If you've just started reading and would like to begin at the beginning, go to the first post about our journey or if you would like to skip ahead to the part that interests you, here are the links the my New Zealand blog posts so far:
1. The Seed
2. The Analysis
Crunch TimeWe had talked it over and over and over some more. What should we do? The decision in front of us was monumental, the biggest, most serious decision we had made to date. So in true analytical style I turned back to my exam pad - pros and cons. Over the years, Hubby has joked about my constant need for an exam pad to make decisions. He has tried many apps that emulate my pros and cons ritual, trying valiantly to move me to a more high-tech method, but none has come close to my pen and paper yet.
My mom didn't believe in stress, she thought it was a made up word for modern problems. But at Christmas, at the end of the meal, when she had to put the final touches on her magnificent trifle and I couldn't find the nuts and cherries that she had handed to me for safe-keeping, her stress levels soared off the charts, although she never saw it that way. While she was frantic, I was moseying around the kitchen chatting and picking up the odd tea towel to help look, which apparently meant I wasn't helping at all, but I mean really, the packet didn't walk out of the kitchen, we were going to find it, Christmas would not die and burn due to undressed trifle. Our stressors were and are completely different. Every year after that, Hubby would make a space just for her at our kitchen counter and it was deemed the "Trifle Area" equipped with a board, knife, cherries and nuts, so that she never needed to stress again. She was relieved and grateful but never believed that he had relieved her of stress. Stress is silent and personal. Maybe our stress is as simple as dressing a trifle? Hmmm food (pun intended) for thought. But I digress....
Our research showed that New Zealand was a calmer country, everything happens slower and there is less aggression, especially on the roads. That sounded good. Hmm so the choice was, should we change how we relate to our situation or just change the situation. We couldn't base a life-decision on stress alone, although calmer, kinder, accepting people sounded really good to us.
I love beautiful places, like the Maluti mountains and rock formations in the Free State, the majestic Drakensberg, the beautiful Mac Mac Falls and Bourkes Luck Potholes in Mpumalanga, Table Mountain has so many special memories for me and I would sell my soul for the South Coast ocean, the view from Gordon's Bay and Chapman's Peak, Cape Point, the list goes on and on. All of these South African places are amazing, but far from home. We had to plan a trip to go to these places. We had done all of the beautiful day trips to the Magaliesberg, Hartebeespoort and numerous other scenic spots, but nothing breathtaking was close to Johannesburg (in my opinion) and the heat was getting to me. But did I want cold? Nooo!
|Mac Mac Falls|
The reason for my family being in Johannesburg in the first place, was because almost 100 years ago my Scottish grandfather left his motherland due to lack of work, in search of new opportunities. My grandfather was lured by the promise of gold in a new Johannesburg. We are being lured by the calm of the land of the long white cloud. Isn't it ironic that he was excited about opportunities in the Gold Rush, while we are excited about opportunities away from the mad rush?
Without the discovery of gold and the interest it generated, Johannesburg would never have become the epicentre of South Africa's business world and I was beginning to see it as a bit of a dust bowl (admittedly we were going through a bit of a drought which did cloud my vision.) I wanted to be surrounded by more beauty than I had had for the first half of my life (note, I'm living to over 92!) But we knew that we didn't have to leave South Africa to find beauty and scenery, we could move province. It would be challenging but definitely do-able.
So although New Zealand is beautiful and calm, that couldn't be the deciding factor.
|I saw these signs often|
Seriously, we didn't want to pass this legacy on to our children, where they were destined to be the same hamsters on the same wheel as we were on, in order to be safe in South Africa. Why should they be put through the stress of carrying that financial burden before even starting their lives? Why couldn't they back pack through their own country like they could elsewhere? We had put ourselves behind bars and electric fences, security booms with security guards, but was this really the way to live? Were we the ones in jail and the criminals roaming free?
We would have to encourage our children to seek opportunities overseas but then what? They would be on another continent, hopefully in a safer place, but we would be stuck with Rands in the bank which were quickly weakening. I remembered many years ago, when my boss moved to New Zealand, the Rand had weakened to R3 to the NZ$ and he was horrified! More recently it has been hovering around R10 to the NZ$ and has gone as high as R11. Would we ever be able to afford to visit our children and grandchildren if we were travelling overseas on the Rand? Probably not very often.
|Electric fencing around perimeter walls of |
all properties in my neighbourhood.
So the crime itself was somewhat of a decider but only in a round-a-bout kind of way. The knock-on effect of feeling safe was a bigger decider but still not the main reason. We knew that if we and our family could be guaranteed of living in the bubble until we passed away, this would be a non-event and we could stay forever, as many of our friends and family will, and they will feel safe and secure, as they should. But for us, the chance of us ever being out of the bubble, made me extremely nervous. We were born in South African with South African passports, so if the proverbial hit the fan, we were stuck. There was no Plan B and if we made a Plan B for our children, we would still be stuck back on Plan A.
In order to have enough money to retire on, we needed to plough money into our retirement while we were earning. Now I'm all for saving and have done so all my life, but the numbers were getting ridiculous and I was witnessing retirees, who were supposed to be comfortable in their old age, starting to struggle by living on their pensions alone. We have 20 years ahead of us to earn, do we want to do that in volatile South Africa or pretty predictable New Zealand?
With a president who couldn't decide who should be responsible for the financial portfolio of the country and kept chopping and changing finance ministers, it was difficult for us to trust that it would all just simply get better one day. What I did know from studying economics 1.01 is that when inflation increases and disposable income decreases, crime increases. Therefore the future of our children was worrying for us. This was definitely a factor.
We had researched that not only was inflation under control in New Zealand and the economy was growing well, IT and marketing jobs were in demand and they looked after their elderly. There are many free services offered to pensioners including free medical, so it was definitely appealing.
SchoolFor the benefit of those reading this, who are not living in South Africa, let me explain the schooling situation. The majority of affluent families send their children to private schools at enormous expense because the difference in education is vast, with the small exception of some really good Government schools (public schools).
It is estimated however, that only approximately 5 000 schools are good, versus approximately 23 000 which are not. The reason for the good versus bad? Parents pay for the shortfall in the 5 000 schools where the funding is inadequate, while at the lower income schools operate purely on government funding. Therefore, as you can imagine, getting into a good public school in your area, becomes a bun fight.
In order to get our daughter into the only school that we are zoned for, we had to queue in the freezing cold weather, outside the school gates from 1am until 8am just to put her name down for possible acceptance. Let me repeat that, we had to queue for 7 hours in the cold and dark, on a street in South Africa, with its high crime rate, to TRY to get our child into the school that we are zoned for (the only one) and the one that her sister already attended! We were number 50 in the queue. The lady who was number 1 in the queue had started waiting from 5pm the night before. She was a single mother and couldn't take the chance of her child not getting accepted to the school close to her house, so she queued for 15 hours. Beyond ridiculous.
|Click here for link to this article|
When our son was due to begin grade one at the same school, the registration system had become electronic, while making little difference to the mayhem behind the scenes, it did mean that parents no longer needed to queue outside the school all night. BUT it still wasn't a fair process based on zoning, purely because more children were zoned for the school than the school could accommodate. We all had to sit in front of our screens with the correct browser open so that we could hit send as soon as the site went live at exactly 8am. I misunderstood that it was again based on first come first served and we became number 358 in the queue for children "within the zone." There are approximately 150 spaces available per grade. Ludicrous.
Adequate town planning was a foreign concept and in the past 30 years there has not been a new school built in our area, but the housing has more than quadrupled with large properties being broken up into many smaller units, putting pressure on, not only the schooling system, but the entire infrastructure. Traffic congestion was increasing year on year and our tax money was nowhere to be seen. Even this didn't make our decision, although it was a factor.
Our research showed that it would be easier for Tomato to get in-class assistance in New Zealand if necessary. The education system in New Zealand is set up for children like her. Class aides are commonplace and many children are assisted without the stigma in South Africa. Due to New Zealand being calmer and (as described by one of the school principals), "a more gentle environment," our anxious little girl may enjoy her schooling experience more, with less pressure and a reduced pace. This was a big deciding factor. Just the thought of breathtaking scenery every day and the reduced pace was appealing. School starts at 9am instead of 7:25am and there is no traffic as the schools adequately service their zoned areas.
Because only 4% of the population pay 80% of the income generated in South Africa - yes you read that right, only 2,2 million out of 56 million people pay tax, if you want good service, you are forced to go private. We were paying tax in the highest tax bracket. This meant that 41% of our salaries were given to a government who spent the money elsewhere. We knew this. We had lived with this for years. But there's something about seeing the numbers affecting your own life, written down in black and white (on my exam pad) that made us realise how ridiculous it was.
Our non-private services, which were out of our control, were declining faster than expected - from having the cheapest electricity in the world, due to corruption, it was fast becoming the most expensive and our drinking water was the cleanest in the world but now we don't rank? Maintenance in the country was not taking place, so new roads and upgrades were rare, unless privately funded. The national broadcaster and airline were riddled with corruption and practically bankrupt and "load shedding" (re-occurring electrical black outs due to demand outstripping supply) was soon to be replaced by water-shedding. Honestly, it was all becoming very concerning. But the decline was slow, slow enough for us not to really pay attention to it all at once, until we shone a spotlight on it. Then it became quite clear how this mismanagement was impacting our lives.
The Final StrawFinally, after we had thought and talked and researched and talked and trawled the social media groups, we had to make the decision. There was an article that I had read that I couldn't get out of my mind. I couldn't find it for a long time because I had trouble remembering the author. This was the fundamental reason that we chose to emigrate. I explained what it contained to Hubby and I don't think he really believed me but went along with it anyway. I have managed to locate it (the memory is still there, it just took a while to retrieve.) All the other reasons had their place, but this is what pushed us over the edge.
The piece was written in April 2014 and is called "Future Prospects for South African Youths." an article by a man who is known as a futurist who I really admire and respect - Mr Clem Sunter. What on earth is a futurist you say? No he is not a clairvoyant who hauls out his crystal ball to take a look into the future, a futurist studies the future taking into account current trends and predicts the outcome. Clem Sunter became a household name and he shot to fame in the US when he co-authored a book "Mind Like a Fox" wherein he wrote about security issues in the US government and the potential threat of a terrorist attack on one of the US major cities, SIX MONTHS BEFORE 911 happened. It was if he had predicted it.
But back to the article in question, the takeout is as follows:
The South African economy needs to grow fast, starting now, if it is going to absorb another 26 million job seekers over the next 15 years. We can’t export them, we have to create jobs for them! For this reason alone the government should be actively creating an environment wherein jobs can be easily created, they should be attempting to slow the birth rate and they should be concentrating on creating capitalistic solutions for hungry mouths, rather than attempting to instil socialistic ideas in an exploding population of young hopefuls. If they are not doing so, and to all intents and purposes it seems they are not, then SA is heading for a huge problem, notwithstanding Eskom [electricity public utility] and the rest, in that there will be more young people than there will be enough food, drink, housing, education and services to cater for them. Socialism is definitely not going to feed that many mouths and grants and subsidies will eventually cripple any future government. ~ Clem Sunter
I knew that opportunities would be worse for our children who are still young, but I didn't quite understand the ramifications until I read this whole article, which opened my eyes. I encourage you to read the full article (it's really short but HUGELY impactful.) You can read the full article here. It showed a very different South Africa, one that I didn't want my children to have to live in.
For us, the writing was on the wall, but one thing we have always agreed on, is that we would never run FROM something, only TOWARDS something better. This was very important to us. I've always maintained that I would never leave South Africa. It is the only home I'd ever known. If we were going to change our lives and uproot our family, it had better be for a great opportunity, not just running away from an imminent disaster, which let's face it, South Africa is not. South Africa is more of a slow puncture than a train wreck. There is still time to stop the leak!
The PlanI'm a marketer, so I love a good plan. Once we had decided that we were serious about New Zealand, we needed a plan and we laid out our ideas as follows:
Seriously look into New Zealand work opportunities
If Plan A didn't work, look for work in Cape Town
If Plan A and B tanked, sell our home and move closer to the school, downscale our lives to have less stress and expenses
Now the planning questions started. Should we all go to New Zealand to check it out first? What are the opportunities really like? We were excited.
We were going to dip our toe in the pool to test the water. Super exciting! We weren't going to rush into anything, we weren't going to tell people yet, we were slowly going to start putting feelers out and see what we could find.
But life has a way of showing you that you're not in control. I think this could possibly be a theme throughout our lives.
Instead of a nice slow entry into the pool, life rushed up behind us and gave us a smack! Pushing us in with an enormous SPLASH!!
It had suddenly become sink or swim. Not what we had planned AT ALL!
"Flexibility" is now my middle name.
|Life became a triathlon!|