So just shy of 6 weeks into our move to New Zealand from sunny South Africa.. It has been a rollercoaster ride to say the least, but we have tackled it positively (for most of the time) and are embracing the many changes.
Last night however I had my 3rd incident of being paralysed by fear. I laugh at myself after the time but the reality of it is isn’t all that funny. Coming from a country with the most resilient and highly adaptable people, feeling fear is just a normal part of one’s day. Now maybe fear is perceived as a strong word to some because ‘fear’ can be widely varied and the scales of fear are vast, so let me elaborate..
A few different emotions come to my mind.. Awake, alert, alarmed, aware, anxious, worried, nervous, uncomfortable. I got so used to living with those emotions that I didn’t even know I was experiencing them.
Coming from the cushy suburbs of Johannesburg, I’d even go as far as to say that I was pretty safe, most of the time. As a Civil Engineer, I thank my guardian angels for the protection I had going to some hair-raising work sites, but I never had any incidents happen to me personally and for that I am grateful. It doesn’t mean however that I didn’t feel those emotions I described above, often and with daily occurrence.
It is funny how quickly we forget our previous surroundings and fall into new ways. After the first week in Auckland, I no longer put my handbag in the boot and didn’t check if the car doors were locked. I have long since stopped looking around me at traffic lights and leaving a space behind the car in front of me. We walk around the park in the evening and take the forest paths just because we can. We drive (or stroll) down our street at midnight and don’t look back to see if we’re being followed, don’t even think about the lack of gates, guards or security vehicles.
My first reality check was about 3 weeks in. I was hanging the washing in the backyard when I heard someone walking towards me. I couldn’t see anyone but I could hear the crunch of the stones under their feet and I knew they were getting closer. Not being able to see them I went into stealth mode, checking where I could escape to depending on which side they approached me from. Turns out the neighbour, on the other side of the wooden ‘fence’, was taking a walk around their house and I could get back to my washing with my heart in my mouth racing a bit above normal.
The second incident happened about a week later on my walk to the grocery store. Kitted with my backpack and off to find us dinner I went.. Passing underneath a highway bridge I was suddenly deafened by this thundering sound that I could only think to be bullets. I screamed and ducked down and then to my delight and total embarrassment realized there was a second bridge – a train had passed over. The lady walking her dog on the other side of the road pretended she didn’t see what I had done, but probably questioned my mental state somewhat.
Then last night while Daniel was in the shower and I was parked on the lounge floor (the joys of ‘glamping’) working on my laptop, I heard a banging noise in the house. I first shrugged it off and then when it persisted it dawned on me that we have no burglar proofing and if I’d left the bedroom window open, someone may be inside. I crept around the lounge towards the bedroom afraid of what I would find. Nothing lurking in our room, oh shit, the spare bedroom. Working up the courage to peer into the dark room, I realized that I had no idea where the noises came from and panic really set in. I dashed into the bathroom to tell Daniel, only to have him burst out laughing, he had been trying to kill mosquitoes.
My poor, shattered nerves! haha!
I am not writing this to bash South Africa, it is merely to tell you what I am experiencing and why. We become so used to being locked away behind our electric fences, high walls, security beams, guards, dogs and gates that when we are home, we mostly do feel safe. Without those ‘protectors’ in place there is a feeling of vulnerability that I am unaccustomed to, that I am slowly learning to embrace.
Many people in South Africa don’t have the luxury of being safe though and the reality of that is bleak. So this post is dedicated to a long-time friend, living in real fear. Not the kind you look back on and laugh about.. She needs our help, her life depends on it. So please consider checking out the link below and contributing something to help making a difference. My aim is to get 500 people to donate R100, all together a small amount can make a huge impact!