– Otto von Bismarck
The other day a friend asked me how long it took me to feel settled here in Vancouver, and my response was “ask me in another few years.” I definitely do feel more at home now (it’s been almost a decade since I first came here and going on eight since we moved back), but some days I do still feel like an alien.
I have come to accept that I will always be someone divided – with homes and a heart in two places (on opposite sides of the world) and a weird hybrid accent that fluctuates between what it was (when I speak to any South Africans) and what it is now (when I teach or speak to Canadians). Now it gives me a bit of satisfaction when people misunderstand my order or ask me to repeat something because it means I’m not totally Canadianised (see the ‘s’ instead of a z. Yeah. That’s how I roll 🙂 ).
I still have days of homesickness and when I see pics of Cape Town and think about my favourite places, I feel even more homesick, but then I also walk around here and realise how much I love it too. I still have arguments with my husband over pronunciations, I still find certain things odd (the large gaps in the doors of public toilets and the popularity of Tim Hortons) or annoying (like trying to see a doctor or specialist and having to wait months and/or feel like cattle and paying to receive calls on my cell), and I still miss biltong.
I think what’s changed is I am now more reconciled to being here and know that I did make the right choice.I know my way around, I have favourite haunts, and I understand the culture. I love the weird quirkiness of Vancouver, the benefits of the First World (yes, I’ve become soft), things like how easy it is to travel from here (other than back to Cape Town…), and the higher level of personal safety. But then I miss how VIVID everything is back home – the people, the landscape, the flora and fauna… Sigh….
And I don’t think this will change. I do wish, though, in some ways, I’d chatted to people who had emigrated, because I do think I underestimated just how stressful and crazy the process is and just how long it takes to settle down, adjust to the culture shock and be at peace with the decision. It’s definitely a test of patience, strength, and adaptability. And I’m still learning.
The inner quarrels continue; I’m now just better at adjudicating.