“I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again”

“So, where do I begin

To tell the story of how great ……..”

Jip, it’s a love story, born out of a love to travel.

Probably OK to start when things started falling in place but to really provide insight, I’m going further back to provide proper background. I think its rather important that you understand why and what gave reason for us to embark on change; real huge change. And then what a move like this really entails.

Since Heleen and my first ever overseas trip we’ve always wanted and hinted on going overseas. There was always some sort of adventurous pulling factor for us to also “experience it!” We settled into jobs early in our life and jobs became careers, we became a family of four and we “settled for suburbia” and comfort.

Then we made a mistake! We introduced our kids to travel. They liked it and we liked to be able to share experiences, cultures and diversity with them. In the back of our minds we started thinking of giving them exposure and opportunity wider than Pretoria and South Africa. In the old days expanding horizons meant you move from, say Hofmeyer, to the cities, such as say Bloemfontein. In the current “global village” Bloemfontein can easily become Europe and this we decided is what we want to experience.

Important here for me to mentioned that we want to experience living abroad, experiencing different cultures, ways of coping and be able to travel for cheaper, because destinations are closer. I love South Africa and we are not “leaving” South Africa. We are gaining Europe at the moment. Understand this. I will miss Karoo dirt roads, Kruger, Kgalagadi, West Coast, The Sharks, the Bushveld, Midlands, the Overberg and all other wonderful places and things in SA, but for now I will gain what Europe can give.

OK, so back to now. Exxaro presented me with an elegant opportunity to exit, and though with emotions I didn’t know I had, I left my 21 year comfort zone, security and excellent employer to pursue something new. What that something will turn out to be I still need to find out. Heleen, on the other hand also received an excellent opportunity. She could pursue new opportunities within her current employer, T-Systems; continue her good career and gain international working experience while we pursue our dream of the Europe experience thing.

Heleen and I have been so blessed through our lives and all necessary moving parts fell into place to realise this dream and opportunity. I thank God for looking after us.

So, packing up a huge house in which four “gatherers” have been living for 16 years was one massive task. Practical issues such as my wine, which I could not relocated to Germany for practical and import duties reasons had to find new homes. Its stupid to “store” wine when you leave for an uncertain period as most of it is good drinking wines. I handed out wine in excess of 100 bottles! And now, here in Germany drinking cheap local reds, how I whish I had a few of those reds and chardonnays I know so well!

Books, furniture and personal stuff which will never fit into a standard German residence had to be dumped as storage to friends and family and I must say, they all came to our help on this challenge, thanx guys again for your help and support.

But other challenges of what we embarked on were Martha and Kgomotso, our live-in domestic help of 22 years and her son, attending the local Irene Primary School. Furthermore, finding good homes for three dogs that have been much part of our lives for the past 8 years proved an emotional drain as soon as the packing started. I now understood that clichéd phrase “the devil is in the details” fully when our concept of moving abroad had to be realised through impact on each and every little detail of our lives.

However, we are now in Germany. We’re living in temporary accommodation to provide time for our stuff to arrive and time to house-hunt. Both of these already seem to be more complicated than originally thought, but more on that a little later. Part of our stuff to arrive is the 10 boxes of airfreight not included in the crate of everything which will be sent via sea-freight. This airfreight includes my coffee machine, and those of you who know me, will know how important that is!

The kids are in St George’s, The English International School (50° 52.516’N 6° 56.802’E) in a little town Rondorf in southern Koln while we currently live in Bonn (50° 43.293’N 7° 9.405’E). I’m commuting them everyday and already that seems a time consuming effort. They both settled in nicely and we already had a fruitful parent teacher evening where feedback on both Cara and Stean was extremely positive. This school exposure already proves very interesting after the strict disciplined and nearly draconic experiences of previous schools on issues such as hair, uniform, make-up and general attire. Cara loves attending school with hair hanging loose, wearing boots to school (its cold out here) and replacing them with “pumps” for the school day! I know a few guys back home who’ll flip over if they see this.

Bonn was the capital of West Germany from 1949 until unification in 1990 and the official seat of government of united Germany from 1990 to 1999. It is located on the Rhine River and is an extremely scenic city, with forests, greenery and farmland around it. Typical in Germany and Europe is that there are plenty of little “Irene-like” villages around the main centers. Rondorf is one such town.

So, after just more than two weeks all seems fine, but the grind will come. Language, culture, ways of doing and just plane differences from the Suffas way will surely kick in soon!