In September 1998 in Cape Town my parents arrived home from what my brother and I were told was a ‘holiday’ to Australia and New Zealand only to notify us on the trip back from the airport that we would be moving to Sydney. I was in denial about the whole thing, until my first day of school in 1999. Up until that point I’d been able to convince myself we were on a lovely overseas holiday and that big, white triangle shaped building we passed on that massive iron bridge thing was merely my parents continuing to show my brother and I the world.
Cue meltdown in the corridor of St.Ives High School. As though it were yesterday I remember looking down at a corridor of kids going to their lockers, gathering in their friendship groups and heading to class. They knew exactly where they were going. I however did not. I knew nothing. And I was terrified. The type of terrified that made me cling to my Mother and sob – in public.
For the rest of 1999, I resented my parents. I resented them for making me move, for taking away my friends, my family, my life. And if you had asked me (and I was asked) if I would have moved back to Cape Town then, I’d have yelled (so my parents could hear me) ‘TAKE ME NOW!’.
Alas, time passes. We grow up, we adjust and we learn, we say ‘Ta mate’ instead of ‘Cheers bru’ and suddenly it had been a whole 9 years since I’d been back to my African home.
And so with ridiculous amounts of anticipation and even more ridiculous amounts of fucking snow I FINALLY arrived at Cape Town International Airport. Collected by my 80 something year old grandparents and my 30 something year old second cousin once removed. My grandparents hadn’t changed. My cousin had changed a little, but they’d replaced the whole fekking airport!
Apart from the reappearance of the sun in my life (OH MY GOODNESS GLORIOUS SUN), the first thing I was reminded of that have been noticeably absent from my life is mountains. Yes, giant masses of rock that rise above sea level. That protrude out of the land. Out of the sky. That create cliff faces and amazing views. Mountains.
Almost immediately, what began and didn’t end for the remainder of my trip was that sense of nostalgia. I have been blessed with a somewhat decent memory and with that I took in all of my new (old) surroundings. Recognising, remembering, noticing for the first time as an adult. My old house, the freeways, the shopping malls. Things have changed and things have remained the same.
For those of you that haven’t been, Cape Town is a spectacular city, it is vivid and colourful and interesting. And I say this as a tourist not as an expat. From Table Mountain which majestically dominates the city’s skyline as if it were born to do so, to its white sandy beaches and sea side towns, to one of the most famous wine regions in the world. It is a feast.
But when I was done being a tourist, I was back to being a prodigal child. Cape Town has a dirty side if you will. Khayelitsha, the township that remains a reminder of apartheid has expanded exponentially. When driving (with your doors locked), you will go from a white dominated, affluent area to the opposite in literally meters. The contrast is palpable. Being ‘all grown’ up allowed me to take home new perspectives of my mountain town.
Without continuing to rabbit on pointlessly – I won’t lie I’ve struggled to contain all I wanted to convey – I will hark on about my family. But only for a minute. For the 9 Christmas’ I have not been in South Africa, I have either been in Australia or travelling (mostly the latter). Which has meant since my parents divorce I have spent few with anyone other than a (1) parent and my brother. If I was lucky. So this year at Christmas I was blessed to be reminded in abundance that I have family. Lots of it. In the shape of grandparents, family friends, cousins etc.
And it is that above all that I will take with me after my 10 days in the sun. 9 years was too long. Too long to not be with family. To not see my grandparents. To not be reminded that I am loved in this southern most part of the world.
So whilst I am thankful to my parents every single day for making the sacrifices that they did for myself and my brother by allowing us to call Australia home, this South-African born Australian lass living in Dublin will be going back to her non-Island home sooner rather later.
Holiday photos can be found on Facebook here!