As we are now embarking on the school holidays here in South Africa I thought that it would be quite pertinent of me to report on our own first term here in the Western Cape just as the children have finished theirs at school.
So let’s start right there, with the girls and their school.
In all honesty it was a bit of a rocky start but when Issy and Emilie are used to spending 12 hours a day with the beautiful Neli in her loving house together then being split up into a more formal arrangement it was always going to be a massive shock to the system.
We had some problems with communication with the school at first but we ironed them out very quickly and also we had to lay some ground rules ourselves with them. I’m not saying that the school necessarily did anything wrong and after all, we were stepping into their environment but as I said one day to them; you are experts in looking after children but you are not experts in looking after MY children.
That was sorted very quickly and professionally and now we could concentrate on getting Issy and Emilie settled.
It took time and they didn’t do a full day for over two weeks but once they relaxed into their new surroundings and found their feet they have really started coming into their own.
Emilie was definitely the first to feel comfortable in the environment and one would have to assume that is due to age. She didn’t have the friendship circle that Issy had in the U.K. and didn’t have the understanding of the whole move to South Africa like Issy did so after the separation anxiety subsided from spending 24/7 in contact with myself and Mikaela she starting loving school life.
Issy was more complex because she is a little bit of a worrier. She was not only trying to find her own comfort but she, like the brilliant big sister she is, was also concerned about how Emilie was faring in the adjacent classroom.
Often we would hear stories of her leaving her own classroom upon hearing Emilie crying and instructing the teachers how to comfort her or showing them where in the bag the dummy was kept.
12 weeks on and Issy doesn’t want to leave school now when we pick her up and has even proclaimed that she has a ‘best friend’ at school. Fantastic news for us.
We had a parent to teacher feedback session a few weeks ago and it was one of those moments that when I left a couple of those pesky mosquitos flew into my eye as we were leaving. I definitely wasn’t crying. Honestly.
Emilie is doing well and according to her teacher will start excelling fairly soon as her speech improves and understanding of certain tasks expands which was all you really want to hear of a two year old’s progress but Issy was the one that genuinely worried me. She is bright, sporty and I can see her intelligence shining through but was she producing at school?
Let’s just bear in mind she had been there a matter of weeks and just relocated countries before I tell you how this session went. She had excuses if you will.
She’s a flipping superstar of the class!!!
The little wonder child is not only excelling and challenging herself before the teachers get a chance, she is also helping the other children whilst fostering a healthy appetite for sport and still finding time to still look out for her little sister.
I was flabbergasted at this. I was bursting with pride. I couldn’t wait to get out of my tiny little blue chair that most 6 year olds would look big on and run to the toy shop to buy her a treat that she so richly deserved.
My biggest girl, at 4 years old, just became one of my heroes. The next time an adult complains to me at work I will regale this story and frankly tell them to keep shtum. Success in the face of adversity had been achieved with flying colours.
Mine and Mikaela’s report card could never beat that. Not in a million years but I’m happy to walk in the shadows of greatness and play a supporting role.
We, Mikaela especially, beat ourselves up some days at how little we achieve in particular moments but in general I think we have done pretty well.
Mikaela has a great job that starts in August and I have started some contract work for a hugely impressive events company. I’m writing this whilst crammed on a plane in the middle seat on my way to Johannesburg to work on a national event. They’ve also asked my availability for the next few months as there are projects coming up. Not bad after being here for three months I must admit.
The house has taken shape now and there is still lots that we want to do both short and long term but my biggest challenge there is managing Mikaela’s patience because she has very little of it and wants it all to be perfect straight away.
One thing I do need to add here is that South Africa do not make it easy for you to achieve all of this.
We have arrived here with no debt, we have a house, and now Mikaela has a full time job confirmed with contract signed but do you think we can get any credit for a car or anything that we need to actually live a ‘normal life’?
There have been huge marketing campaigns around bringing people back to South Africa to add value to the country but why would they when you are penalising them for being out of the country in the first place?
You haven’t had medical aid in how many years Madam? Oh dear, that’s a penalty. Bank charges Madam? I’m afraid so Madam. My all time favourite…………Sorry Mrs Donkersloot-Daniel but you have no debt so we can’t produce a credit report. I would advise you to get a Truworth’s store card and go into debt.
We now have to wait until Mikaela has been in full time employment for three months before we can do these things which doesn’t really lend to ex-pats making the journey home in good faith does it? Literally, we could have a million Rand in the bank (we don’t by the way just in case anyone things I’m being smug) and we wouldn’t get finance for a car. Insane.
One other thing I have learnt on this journey though is that children have to be brought up around animals. We have just adopted a very cute kitten called Fred and the girls absolutely adore him.
To give you some background, I am allergic to cats but Mikaela has been bugging me for months, nay years, to get a cat. So far so good on the allergy front so maybe I’ve grown out of it but I had to cave in and agree to this furry critter as I do genuinely believe he was sent to us for a reason.
Fred was Mikaela’s late father’s name and he was a big cat lover. Before he passed away last year he had nearly every cat in his neighbourhood popping by to spend time with him both day and night. Somerset-West’s own Dr. Doolittle if you like.
A few weeks ago Mikaela was staying at a friends house when she sent me a picture of a cat who was up for adoption. He was pretty cute I must admit and when I found out that his name was Fred then I knew it was time to renege on my cat ban in the house and let him in. I don’t generally believe in a higher level of spirituality but I do kind of think that Fred was meant to be ours and was sent to us.
He’s loving the girls as much as they love him although his hourly tour of the house grasped in both hands by a two year old, usually being held upside down or sideways, shouting ‘Kitty Kat’ incessantly may drive him to insanity soon.
He’s a welcome addition though and he adds a lot of value to our home as he is full of love and cuddles. Fred is here to stay but if he is sent to us by Mikaela’s Dad then he is going to have to learn to sit up with me to 1am drinking single malt and talking absolute garbage.
Overall I would say that the Donkersloot-Daniel report card would read something like this:
The family have taken to life in South Africa with aplomb. Issy and Emilie are a shining example of the resilience that lies within children and should be lauded for what they have achieved.
The parents are doing ok as well. They are slowly but surely building a new life for the family and have been extremely selfless with their time and attitude to ensure that the real superstars of the piece, Issy and Emilie, can flourish.
More patience is required and Andy especially could help Mikaela on this by hanging up that photo he promised to do a month ago and pulling the odd weed out of the garden. Mikaela in return should stop asking Andy to do things as he said he would do it and doesn’t need reminding constantly every 6 months! 😉
I would award a B for execution of the task, an A for potential and an A++ for effort.
This family will go far. It won’t be easy and there will be bumps in the road but they should be immensely proud of what they have achieved to date.