing!!

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This afternoon I watched one of the most disturbing documentaries I have ever seen, Blackfish. The movie centres around ‘Tilikum’, an Orca living (existing) in Sea World in Florida who killed a while trainer and what transpired in the aftermath of her death. What was disturbing about this documentary was not the death of a human being but the utter disregard that people have for the lives of animals. As a race, we should be disgusted in ourselves.

I am not an animal rights activist, nor am I a vegetarian and admittedly I do not do enough for animal rights as I could be doing. I am just a regular woman with pets that I absolutely adore and love who is guilty of visiting zoos and aquariums, funding the idiotic animal circus that is this parade of the earth’s creatures. Something about this documentary on Tilikum has sparked a few things in me, one of which being anger. I am so angry that human beings feel they have the right to own and control such beautiful creatures – To take an animal from its natural habitat where it will be healthy and free and instead, lock it up in the smallest pools for most of its life for our viewing pleasure and then fool the public into believing that this is what is best for the animal.

A friend of mine has been battling with guilt around eating meat, something we have discussed at numerous lengths to gauge what exactly is the best way forward to do what she / we can, even in the smallest way, for animals. It is such a debated and controversial topic and unless you only eat fruit and vegetables exclusively, you walk a very thin line trying to aid the cause without doing any harm. Most of our conversations ended at a crossroads, unsure of the answers to the questions and what to do next. Where does one draw the line? Who decides that cows, pigs and chickens are good enough to eat but wanting to have your feline for dinner is frowned upon? We judge people in foreign countries for eating some of the things that they do (and consider a delicacy) whilst eating a steak from a cow that could also have been someone’s pet. I am not condoning eating domesticated cats in any way, but who is to say what animal ‘deserves’ to be eaten and which animal does not? If I, as a cat lover, do not agree with eating cats because I keep them as pets and could not even fathom the idea that someone could actually do that, would it be fair to say that people who own animals such as cows, pigs and chickens amongst others, would not eat meat from that animal as well for the very same reason? If this is true, could you then go on to say that someone who does not have any pets whatsoever considers all animals ‘fair game’ making the cat dinner sound a little more plausible. Rather than the above, the alternative is to look at a no meat option because let’s be honest, you cannot be a vegetarian but still eat chicken, fish and meat products – What makes that fish any less important than the cat in your house (If animal activism is your reason for being a vegetarian of course, I am generalising here).

But what about animal products?

You may have decided that you will no longer eat meat whatsoever, instead you will try to balance a diet of legumes and rabbit food, I for one could not stomach that way of eating. But surely, for the good of the animals, we should be avoiding their products as well? How am I saving a cow by not eating a beef steak but I will buy a litre of milk at the shop that was knowingly STOLEN from that cow after it was forced to reproduce non-stop for its entire adult life to maintain sufficient milk production, after all it is a business right? Is it fair that I will not eat the chicken but we will take their offspring (Yes, that is what they are) and eat it before it has a chance to be that little chicken? That aside, I will eat those eggs knowing that its layer was kept in a cage with 200 other chickens where they could lay egg after egg for the everyday consumer to keep up with public demand. How about my genuine leather belt, shoes or handbag? I do not want to eat the beef but I will still wear the skin of the animal because I like those shoes or I need a jacket in winter?

Let’s assume that after many discussions we deem it near impossible to avoid some, if not most of these scenarios. It is decided that perhaps we will continue to drink milk, eat eggs and throw a steak on the braai but instead we choose to investigate where our food comes from to make sure that the animal has been looked after well enough before having its throat slit or head chopped off. Will it help me to sleep at night knowing that the beef ribs I had earlier would have come from a cow that was free to roam the meadows and ate the greenest of grass, drinking the most pure water with many other fat and healthy cow friends? No, because while the cow has a somewhat nicer life, the end result is the same. That cow is being raised to be food, that cow will still be turned into a handbag and that cow’s milk is still taken to put into my cereal instead of what it is meant for, to feed its young. Even if it did make me feel better, this is what the world suddenly calls ‘free range’ and ‘organic’ – What should be natural and NORMAL is now a speciality – When did it become a speciality for an animal to roam in a field? Since when is it acceptable that this animal can only eat the best grass if it is raised in this way?

We moan when a registered voter doesn’t vote because they want to complain but will not actually do anything about the situation but it is easy to feel that way about not eating meat as well. What point is there to me, one person, no longer eating meat or derivatives? Just because I stop eating meat, doesn’t mean the rest of the world will. As long as there is a demand, the battery chicken farms will still exist and the milk stealing dairies will still go about their business, that is not going to change because of me. Then I have to hope that as long as I am eating the steaks and drinking the milk, the animal did not die in vain and someone who truly appreciated its sacrifice has ingested it instead.

What does this whole rant have to do with Tilikum?

At the end of the day, it is all the same. We keep and kill animals in the most inhumane way to feed the population. At the same time, we capture and imprison innocent animals for our selfish viewing pleasure. When will the realisation come that we are a selfish, cruel, disgusting species who live only for ourselves instead of for the good of others. Too many SICK things are happening in the world already, is it too much to ask to preserve the life of animals that cannot speak for or defend themselves? What does it say about us that so easily we abuse those that are weak and defenceless – If we cannot preserve animal life, how the hell do we have any hope of raising children that actually give a sh1t? In an age when we can send men to the moon, we cannot create a world without the unnecessary killing or abuse of animals for food or entertainment?

Call me a wishful thinker but I can only hope that day will come, when it will be just as inhumane to eat a cow as it is to eat a cat. I am not a vegetarian, I am not an animal rights activist and I have been to a zoo or two. I am not perfect and I do not have all the answers but I can only hope that things get better for animals like Tilikum and so many others that suffer at the hand of the human race.

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I do not mean F@#k Off Cos You’re Stupid. No, I mean FOCUS – Focus on what is going on around you, FOCUS on what is directly in your future, FOCUS on the end goal and everything you do will fall in line with that, right?

Easier said than done. In the last few weeks (By few I mean two) I have been all consumed by the administration necessary to move my family cross continent. While I understand the magnitude of what I am doing, I have not actually sat down and allowed myself to focus on this task at hand, instead I have been shifting attention to each individual task with the bigger picture in the back of my mind. I understand that what I have just said makes me sound like I have not in fact thought this move through, that is not the case (I do nothing BUT think about it), what I mean is that I have been so caught up in arranging my husband’s settlement visa, obtaining my children’s passports, selling everything I own in the world, leaving behind friends and family and finishing up in my current job. There are so many finer details to be thought of and arranged that I have completely forgotten to think about what is ahead, the fact that I am leaving the only country I have known in 24 years.

I was on the way home last night and in the car I was doing my usual moan to Erin about how there is just too much to worry about, too much too arrange, too much that needs organizing. Many a day I have questioned my decision and I am constantly in a state of anxiety about the visa’s and passports and of course, the what if’s. What she said to me (Thank you) was almost profound… I am not deserting my family, I am giving them a better life and when this is all over this terrible time in limbo will just be a distant memory. I definitely will not be crying about how long the visa process took when my husband actually arrives and we can focus on the future. What I should be doing now is preparing for an ADVENTURE that awaits me – Next week I get on a plane and fly, one way, to a new country. I will live in a new house with very different living arrangements, I will start a new job, I will have to get used to a new transport system and meet all new friends.  I will not be near to any of my immediate family and I will have entirely new surroundings to explore – It is an amazing future that awaits me, it truly is an adventure – One that I have not spent enough time getting excited about.

Yes, the next 4 months or so without my husband and children is going to be very difficult but at the same time, the adventure is going to be amazing! Relationships will be tested and resilience will be in question but at the same time the world will open up for me and I need to enjoy every second of it, there will be no point in moping around without my loved ones – INSTEAD my time will be put to good use preparing everything for their arrival.

I cracked a beer when I got home today, not because I was thirsty and not because I wanted a drink in a social manner. No, it was because the UK spousal visa that we have to apply for in order for J-P to move to the UK is driving me to drink.

Do not get me wrong, I am excited for this move (Really excited – Especially since I have now seen a picture of my new room for the next few months) and I understand that certain paperwork must be done in order for my husband to come back to my birth country with me, I am more than willing and able to co operate… but Holy Sh1t. On days like today, I wish I had married a British passport holder (No offence babe).

Look… there is a metric ton of documentation required for the visa. Most of which is pretty easy to acquire but the actual application itself is pretty daunting, to do it without the help of a reputable visa / immigration specialist is probably not a good idea because after playing Google detective and reading up on all the horror stories of failed applications, it will only mean taking a risk I am not willing to take – Anything that can delay this visa application is NOT a good thing.

The first visa / immigration agent I contacted basically blew me off without even reading or listening what I had to say. You see, you need to be able to support your spouse and earn the equivalent of GBP18600 per annum – While this is fairly easy to prove and apply for after working in the UK for 6 months, before that time the only way to go about this is to prove you have earned that money in the last calendar year (Start the rands to pounds conversion as the non bread winner, enough to make one sick). I made this difficult for myself admittedly by moving jobs 5 months ago and taking a drastic cut in salary, this of course affecting my financial requirement for the application – A battle that I now face in the eyes of the visa and immigration authority. If you know me, you will know that in fact I do not stop at NO and went on to the second immigration assistant for some advice, thankfully they were a little more forthcoming with information and I was able to get an actual calculation method to check if I did qualify with my current earnings on the GBP18600 stipulated – THANK THE POPE, I just squeezed it in to allow for an application at the end of November 2014, perfect right? After emailing all my calculations that I spent HOURS working on to this agent, she then came back and said that she would need copies of my payslips to verify this information (Just in case I fabricated my own amounts I am sure) which I then sent on to her as requested.

TWO DAYS later, I am still waiting for a response – After calls, emails and voicemails we finally managed to speak to another gentleman who said he would get back to us by tomorrow afternoon to see if we qualify – I cannot possibly understand that delay as I did their job for them? Anyway, not one for incompetence or snail’s pace, I decided to email a few other immigration agents to get a feel of who actually wanted to assist me and who did not – At the end of the day you would expect them to WANT to help when they make up to R10 000 in service fee out of me but hey, what is R10k anyway? Two of the agents I emailed responded – The first, an email detailing that I would no doubt have a successful application once I have been working in the UK for 6 months (Thank you for pointing out the obvious – Information I already have, am well aware of and am trying to avoid at all costs). The second, a company finally willing and able to assist and confident that my calculations are correct and we can successfully apply by the end of November 2014 – Best case, we have the visa in approximately 7 weeks, worst case 12 after application. Without hesitation we have set up our appointment with them, paid the appointment fee of almost R1000 just to see them and already have a file full of documentation to take with – Easiest clients EVER!!!

Now that we have finally found a company willing and able to assist, the mountainous administration is ahead of us  – From photo evidence of our relationship (Thank goodness for Facebook) to letters from loved ones authenticating our marriage, from a misplaced matric senior certificate issued 14 years go – J-P’s, not mine – to certificates and as much original paper work we can find. We have our work cut out for us, all the while I sit in the UK and leave this in my husband’s capable hands (I promise babe, I do think you are capable). This process is most definitely not for the faint hearted, or for the tight budgeted – The visa alone comes with a price tag of GBP885 excluding the fee for using an immigration specialist of approximately R10k as mentioned, added to the cost of an English test at about R3k and a TB test of R1k.. All in all, over 30 000 rand… A R30 000 well spent as far as I am concerned.

I could work in the UK for 6 months and then only do the application, it would probably be a hell of a lot easier – But the truth is, I do not want to be without my husband that long and so I am not willing to accept that. When you want something bad enough, you figure out a way to get it and it just goes to show that if you keep on and on and become a nag, someone will eventually come to your party! I may have had a few more beers by the time this visa comes through but the bottle of vodka at the finish line will be well worth it when it has been issued.

It is difficult and heart breaking decisions and moments like this that have me awake from 3am in the morning – I am beginning to wonder if I will ever get any sleep again in the lead up to my move (In case you missed it, SA to UK) Now that all the formalities are done, now that everyone knows, now that jobs have been left and friends and family have been notified, it is time to put all the plans into action – With a little less than 3 weeks to do it! This morning, all that I can think about is that fact that I have to leave my animal children behind – I am the most awful pet owner in the world :(

In the last few days, many people have posed questions to me about my desertion of my family – The human ones, J-P (My husband) and my daughters Hayley and Dakota. How can I do that to them? They won’t have two parents? How will they manage? How will I manage? In answer to everyone, it is the most difficult thing I have ever and will ever do, but I guarantee you that they will be stronger for it. They are not being ‘deserted’ as many people have put it, in fact now more than ever they will be around close friends and family to spend what time they have left with them. Both of my daughters will still have their fathers here in South Africa with them up until the move as well as all the grand parents and aunties and uncles they have, they are very blessed in that regard. Will they manage without their mother? Absolutely. I am not saying that I am a non issue in their lives, no doubt they will notice my absence and the distance put between us will be the longest mile imaginable but it is not FOREVER, hopefully it will not even be for more than 3-4 months if we can get all the paperwork right. They are resilient and they are still young, before they know it they will be with me in the UK looking forward to their first white Christmas (Probably next year) and speaking with little accents – This will all be a distant memory, the first and last time our family will be separated like this.

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Those of you who know J-P and I well will know that in recent years we have had to deal with some pretty rough stuff and heck, we got through that! We can get through anything (Except his snoring which this morning is exceptionally loud in my already over flowing mind). He is an amazing father with an excellent support structure, he will do a fabulous job with the children preparing them for this big adventure that I absolutely cannot WAIT to share with them. The beauty of modern technology is that the world has shrunk – We have the internet, digital cameras, Whatsapp and instant messaging, Skype and Facetime – We have so many tools at our disposal that it is impossible not to know how the other half of the world is living.

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I like to think of this little separation as a good thing. I will be there for a few months without them, finding a nice little place to stay and making it comfortable for them. I will be finding my way and learning the ins and outs of the towns and transport system. I will be contacting schools and making provision for them to start when they arrive. I will be making sure that by the time they do get there to join me, everything is already done for them so that along with the excitement of seeing their mother in person again, they will be in a comfortable loving home and I can excitedly show them the ropes – Not all 4 of us arriving, battling and fumbling our way around another continent. At the same time, they will be here with family maximising all the time they possibly can (and being spoilt, I am sure) – A few months goes by in a flash, they will be with me before I know it. Absence makes the heart grow fonder as they say, it is a necessary evil and one that has no choice other than to play out so that we can do and have what we want for our young family. My children have already given me a task, at Christmas time when hopefully there is some snow around, I have to go outside and sing ‘Do you want to build a snowman’?, record it and send it to them… Easiest christmas present ever :D

When we were originally in talks about the UK move, we did not foresee this happening for at least another 2 years or so, so you can imagine that we are a little unprepared in more ways than one (Including financially, but if you wait for financial readiness you will never get anywhere in life, this I know). We had planned to travel with all 4 of our cats and even starting looking at the budget and formalities involved to do this. That said, this move is happening a bit differently than we had originally planned and now that is no longer a possibility. The first difficult thing that I have to do is find loving homes for my 4 furry feline babies. Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I love my animals, this is not an EASY thing for me to do. My cats are my other children and without them life absolutely sucks, now I am sitting here typing this blog and all four of them are around me in the lounge as if they know that I am talking about them or crying for them… well, I am, on both accounts. If this is me with the animals, how the actual heck am I going to leave my kids?! So I have done the necessary and shared a status update on Facebook for my close friends and family, ideally that is where I need my animals to go, to a friend or family member who can give my babies as much love as I have and do.

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Despite having to heartbreakingly leave my animals behind and then desert my husband and children for a few months, I also have to leave all my family and close friends – The only life I have known for 24 years of it. I know, I am not the first person in the world who has moved countries and I most certainly will not be the last, that said, it does not mean that the end result affects me any less?! My sister said to me that she will miss me (Obviously) but I replied to her that we live mere roads away and yet we only see each other sporadically anyway, so the impact should surely not be so great. She had a valid point though, we get complacent and don’t see each other because we know that at any time we can. We can hop in the car, meet at the shop, go past the office or meet for lunch – it would be that simple if we allowed it. My best friend of now 21 years (That is a long time) and I have a relationship that allows us to get on with or lives that are at somewhat different stages at the moment and yet when we meet up, it is as if we saw each other yesterday and nothing had kept us apart – That will not happen any more. Instead, we will be reduced to the technological advances I mentioned earlier and hope that the British and SA governments work together to soon abolish the visa requirements for South Africans, so people can come visit us as well! When I leave on the 15th of October, I will be missing my planned 30th birthday party, my mom’s 50th birthday, my husband’s 32nd birthday, Christmas, Hayley’s 9th birthday and New Year – I just have to get past all of those difficult occasions and then my family will be almost ready to arrive!

It is a tough one, a really tough one. A decision we are not making lightly. We are choosing to raise our children without their grand parents, without their aunts and uncles and without any future cousins they may potentially have (I still want to be an aunty by the way, just because I am cross country does not mean I did not earn that right ok siblings?). We are choosing to raise our children in a country that they were not born into. My husband is choosing to move with me to a country in which he has to start again. Do I feel like I am taking something away from them? Of course I do, I know what it was like to be raised in another country without those people in my life but at the same time, I am opening up so much more for them and plan on my children being seasoned travellers very soon – The SA / UK commute will be a regular one because despite our need to move, I will never sever that tie.

And then, the letting go of worldly things. My life has had many battles and challenges, it was certainly not always easy and I did not always have the things I wanted. I spent the last 10 years building myself up, recovering from past mistakes and trying to build a life for myself materialistically… Finally, I am in a good place and have nice furniture, a nice house, nice clothes and nice things and I have to GIVE IT ALL UP to start once more. I cannot think of anything more frustrating… Well, they say life begins at 30 right so I guess I am just starting my life all over again. Time to relinquish almost everything I own in the world so that my little brother can start his little life on his own and we can start fresh. I will be going to the UK with my measly 30kgs of luggage and the move cube, with the last bits and pieces we can squeeze inside

But it is done and I am going and I am so grateful for the support that we have as a family, here and there. We appreciate ALL the help everyone is giving us and we would not be able to do it any other way… it is sudden, it is last minute and it is how I role. It is happening people… It is nearly time. Thanks to these two crazies again, I also cannot wait to see your faces so it is not all doom and gloom!

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It is quite the decision that one has to make when deciding to move countries. My parents did it, with 3 children a little over 24 years ago from the United Kingdom to South Africa (Thank goodness for my red passport) and their parents did it before them. There is something about a new start, a clean slate, a new country that can renew your excitement in life again, not merely to exist but to begin to live somewhere else. This is the decision that I have been thinking about for quite some time and now, the time has come where in the last 24 hours I chose to finalise my plans and to the UK I will go.

Suddenly, this is not a pipe dream anymore. My ticket is booked, my bags are to be packed (How on earth will I get this right in 30kgs) and today I had to resign (Hence I am awake at 5am typing a blog, I cannot sleep). In two weeks, I fly to London, England to start the next chapter of my life and my famili’s lives. I finally put motion to my dream.

Perhaps one of the most difficult things about this decision is the fact that I have to go to England WITHOUT my family. Why you ask? Well, there are a number of practicalities involved in that decision starting with me currently being the only family member with British citizenship and that red passport I am so happy to have. We have been in talks for months to move to England, so when the opportunity recently presented itself, it was a no brainer for me to go over and start working to get a head start on the family – Make sure that everything is ready for them when they join me. I am extremely thankful that good friends of mine have recently emigrated themselves (Similar situation sans kids) and are willing to house me while I get everything together – THANK YOU KIKKY AND SCRUFF, a definite cost saving that will be well used towards saving for my own little family place :)

So the plan you ask? I will be departing on the 15th of October (Yes, I know, a little over 3 weeks away). My ticket is booked and at a bargain too, R3200 one way to London via Doha on Qatar Airways including 30kgs of checked baggage allowance – I am going to try and see if an airline rep may be able to assist me with a few extra kg’s outside of the exorbitent USD50 per kg thereafter. Once I arrive, I will get settled into the new woman cave that my amazing friends are preparing for my arrival – I anticipate a few days of tears and anguish while I come to terms with being without my family for 4 to 5 months. Yes, it could be that long (Insert sad and miserable face here). While I am in the UK and working, looking for a nice little place for us to live, sourcing schools for the girls and saving some money, my husbander will be moving into my mom and step dad’s house with the girls so that he too can save on money and will then finalise the applications for their British passports (Automatic citizenship as I was born there – Thanks again mom and dad) as well as his spousal visa for which I already need to be working in the UK in order for him to apply – There are methods in our madness, this is a means to an end, all for the greater good. It must be done.

I have decided I will be writing a series of blogs to assist anyone else in this journey and of course, document my experiences for friends and family back home. The trials and tribulations of a new country, even though it is a birth country, and the hardships that come with ‘deserting’ your family for such a long time in the hopes that it will bring about a better life. So, my first bit of advice that I can offer anyone planning to move ANYWHERE – YOU NEED a good support structure, it will not work on your own. Without family and friends here willing to assist my husband and children in my absence, without my friends and family in the UK who will be putting me up and wiping my tears and without this little blog for frustration venting – I do not think I can do this. In fact, I am in quite an emotional space right now – A space in which I know the right decision has been made and for all the right reasons but a space that allows for hesitation and fear of failure. I feel like this is resting on me to make it work and the pressure I have added onto others (ie. Leaving my husband with my two daughters for such a long time without me) may be too much to handle.

Before you can up and leave your country, no matter how much time in advance, you need to do the research. Most importantly, can you live in that country of choice and work there legally? For South Africans, unfortunately this is not as easy as we would like for the UK but I am fortunate enough to have citizenship by birth which I pass on too my children – Sure, the passports cost a pretty penny when converting to South African Rands but hey, it must be done. My British passport in totality cost me approximately ZAR2800 and the girls passports will cost GBP145 or so for both. That is not too bad, alas, we await unabridged birth certificates from home affairs before those applications can get in there (Possible ten week delay that hopefully has shortened somewhat since the suspension of the ruling for children to travel with these out of South Africa). My own british passport delay was expected to take 6 weeks and I had it out in 3 so I can only hope that the 10 week guideline period will be just as efficient and we will have the passports out in half the time. Then of course, in order for JP to join me I must be working in the UK and earning at least £18,600 a year to sponsor him (More if non British children were to be joining, keep that in mind). The https://www.gov.uk is extremely helpful in this regard, there is tons of information about how to apply for your UK visa or British passport – Jp’s visa is going to cost approximately ZAR16k so you need to make sure that you can outlay the money for all these passport / visa costs before you start the process. The visa process also includes an English test that is conducted to check your English ability as well as a medical TB test, just to make sure you are not taking any bugs over. The expected delay on a UK visa? Approximately 12 weeks but in a friends recent experience, 7 weeks is all it took – Looks like jolly old likes to under promise and over deliver, hopefully letting me get to see my family sooner than I think!

SO now, you should have all the info on moving there and legally what kind of documentation you need to get into the country, it is probably a good idea to start researching jobs. Word of warning, it is pretty difficult in my industry to obtain a job cross country without actually being there for a face to face interview. I feel like there is mass hesitation to employ outside of the UK (Especially from Africa) based on a CV and a telephonic interview, despite modern technology and the ability to conduct video conferencing interviews etc. I had uploaded my CV / profile to a website recommended by Kikky called Reed where you can easily search for available jobs by area (If you already know where you are going to be) or contact recruitment agencies directly as well as companies listed. Fortunately, I have a place to stay (Based in Crowthorne, South East England) so ideally you would like to be close to where you live. Understandably, this is not always possible but keep in mind that if you do not drive or cannot purchase a car outright, public transport is not cheap. For the job that I have applied to and hope to confirm in the next few days, I will need to walk 20 mins to the bus station, catch a bus from Crowthorne to Bracknell and then a train from Bracknell to Chertsey at an average cost of approximately £11 a day (Rail Easy for more info)… For people working in London or commuting fairly far, this cost can rise to up to 30 or 40 pounds a day – Factor that in when deciding on what jobs you want to apply for. There are quite a few jobs available in my field for average salaries, travel is not the highest paying industry in the world, but as I mentioned previously, not too keen on hiring without a face to face interview. SO while I have spoken telephonically and am continuing to line up alternative interviews for my arrival (Just in case), the company still want to meet me face to face and so I have to leave, sooner rather than later.

So, the job you hope is almost sorted and you are ready to go with your documents – What next? Do your research, It is time to find out what things cost in the UK… I put together a basic ‘budget’ to identify what I will be spending now in the next few months without my family and of course what that will rise to once they arrive (The sooner I put my husband to work here, the better). There are great websites you can get onto to get decent ideas of pricing but everything is generic, your costs are going to be based on your own needs – That said, it is always better to have a decent idea. I found a great site called Work Gateways that has a plethora of information on the cost of living, applying for your National Insurance number (When you arrive) and how to do your UK tax – Also check out basic costs of living here to see what you will spend in the shop – Numbeo. You are also going to have factor in many things like what you will take with you? We have decided to sell up all our furniture here and go with the suitcases of clothes we pack and then use Seven Seas Move Cube to ship over the clothes I did not get to fit in the suitcases, kids toys, photo albums and of course Jp’s Warhammer goods. These cubes are really reasonably priced and come in varying sizes – We are going for a medium sized cube which costs approximately ZAR9000 to send over, takes roughly two to three  months to arrive by sea (Boat, please do not sink!) and requires a customs tax to be paid there on arrival of approximately 100 pounds – I hope to have this shipped by end of October latest, I am battling with the clothes issue! If you need a little more info on budgeting and what you need to earn as an individual or family of 4, I found an article on that could be quite helpful in that regard – Still relevant and important info to know = Business Insider. 

There are going to be many things you cannot take with you (SAD face) but it is not like you are going to the rain forest in the middle of nowhere, you are in fact going to a country with shops where you can purchase the items that do not make sense to travel with ie. Toiletries (Shampoo and Conditioner can be bought on arrival) that take up too much weight in your suitcase. On Kikky’s advisory I searched the Poundland store where everything is ONE POUND – This is amazing, and considering I am still in convert mode, R18 for a shampoo or conditioner is just wonderful (One of the first stops I hope to make on arrival!). Believe it or not, people in the UK are also nice, they give away stuff for FREE – Kikky (This wonderful mountain of knowledge) has led me to a site called Freely Wheely where people advertise what they want to give away and then you get to ask for it! This is not as useful now as it will be when I start furnishing a house, free stuff and charity shops will be the way to go for an inexpensive way of re furnishing a new home (Starting again :/). I then went on a bit more of a google search and I came across the Everything 5 pound store – Wonderful! Clothing etc all for 5 pounds, watch me become the bargain queen of Crowthorne! :)

So what do be done on arrival? First thing is first. I am going to need a bank account to put the miniscule amount of pounds I get from my rands into… Still not sure where / how on this one, going to take Scruff’s lead and advice and then get something together. Also, National Insurance number must be applied for – You need this for employment, seems quite simple from what I have heard and read but I guess I will discover that all once I am there. And probably the first thing I will do as soon as I get to a shop from the plane? Buy a SIM CARD – Prepaid is definitely the way to go if you already have a phone, you are spoilt for choice in terms of providers but just based on some short internet research I have done you can get a pretty decent Pay as you go deal. Take for example Vodafone UK – If you buy a £10 Freedom Freebie you will get a 150 UK minutes, 500mb of UK data (Thank goodness Scruff and Kikky have excellent uncapped WiFi at home, also on my budget!) and 100 rewards points. This is obviously just one out of many options, it will take a little shopping around to decide on the best provider and package for me :).

So there you go, I have not rested on my laurels for 24 hours – Instead, I have done every possible little bit of research I can do without actually being in the UK. Once I am settled, have found a place, have gotten into a rhythm with the public transport and am supporting myself, I will then start the research on schools and after care and those additional costs for my family to join me – I ALREADY cannot wait. The thought of being without them for months on end is keeping me up at night and constantly making me question my decision, but they are all in safe hands with a good support structure here in SA and when the time is right and the documents are ready, they can come over and the rest of our lives can begin.

There is one thing, one line, one picture and one saying that gets me through all of this. If you do not like where you are. move, you are not a tree. Too many of us are too free spirited to be tied to one place – 24 years in South Africa has given me a home, a place to grow up, a country where I met my husband and my children were born. I do not hate South Africa and that is not why I am moving, I am moving because I am not a tree. I am moving because I need to be free and I am moving to give my family and my children the life they deserve – To open up the world to them. To show them as they grow that there is more to life than being stuck in one place, which is currently how I feel. I am not happy here and I will not be happy until I change my situation, which is exactly what I have done. I am not going to moan about crime and how the South African police service and justice system can in fact be most unjust, instead I will put down all my criminal experiences to life lessons and what it has taught me is to be strong and to follow my heart… My heart knows it is not a tree.

Follow my blog (www.theshevster.com), twitter (the_shevster), Instagram (the_shevster) or find me on Facebook if you know me well enough and you can keep up to date with my plans and travels to the UK and what I am going to get up to before I leave on the 15th.

Love you all tons.

Shevy

Friday the 12th of September saw us waking up with the odd feeling that the Mascarun challenge was over and yet we were still gifted with a few days in Reunion to enjoy the scenery and culture. Getting down to business, it was a day of hotel inspections which saw us visiting a total of 6 hotels to better sell the destination and its various accommodation options to our clients. It was not all work and no play, between hotel visits we got to visit the local market in Saint-Paul and have a local lunch of junk food at the snack bar. The market was a canvas of smells, colours and textures… anything you could want or need could be found at this gorgeous ‘little’ market alongside the black beach. There are such beautiful crafts that you can buy to take home to the family, baskets and hats, purses and place mats. Stalls upon stalls of colourful, bright material blowing in the breeze – Every type and pattern of beach sarong imaginable, Many local artisans displaying their creative wares, from hand crafted jewellery to children’s toys, you name it and they make it.

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The rasta community in Reunion is quite a large one, we made fast friends with a local rasta who handmade and sold his magnets as curios to earn a living – He was such a happy guy, smiling and friendly, asking us where we were from and making conversation with us… Sure, he was charging EUR4 per fridge magnet, a little more than other stands, but his friendly disposition was the reason we went back for more. Something you learn very quickly in Reunion is that everyone is so very friendly, many understand that tourism is the reason that many of them have a business and so they are more than willing to be friendly and accommodating to the non french speaking foreigners. That said, after only a day or two in Reunion, you start thinking you are in France and suddenly you are greeting every one you see with a merry, high pitched ‘Bonjour’, often being mistaken as French speaking to be left with a blank look on your face – Word of advice, take a french phrase book along with you, it can only help.

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Fortunately, the market was not only non edible goods. Working our way up to the top of the market, the stalls go from colourful to tasty… rows upon rows of tables with spices, fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers, fresh fruit juice stalls and little stands frying local samoosas and spring rolls. Good thing it was lunchtime because the smell of walking through this market was enough to make anyone hungry – There was nothing you could not find here, suddenly you are imagining yourself living on the island doing your weekly grocery shop at this beautiful market.

At the far side of the market was a little snack bar where we stopped for lunch, Quai Gilbert’s. We had pre chosen our lunch selection and I went with a local meal that was considered junk food… but it was far from the standard Big Mac. I cannot for the life of me remember what the meal was called but it was a fresh baguette filled with chinese dumplings and smothered in cheese – It was AMAZING!  I also had my first taste of the local beer, le Dodo, which went down nice and smoothly – Turns out the South Africans loved the Dodo so much, the snack bar ran out of the citrus version thanks to our thirst. Hey, shopping is thirsty work after all and for EUR1.50, a beer was the best way to quench that thirst.

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After the long day, we made our way back to the Le Recif hotel where we learned that dinner had been arranged on the deck by the pool where a jazz musician played music for us while we ate. Once we were all finished eating, the party started and the DJ played old school classics which I have never partied so hard to in my life. We did the patriotic bit and sang our hearts out along with Toto about the rains in Africa and when Kesha was going down and yelling timber, so were we. The YMCA became a pool side step class and JLo inspired some serious booty hopping! Music and rum, makes for quite a party.

The following day we woke up and after breakfast started the day with a trip up into Cilaos, our name sake cirque. This was definitely one of the most challenging of drives, a road consisting of 420 hair pin bends and two narrow tunnels that barely allowed for a single car let alone our tour bus. We stopped along the way for some beautiful landscape pictures before eventually arriving in the little town of Cilaos that had the most perfect little switzerland feel with the lake in the centre being used for relaxed water sports. We visited the first of two hotels for the day after which we changed busses and then made our way to Ilet a Corde along the most beautiful views including the canyoneering we witnessed up the side of the Yellow Flower. Once we arrived at Le Tapacala we were hosted by Raymonda and Michael Gonthier along with their beautiful little girl Eva who dressed in a local outfit to impress us, bling bling shoes and all. Raymonda cooked us an amazing lunch in her little kitchen outside paired with some beautiful wine atop a mountain overlooking rivers and valleys, surrounded by lentil fields and mini vineyards… It is hard not to imagine a iife like this, simple, care free – Living off the land. It was here that for the first time, I tried sweet potato pie and it was amazing, definitely a taste I acquired outside in the fresh air.

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After lunch we visited another hotel and then made our way back to the hotel to prepare for our last dinner together. We were pleasantly surprised with our mode of transport and got to take tuk-tuk’s to and from the little restaurant on the beach – A great way to get around the island for a mere 4 Euro’s a trip! At dinner, we sat with our feet in the sand and the wind in our hair not fully accepting that it was our last night here and it was almost time to go home. As much as I loved Reunion island, and I do still, I missed my husband and my children and was more than ready to come home.

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We got back to the hotel, packed our bags and at 4:30 on Sunday morning we were seated on the bus ready to come home. It was a sad day, so difficult to say goodbye to such a beautiful place filled with such amazing people. It was even harder to say goodbye to people I had spent the last 7 days with, fast friends we had made and long distance friends we will stay… It was time to go home and I know that we were all more than ready.

Reunion island, I fell in love with you in my short time with you. I still see your sunset in my mind and smell the sea air. I speak french every now and again and cannot wait for the day that I get to come back and try it out. I will miss you but I promise you, I WILL be back, next time with the family in tow.

Until then…