Two month here, then three months there, back for another six months and gone for another five months. That was my childhood, a constant back and forth between Kitimat, Canada and Stellenbosch, South Africa. For about 84 hours a year I was stuck with the company of Mr Bean on replay and two irritating brothers who made me go ask for sweets at the back of the airplane (now there’s basically Netflix on airplanes and puberty has made it a bit difficult to ask for free sweets). I’m sure if I tried to work it out then I’d find I’ve spent at least a year of my life on a plane and in an airport.
For 26 years now my dad has worked in Canada for ± 6 months a year on and off, travelling between the two countries. After I was born 23 years ago my parents decided to rather raise their children in sunny South Africa surrounded by family. My parents had a deal that when my brothers and I got to High School we could stay in SA if it wasn’t school holidays. So for 13 years I got pulled out of school to just be put in another one halfway across the world (with an entirely different syllabus). It also didn’t make it easier that school years are different in both countries. My mom was raised like that, but on a more extreme level so she had no sympathy for our complaints.
One of the things that always got to me was that people assumed that we went on a constant holiday, when the truth was that we were going to a small town in the north of British Columbia where no shop or recreational centre survived past the 5 year mark (except one, shout out to the Chilly and Dancers Pub). The pros and cons of growing up like this basically outweigh each other :
- missing out on friends vs making new friends
- missing out on summer holidays vs having a white Christmas
- 11 months of school one year vs 5 months of school the next year
- Flying ugh – flying woooh!
I’d say the biggest effect this has had on me is my language. Being raised in both Afrikaans and English, and also being surrounded by different English accents resulted in a confusing mixture. My sentence structures are still confusing as hell, I’m constantly translating words directly from the one to the other and I emphasize the wrong parts of words – but I’m just rolling with it.
It’s as if I have two personalities. When you see me in SA you can catch me saying “Ay”, “lekker” and “ja” a lot, but get my in Canadian mode then you’ll get the ”Eh”, “yeah” and “Give me some KD,*” (*Kraft Dinner – not to be confused with Kurt Darren).
I’ve constantly had to answer the cliché questions like, “say something in Afrikaans”, “why are you white if you’re from Africa,” and “do lions walk in your streets?”.
So the outcome of all this gave the world a girl who loves a good eggnog and a Steri Stumpie just the same. I can barbeque and I can braai. Poutine is life, but so is slaptjips. I could enjoy a root beer or Castle Lager, and who knew that there is a major difference between saying water and waader.
I am always being asked if I would ever move to Canada where it’s safe, everything works and minimum wage is probably higher than my current salary. The answer? I’ll always be partly Canadian at heart and I wouldn’t mind spending a few years there, but just as my parents decided 23 year ago – I would rather settle down in sunny, chaotic South Africa, surrounded by family.