A year ago, we left South Africa. One year ago, we got on a plane with 3 suitcases while 10 boxes were making their way to us on a slow boat. We had our essentials, leaving a country that was our home for about 10 years to make a new life in the States.
This is a post that I’ve been working on for what seems like forever. I thought it would be fairly straightforward to write – I just needed to keep track of our expenses related to emigration, tally it all up and the post would write itself. I figured it would help other people looking to emigrate from South Africa to the US, or really from South Africa to anywhere or from anywhere to the US. It’s a whole lot harder than I anticipated, though.
First up, here is the easy bit. These are the various costs we had to pay before we got to the US and include our various consulate visits, as well as costs related to getting all the necessary documentation in place while in South Africa. It’s important to note that we were only able to file an i130 application because I was an American citizen living in South Africa – there are difficult rules in place if your circumstances are different.
I lived in South Africa for almost ten years, and I really did love it there (how weird is it that I’m describing it in past tense, by the way!). I always described it as a first world experience in a third-world country. When people would ask about it, I would almost always give the example of the fact that I could drive from Joburg to Pretoria to get my waxing and nails done, eating sushi with my friend/beauty technician… but I’d have to drive past a township of shacks to get there. I didn’t think I had illusions about the poverty in South Africa, but it wasn’t something I was aware of on a daily basis until it all felt a lot closer to home.
To be clear, I knew there was intense poverty in the country. I saw it in the scale of the maternity ward when I did the Mother’s Day Connect event. And I even saw it when I got a domestic worker once a week to help clean my house – realizing how little she lived on and how grateful she was for anything extra that I could give her.
Remember a while back when I asked you all how much you spent on groceries? A wide range of answers came in, mostly depending on how big families were, where you were based, and if you were really good about budgeting and meal planning. I tried to be more aware of our spending, but it actually just brought me down. Sure, I could just bulk up on cheaper starches, but that didn’t seem nutritious nor particularly appetizing. In fact, that wasn’t even that much more affordable. I mean, yes, rice, pasta, and pap are all a lot cheaper than steak and roasted veggies for dinner, but they’ve also gone up in price in recent years. Food prices as a whole seem to have gotten out of control, and it’s not just that I don’t know how to shop or something.
I saw this article in my twitter feed over the weekend, and I just had to read through it. I’m not going to go into the whole thing about regulation and retail pricing, mainly because I’m not 100% convinced that it’s all the evil corporations’ fault. However, this quote about the actual cost of living in South Africa jumped out at me:
Dean and I just got back from the most amazing trip to Cape Town. It was all part of my grand plan. I figured that before we emigrate, I should see Cape Town, especially seeing as everyone raves about it as their favorite city in South Africa. In fact, before I ever met Dean, I was planning to do a trip around the world and the only city I really wanted to visit in South Africa was Cape Town. In the almost ten years I’ve lived here, I’ve visited most of the urban centers and national parks, but had missed out on the Mother City… until now. And wow, what a trip!
There are so many things that made this a fantastic holiday. We saw incredible sites, tasted so much deliciousness, saw people we love and also simply reveled in each other’s company. It was everything a vacation should be, and definitely a destination that I would love to revisit in the future. For sure when we come back to South Africa when Harley (and maybe one day, baby #2) is older to visit, I’d want to return to Cape Town. I really tried hard to chronical this trip more than usual – friends always laugh at me and Dean because we will go places and come home without a single picture. So I tried my best to take more pictures – I don’t think any of them will do our trip justice, though.