I got to thinking this past weekend how less stressed we all are as a family, since we came to live in Blightey. Yes, it's not all roses and creamcheese but we are adjusting to life in the UK much faster than I ever thought we would.
I love the countryside, the light, the immense variety of green, the pretty hedgerow plants growing along the sides of the fields and roadside at any time of year. Seeing bunnies in the fields instead of squatter camps. Walking out in a local woodland, completely safe, getting back to your car and it's still there! And the wheels are still on it! The country air is gorgeous and when you don't have bright hot blistering sunshine every day (a la Southern Africa) it makes a person really appreciate powder blue skies and clear days - everything sparkles here when the sun is out.
The day-to-day stress of life in South Africa is immense and I realised this past long weekend just how long it takes a person to get that out of your system - we're coming up to our third Christmas here and the urban living stress is still faintly echoing. I don't think it will ever go away. Urban stress is so much a part of your everyday life in South Africa that you just accept it and it becomes second nature to always be on high alert. Pulling out of our driveway can easily be a life and death situation. Walking to the shops ... well we couldn't walk to the shops where we were living in Edenvale, could we? At least not without getting accosted, mugged or intimated along the way. When you live in Gauteng, you get so used to the absurdity and abnormality of living behind 8 foot high security walls with at least 3 foot of razor wire and electric fencing on top that you think it's normal. I wish I could convince my boys who are still living over there to understand that there's another way of living. There's more to life than planning your day around 'load-shedding' - which is a polite South African euphemism for mis-management of the national grid.
We stayed in a brand new house in SA but it probably won't stand intact for another five years, due to the crap building regulations, graft and corruption. The concrete between our bricks was mainly composed of sand, a really good storm and one or two of those walls are going to come down! And forget the doors and windows, none of them seal properly (something they have the angle on here in the UK). Every summer it was comical how much our house flooded - and this, a brand new home in an upmarket residential suburb! We lived in a gated-community, with electronic key card to enter the complex. You got used to the 24 hour armed guards patrolling the streets - and even then there were robberies and murders. Sometimes it felt like we had gone back to the medieval ages and were living in a moated enclosure.
We were the lucky ones, I was only car mugged twice. My kids were only stabbed once. My son missed being shot in the stomach at close range just once. We only had one or three or five (I lost count) break ins. So no I don't miss SA one bit. Not at all. Not the weather, not the culture (if you can call violence and disregard for the law a culture).
But I DO miss the people we have left behind and its unbearable sometimes not being able to give them a hug or speak to them face-to-face. Skype is great but it cannot take the place of physical contact. I miss my sons. Sometimes it's unbearable and I think that I'm losing contact with them. But then we'll have a long skype chat and things are a little better, it's hard pressing the hang up button. I am always hopeful that they will be able to visit us next year (I am being realistic with this wish, I know they won't make it during 2015) - the day that happens will be one of the happiest in my life.