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Mkuze Falls with the whole family

I have spent almost 2 years back in South Africa, but will be returning to the UK in less than 2 weeks’ time.  And the one question on everyone’s lips is:  Are you looking forward to going back?

There is no short answer to this very difficult question. Of course I am looking forward to going back to a life where I can see my husband every day, but of course there are so many other things to think about.

What I will miss from South Africa

I will add these in no particular order …

  • Family – I will definitely miss my family so, so much. I have managed to spend time with my parents, siblings, in-laws and nieces.  It’s been one of the best experiences of my life, something I will be forever grateful for. Something not many people of my age get to do.
  • Weather – I will miss the sunshine and blue skies. I am really not looking forward to the grey, grim Manchester Mizzle. Waking up, drawing back the curtains and seeing blue skies, is one of my favourite things in the world.
  • Getting things fixed – I love the ‘we-can-fix-anything’ culture of  South Africa. In the UK, if something breaks, you throw it away and buy another one.  In South Africa, we fix things! Just today I am going to pick up a tog bag which is being stitched as it had come undone. They quoted me R20 (£1) to fix it!
  • Landscape diversity – I love the diversity of South Africa:  rugged & sandy beaches, mountains (especially the Drakensberg), bush and wildlife (Kruger National Park), city, rural, green pastures and forests, open plains, lush, desert.  I just love this about South Africa.
  • Wildlife – if you are outside the city, you’re never far away from wildlife.  This is what I saw last week on my drive to KZN along the roads: kudu, eagles, blue crane, monkeys, duiker, zebra. (Although I must admit that it was a longer list than usual!).  But of course, the more spectacular wildlife as part of bush trips and holidays is I adore.
  • Steak & eating out – it is so cheap to eat out in South Africa, and you can buy a fantastic fillet steak with all the trimmings for well under R180 (£9) at a posh restaurant, and R100 (£5) at an every day restaurant. 
  • Being away from the business – We have spent the last 2 years setting up TheRoomLink.co.za in South Africa, and it is going to be very hard to leave it here, whilst I go back to the UK. I have a great team who will be running the day-to-day operation in South Africa, but it is going to be very difficult to strategically run it from abroad – especially when I am working two jobs.
  • South African rugby – South Africans are rugby mad, and it’s great to know that there is always rugby on the TV.  We only get a small selection of these games in the UK, so I am certainly going to miss out
  • Biltong, boerewors & pap –  All South Africans love biltong: dry, cured meat.  It’s our favourite snack.  Boerewors is typical South African sausage.  And pap (we eat putu) is similar in consistency to couscous, but made from maize.  You do get it in the UK, but pay dearly for it via South African shops.
  • South Africans and Afrikaans – I am really going to miss South Africans – I think South Africans are a wonderful nation. And it is going to be sad that I won’t have (Afrikaans) RSG radio station on in the car.  My Afrikaans has improved so much since being back in South Africa, but I suspect the backward slide will begin again when I am back in the UK

What I am looking forward to in Manchester, UK

  • My husband! Of course, the best thing I am going back to, is my hubbie.  It has been incredibly difficult living apart for so long – a year and 8 months. But he has been the most fantastic pillar of strength, and I will be forever grateful for his support while I have been in SA.
  • My friends – It has been so hard to be away from my friends for so long.  I did make a couple of brilliant new friends in South Africa, but to be honest, as I didn’t know how long I would be here, I didn’t make an effort to make any more. I had so little time, as I was working all the time, and I was constantly thinking I would be leaving for the UK soon.
  • Culture & comedy – It is so much easier to access cultural activities and comedy in the UK. Tim and I would normally go to the theatre at least once a month. In fact, we’re members of the local “Little Altrincham Theatre”.  
  • High speed Internet – high speed internet is the norm, and it’s cheap. We can stream tv, video and music with ease.
  • Catch-up TV – I love BBC iPlayer – and may even venture a little further and subscribe to Amazon Prime or Netflix!
  • Internet shopping – I do almost everything online in the UK. From groceries to services to clothes and more. 
  • Curry – We have one of the best curry restaurants outside of India a couple of blocks from home, and their Paneer Lababdar with Peshwari Naan is legendary.
  • Walking at night – I am really looking forward to walking everywhere, and specifically walking at night again.
  • Public transport – We’re so conveniently placed for the tram and train in Altrincham – makes getting around so much easier
  • Feeling safe – Knowing that it is very unlikely that I will become a murder statistic is also very comforting.
  • Manchester Christmas Markets – gluwein, hog roast & apple sauce rolls, spiced apple cider on frosty evenings
  • Country walks – This is one of our favourite summer activities – and it’s free entertainment!
  • Access to travel – It’s so easy to hop on a plane and go away for a long weekend.  Going to France for the weekend is closer than flying from Joburg to Cape Town!
  • Range and choice – There are so many more shops, brands and general choice within supermarkets. And whatever you want can generally be delivered to your doorstep.
  • Absolute radio – I love listening to Absolute Radio on Friday and Saturday nights! Tim and I often cook up a storm and dance around the kitchen (to make each other laugh) on Friday or Saturday nights.

What I will NOT miss from South Africa

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My friend’s Facebook post yesterday
  • Crime & fear – Just yesterday I heard that one of my best friends in South Africa was held up at gunpoint to rob her of her rings, handbag, mobile phone and car keys. And she sees herself as the lucky one as she escaped alive and without injury. At the surface, it doesn’t look like such a dangerous place to live, which lulls you into a false sense of security. But South Africa isn’t for sissies!
  • Corruption – Every time you open the news, it’s filled with details of how President Zuma, together with his cronies, are bleeding the country dry as a result of bribery, corruption and extortion.
  • Incompetent government – President Zuma has put in place a government which is incompetent and continues to fail the people of South Africa at every level – from state enterprises, to local to national government. By European standards, the failure is epic.  Any one of these failures would demand his head on a plate, but somehow the people in South Africa continue to support the ANC in spite of their appalling track record – mostly out of loyalty I think.
  • Things that don’t work – It took us 9 months to register our company, the postal system is almost non-existent (3 months of strikes a year!), rural landlines have been abandoned due to cable theft, opening a bank account took about 3 months, roads are full of potholes, government agencies are impossible to work with unless you agree to pay a bribe, rural public education is appalling.  The list goes on and on …
  • Bad driving – South Africa is in the Top 10 countries in the world for road deaths. You really do put your life on the line by getting in your car. But as there is no safe alternative (mini bus taxis are worse!) to driving yourself, you just pray you’ll reach other other end.  Everyone in South Africa will know at least a few people who have died in car crashes.
  • Drinking & driving – South Africans generally all still drink and drive.  They warn each other about road blocks to avoid others getting caught.  There is even a chap called @Pigspotter on Twitter dedicated to helping perpetuate drink driving and speeding! South Africans think he’s a hero.
  • Load-shedding – South Africa has a shortage of electricity due to a lack of planning by the existing ANC government, so has to implement rolling blackouts across the country. It’s the single most important reason why SA’s GDP has stagnated. ‘Good News’ is that there will be very little load shedding by 2025! We even have an App, called EskomSePush (play on words that means something very rude in Afrikaans!) to warn us when load-shedding will take place.  At the office, I had to buy a solar-battery system to at least keep our wi-fi alive.
  • Racism & race reinforcement – We all know about South Africa’s apartheid past. But racism is very real in South Africa. Difference is, now it just works both ways, and there is a lot of reverse discrimination in the introduction of BEE (Black Economic Empowerment). Problem is, it’s enriching a few and not the masses, as was intended. But this means that race (and thereby differences) is reinforced daily, which I believe drives the wedge ever deeper. I am a firm believer in developing inclusivity, working together, common goals to bring people together
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Photo from: Facebook.com/DemocraticAlliance

What I am NOT looking forward to in the UK

  • Health and Safety gone mad – In short, Brits err on the side of caution in all things.  It means that things that would be easy in South Africa, are laborious in the UK
  • Doing everything myself – In South Africa, with an unemployment rate of 25%, there is always someone who is willing to do little jobs and chores for you. From DIY to cleaning to washing your car. In the UK, these services are available – but at a price which makes you think twice, and generally means you end up doing it yourself!
  • Weather – Oh the weather, the weather, the weather in Manchester is just awful. I don’t think I will ever get used to it.  It’s possibly the worst thing about Manchester, but as my hubbie always says: “If Manchester had good weather, everyone would want to live here”!
  • Prices & cost of living – Life is just so much more expensive in the UK. There are a few things that are cheaper (like our Pound Shops!), but overall city living is very expensive when compared to South Africa.
  • Traffic jams – Even when South Africans experience traffic jams, they are not generally as bad as every day traffic jams in the UK. Motorways are so busy, that you hardly ever actually get to drive at the speed limit, except perhaps at about 2am in the morning!
  • Home without a cat – Our cat got run over while I was South Africa, and the house is so empty without him.
  • Working 2 jobs – it is going to be extremely difficult to start a new project, and still work on TheRoomLink in South Africa.
  • Lack of space – In the UK we live on top of each other.  Roads are narrow, personal space is small, trains are overcrowded and shopping centres are busy.  I loved the space you get in South Africa – in all things!
So, all in all, it is with mixed feelings that I leave sunny South Africa for the UK!