“What the fuck am I doing?” is the resounding thought echoing in my head as my inexperienced 20-year old hands navigate the Blue Dragon (a car so ugly it should never have met the wonders of mass production) through dense mist. It’s 10pm and a truck carrying my world’s possessions is trundling up the mountainous pass behind me. I can barely see the front of the bonnet, and the tears streaming down my face aren’t helping the situation.
When all other logical beings are moving onto bigger cities or countries abroad to embark on their futures, I am moving out of my parent’s plush home in the capital city of Pretoria to the backwaters of Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.
“I don’t know why I did it,” I still say with serial-killer indecision six years later.
All I know is that the call came through with a job offer, and something inside nudged me towards the potential personal disaster I was currently navigating.
I didn’t know a single soul within a 350km radius; but here I was, life in tow, in 40 ®C thundering rain. I am obscenely spoilt, selfish, and have a firm conviction that the sun shines out of my ass. I am convinced that I’ll only have to survive these platteland (rural) plebs for six months before Elle comes knocking on my door offering riches and fame.
It didn’t kill me. I thought it would, but it didn’t. I spent six months working twelve-hour days, studying for two degrees at night, and never had a social interaction with another human being, but I survived it.
And then I made my first friend. And my second. And the trips back home grew less and less frequent, and then one day, sipping a cosmopolitan in a Johannesburg café, I called Nelspruit “home”. And in all honesty, it’s where my heart has been for the past six years. I wear flats now, and I’d rather have a braai in the sunshine on a riverbank than frequent the latest city hot-spot.
Every time I’ve been tempted to move, I think of that stupid little girl standing in the rain, surrounded by her possessions. And I feel that pull deep down in the belly of my soul. I’ve made a connection with this place, the slowveld. It’s a pace of life that ticks along beautifully with the stride of my own dreams and ambitions, and I don’t think I could ever leave it behind.
These surroundings and the people I’ve met here have turned me into a grounded woman who is comfortable in her own skin, and, more importantly, happy. And now comes the next big challenge of this life. Leaving it behind. A return to the bright lights of the big city. But I know it won’t be for long. I want my children to breathe this air, see these sunsets, and be surrounded by the heart warming people that are my family here.
Andrea de Wit is a marketing manager in the retail industry by trade, and a part-time freelance writer by passion. She currently lives in the bushveld city of Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, which is flanked by the world-famous Kruger National Park. It still has a small-town mentality where people know your name, and is one of the most beautiful places on earth. You can contact her at annie(dot)dewit(at)gmail(dot)com.