When we decided to move to South Africa back in 2001 our choice was met with a myriad of different reactions from family members. Some said it was wonderful, others feared for our lives and a determined few thought it would be best to voice their opinions about our move in very strong ways. One family member even called me up to say, “Look, I’ve been listening to God for a lot longer than you have, and He told me you shouldn’t go.” Well, alrighty then… how were we supposed to react to that?
Despite the fact that we were in our early 20’s at the time, we knew how we wanted to spend our days. We decided what was right for us, set our course as graciously as possible and stuck to it. It’s tough to make life choices about big moves when the feelings of those close to you hang in the balance. Living without our extended families nearby has been the biggest challenge for us, but it has also shaped us and our kids in unexpectedly positive ways.
It’s not all unicorns and sunshine, there are definitely moments that sting to the core. During our first few years in South Africa, as a newly married couple, life without our families was really difficult. In 2002 while I was sipping wine out of my new Crate and Barrel wine glass (that I had carefully transported over oceans), and feeling as homesick as humanly possible, the wine glass fell right off it’s stem and crashed to the floor. I felt my insides crash to the floor with it. The wine glass breaking was compounded when I looked down at my toes peeking between the broken glass and saw the peeling paint of a pedicure I had given myself while chatting happily with my brothers in the USA. It was all too much… and I became a sobbing puddle of expat loneliness.
If you want to move away from your home culture, one thing you have to be ready for is sobbing when it makes no sense. You WILL have meltdowns that resemble the most tantrum-ish two year old. The thing about expat living, and I think almost every person living outside their home culture will agree, is that it is a mixture of amazing and hard moments that leave you often feeling like you are not sure which way is “up.” Would I trade it for any other life? Not a chance. After a dozen years in Africa, I have finally bonded with the moments that still leave me feeling like that 22 year old girl who was a sobbing puddle of “new culture overload.” Now, I greet those moments like an old friend and just let the nonsensical crying commence.
Read more from Kristy at Long Miles Coffee Project. For daily updates of her adventures in Africa, be sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter and especially Instagram. To buy Burundi coffee that aids the coffee farmers of Burundi, visit Dogwood coffee and order online.