Monday, 17 December 2012

This way is up

All good blogs tell a story, right? My story - all 27 years' worth of it - is a bit of a mixed bag so far, but you can expect some twists to come.

To catch you up on the background, I was born in a small town on South Africa's coast (George) and went to a really small primary school in an even smaller town (Sedgefield). My parents took me back to George for my high school education, which was looking back on it now amazingly sheltered. I'm not complaining: a peaceful childhood is something to reminisce over [only 27? That doesn't feel right].

University at Rhodes in Grahamstown - another small town in a different province (sad note: travelling to University for the first time was the furthest I'd ever travelled across SA). After an equally uneventful B.Journalism degree, I returned to the idyllic coastal town of Knysna, with my first job at the newspaper which my (then) recently-deceased grandfather had founded. It was my homage to his memory, as much as the real start to my own story.

A emerging unscathed from a couple of questionable decisions, I discovered the world of Internet Relay Chat and met my future wife on a trivia channel. Only one small snag: she was a Romanian citizen, living in Scotland. Ok, so that was a massive snag, and it would have been worse if an aunt I hardly ever spoke to happened to die and leave me just enough money to travel to London on a two-week holiday where we met for the first time.

By that stage we'd already spent countless months chatting online, running up huge phonebills and playing chess online - you'd have to be in the situation to understand that one - and so it was no huge surprise to us when we got engaged. The UK government doubted our intentions  unfortunately, and rejected my visa application for settlement as a fiance. To the Queen: you owe me the R7 000 application fee (around 600 Euro) I had to pay, for a rejection decision which came in only three days.

[Narrator voice: "Things were looking bleak for our star-crossed lovers. Poorer yet more in love than ever before, they had a hard decision to make. Either endure nine months apart to appeal the decision, or take a more drastic step."]

That 'more drastic step' was for my fiance to apply for a vistor's visa to South Africa, and for me to circulate my CV to every newspaper nationally in the same group as the one I'd been working at in Knysna. I got two bites: one at a tiny rural newspaper, and one in Johannesburg. The Big Bad city it was.

Fast forward a few years, and my fiance and I succeeded in getting married, succeeded in finding her not one but two jobs, and survived a number of hops between apartments, cars and visions for our future. I'm now working as an automotive journalist, but I don't see myself as a petrolhead. Like somebody said on another blog: Johannesburg is all about money, and on Johannesburg's streets cars are simply money on the move.

Why tell you that whole story? Just because my past proves convincingly that people can overcome huge challenges with limited resources and enough effort. Things haven't always been smooth, but that's fine: sticking out the marathon means you'll always end up a lot further than the hundreds who simply drop out along the way.

Where to now? Well, Romania, I hope. Why not? Well, a good few reasons if we're honest, but then again a few years in Johannesburg has not only made me skeptical about the pursuit of money in general - it's a bit like working in a chocolate factory, you see - but my wife and I both need a fresh start. A fresh start with snow at Christmas, a fresh start where my skin colour isn't indicative of my history and prejudicial to my future, and where there are new challenges to overcome.

I'm a sucker for that, you see. Maybe it's because I'm a writer by trade: why spend all the effort to make the stories I write interesting, if my own story is losing my interest? Can we do it, or will we change our minds and just move to Cape Town (a beautiful seaside city in South Africa) like so many other tired Johannesburgers? For me that's just too cliched, and whatever else you read here cliches will not be a part of it. I promise.

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