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Life in the USA

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Life in the USA

Life in the USA is quite a different experience to what I have experienced in France. Thelma Vermaas, rugby wife, South African, and mother of the cutest little girl you ever did see shares her story. Contrary to what you might think the “life” out to be. She shares so honestly her heart and feelings. I can certainly corroborate with her story. Come and read some more of her travels, becoming a mother and living in the USA.

Life in the USA is quite a different experience to what I have experienced in France. Thelma Vermaas, rugby wife, South African, and mother of the cutest little girl you ever did see shares her story. Contrary to what you might think the “life” out to be. She shares so honestly her heart and feelings. I can certainly corroborate with her story. Come and read some more of her travels, becoming a mother and living in the USA.

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The wise words – “To Find your Identity in Christ….” is so real and can not be truer but I had to discover what that meant to ME. Deep down in my heart and what that looked like. I had to find my security and contentment in Christ. Looking back now, this was definitely a time God was preparing me for what was to come…motherhood.

Chris and I moved to NZ when we were just over 4month married. He was doing on and off consultancy work when we got married Aug 2013. We decided that Dec we would move to NZ to wait for a more permanent opportunity. We were there for 6month, which felt like a year…of just rain. NZ is so green because it rains there…all the time!! So when made the move to San Diego – 300 days of sunshine sounded like a dream!

We moved to the USA just over 3 years ago. The 4th of July to be exact. I remember this date because it was (is) the day, every single American celebrate their Independence. I never realized how big the 4this over here, till we got here! Flying into San Diego with firework displays and the smell of BBQ hanging thick in the air felt like quite the welcoming party.

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We love San Diego. It’s one of the more desirable areas to live in the States. Really because of the sunshine and beaches (that’s why they say we pay sunshine tax, as it is one of the most expensive places to live in the US). Just 2 hours from us (or 4hours depending on traffic) is Los Angeles. We are not particularly fond of LA. It’s really not as glamorous as the media makes it out to be. There are small little pockets in the LA, which are quite desirable, but then there are places like Hollywood that are uhm, shockingly grotty. The Mexican border is just 20min South from our house (downtown SD). Way way back in the day, San Diego used to be part of Mexico. So naturally, there is a huge Latino influence in the city.

And so we arrived in SD with our 2 suit cases, excited for the venture ahead. However, for me, this excitement was soon nullified as it turned out I wasn’t able to work or study, because of visa agreements. This was a huge disappointment. After 7years of study, I felt like I was só ready for the work force. I wasn’t able to apply for a Social Security Number (which is like your Identification Number here) and everything I did was to be under Chris’s name (opening a bank account etc.).

This exposed a few insecurities I didn’t even know I had. A lot of soul searching had to be done and a lot of growing. I was confronted with thoughts that I’m just a wife and females always have it worse of (yes feeling pretty sorry for myself- turned out I was a bitter feminist) but I knew that wasn’t right and none of it sat well with me, so I spent a lot of time on my knees. Oh yes, and I had a few pity parties…just me and myself.
I know a lot of women get to a stage where we question our identities. I did for sure. Some might find their identity in their work place/gifting, those who get married and find their identity as a wife and then the baby’s come along and some might find that identity as a mother.
The wise words – “To Find your Identity in Christ….” is so real and can not be truer but I had to discover what that meant to ME. Deep down in my heart and what that looked like. I had to find my security and contentment in Christ. Looking back now, this was definitely a time God was preparing me for what was to come…motherhood.

So since I couldn’t work and had all this time I decided to make the most of my situation and enrolled (under Chris’s name) in a study course and started trading currencies (FOREX). This has always been something I was intrigued by but was this unknown world to me. What better way to learn and make money and travel at the same time? I always wanted to travel the world and this seemed like something I could do wherever I go. And because I wasn’t working I was now able to travel with Chris.

 

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When I found out I was pregnant we already had most my flights booked for a whole year of traveling. Our unborn baby traveled to 14 different countries. We had a trip planned to Brazil for after the Olympics but because of the Zika epidemic, we had to cancel that trip. It was an exciting year of travels and I started to get scared that once the baby arrives it’s going to rock our world and that we won’t be able to do any traveling or much after that.

Well, our baby girl was born on the National Election Day. The day Trump got elected. We weren’t too fazed, our daughter was (is) a gift from heaven! Her name Kianna (God is gracious) Madison (Gift from God) has been a testimony to itself already. We have been blessed with an easygoing baby (well, as easy as it gets)…
I had post-eclampsia not as common as preeclampsia, so had to stay a few days in hospital but other than that we were blessed to be happy and healthy. For me, the whole pregnancy and delivery were such a humbling experience. I could not have done it without the help of my husband, seriously. He told the nurses to hold off on the epidural after I asked…begged for it (such a coach – no mercy at all, haha). I’m so thankful for it though, as my original plan was to go without! I did, however, want to kick him in the face at the time!

Kianna’s first trip ever was to South Africa. Her homeland;) She was just over 2months and slept all the way there. Like literally I had to wake her up before we landed as my breast felt like it was going to explode…both times. I knew then – She was born to travel 🙂

 

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Soon after that, we visited Vegas…Yes, what parent take their 3month old child to Vegas? That trip was, unfortunately, a bit of a fail, as I drove there, just the 2 of us and the 6-hour drive turned into over 9hours…but we tried again and the rest of our travels has been smooth sailing up until now. Air travel is normally more convenient but things might change soon as she is starting to move and that’s another ball game. I also know that kids change on you and one day they could be an angel child and the next day they are monsters. I have had days where I (secretly) wished I could just pack her away in a cupboard. Just for an hour. Just to make myself a flat white, read a magazine and then take her out once I’m done…

The thing that I think us expat Safa girls find hard, is the lack of help. We grew up with help. Most of us had a cleaner in the house. We never appreciated the work they did and how they cleaned up the mess we left behind. So now we are in foreign countries where ‘help’ is expensive and not all of us are fortunate enough to have that. We don’t have the family with us either. So whenever our dear husbands take over to help (and how we appreciate it!) our ‘off’ time goes into cleaning or perhaps cooking. My husband would ask me if he can cook, and I’ll be like… ‘Hell-No, you take the child!’ haha. And again let me highlight, our child is an angel!

It helps to get out though! Play dates, story time at the library, baby sign language classes, swim classes – there are so many things to keep you busy with here. But sight seeing is still the best for me…I love seeing new places! It’s like I become this intense observer when we travel. My senses heighten and I take in every sound, every smell. I’m alert. I totally get inspired by all things design related and architecture; old or new. So when with baby K, I load her in her stroller or baby-carrier and we go for walks. We do a lot of sight seeing. Call me boring but I love strolling through parks or museums and visiting quirky coffee shops and any restaurant that looks interesting and is not a chain.

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Here in the US, it’s all about franchising (chain restaurants). But individual roasteries and breweries are on the rise (especially in California) and we love visiting those. We struggled to embrace certain American tradition like eating waffles or donuts or pancake for breakfast.

We have been fortunate enough to travel a bit around the states. We have visited probably 15 of the 50 states. Which doesn’t sound like much but when you get here and realize South Africa is as big as Texas then it puts things a little more in perspective. Each state is like it’s own little country, which explains why Americans only know about what happens in America. It has so much going for one country. So many diverse views on things. To generalize Americans is a tough one because one group might be super ‘unhealthy’ but the next group could be extreme in how ‘healthy’ they live. And then within these ‘healthy’ groups, you get different groupies like The Paleos, the Vegans, the Ketonians. Your Joga Mommas or your Crossfit Chicks…One thing is for sure, Americans are very passionate about sharing their opinions and what they know (even if it’s not sound doctrine/information). They say America is the land of opportunity…I say America is the land of options. There is always an alternative option for anything…but you normally have to pay for it.

I’m all for, ‘when in Rome…’ but I struggle with a few things here and have not embraced certain differences. I have not converted to Fahrenheit, or pounds and ounces yet. I got as far as changing my Garmin to miles just so I can run further…because 4miles sounds more embarrassing than 6km, which gets me to do that extra mile normally. The strangest thing by far, however, is that probably 90% of Americans, and I’m almost certain of this, do not own an electric kettle. A few might have a kettle for the stove but they all have some sort of Keurig or Nespresso machine. They laugh at us calling a French press a plunger because a plunger is what you clean the toilet with. They have no clue what is nappies’ or dummies. At Starbucks, they get confused when you ask for a small/medium coffee instead of a tall/grande coffee… and everyone asks me if I am Australian because that’s the one country they all want to go to, because that is the one country they all know…

 

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But we love Americans, seriously. As ignorant as they are about the world outside, they are an optimistic bunch. Where the British normally are more pessimistic, we find American have such a positive outlook on life. Yes sometimes a bit ignorant again, but I’d prefer that. It’s a bit of a love-hate opinion about their confidence. Boy, they do not lack confidence. I’d love to raise my children with that self-believe. We have made some good friends here and our church family is really our family here in the states. We have just submitted our green card applications and finally, I’d be able to work…which is so ironic of course, now with the baby.

I studied Interior Design (after Consumer Science) but I do not see myself working for a design firm anymore. I do however keep myself busy with creative hobbies and have done some consultancy. Lately, I’m trying my hand at photography so we will see how that goes.

Currently, we are doing a few side ventures as well. We are building a property in NZ. We bought some land in a small little beach town where we hope we can visit once a year and the rest of the year rent it out as holiday rentals. We designed it in such a way that it could be rented as a whole or two separate apartments. This has been quite exciting and we will be heading there in less than a month to set it up – furnish and decorate it. Our home here in San Diego is also set up in a way that we rent it out whenever we are traveling. We are very cautious about the American property market and you definitely have to do your homework before you invest in property here.
We have been fortunate to see the all the major Cities here in the states, apart from DC and Boston. San Fran and Chicago are by far my favorites. We recently traveled the east coast and NY was pretty amazing but Chicago gets my vote. The architecture old and new, parks and lakes and it really offer so much. Probably the cleanest city I have experienced…. maybe because it gets snow and the wind in the winter…none the less, I loved it. San Diego and LA is almost like a dessert but you don’t comprehend it as you have the cities and the beaches, but once you drive a few miles out, you see how dry it is. San Francisco (the Bay area) is still California but it rains a bit more there. They have the Napa Valley, which is very similar to the West Cape, and most of America’s wine comes from here. Silicon Valley is also here with Apple and all the tech start-ups so a lot of money in these areas. There is a lot of Safas in the Bay area.

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You don’t realize how much rugby is part of our culture till you move to a country that knows nothing about the sport. Most Americans you talk to will know what rugby is but not a lot have watched it before since it doesn’t get broadcasted on TV here. They have the rugby channel which you have to stream….I asked a lady just the other day if she knows what rugby is and she was very confident in telling me its the game you play with sticks and toss the ball in the air…I only realized later she got rugby confused with lacrosse.

I struggle to consider myself a ‘rugby wife’ but I have come to terms that rugby and braais are in our blood as South Africans. As much as I want to get off the carb train I absolutely love a braai brood Jie or rooster koek. I miss biltong so much (beef jerky is nothing like it). I miss home dearly. I miss my family. I miss having dessert and coffee after dinner. Celebrating Christmas at the beach instead of indoors. I miss the people. Silly little things like hearing working class people sing while they work. You don’t get that anywhere else. Seeing grateful faces. Seeing an African sunset or sunrise. Mom’s Beskuit. Pannekoek. Can’t wait for Dec!!

We all tend to make up our own idea of what we are experiencing living abroad. Every one of us is making this “creme de la creme” lifestyle either the worst or the best experience of our lives. Taking every opportunity to live life to the fullest! Life is not easy I guess for anyone really, but making it all worth it at the end of the day makes life worth living. I have certainly realized this through Thelma’s post.

Have a great week further!

M*

In Travel

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