Updated: Sep 3, 2018
On an early Christmas morning in 2006, an airplane has touched down at the Johannesburg International airport. It was a usual warm summer day in the Highveld but it hasn’t rained for a while and the field where the airplane has been parked looked very dry and sunburnt.
On board the airplane was a young woman who only 12 hours earlier stepped in from the severe snow storm that had descended on Moscow and overnight wrapped it entirely in the white cover of snow.
The view of the endless brown field and nothing else immediately awakened her rational mind, which, with a fair sense of cynicism said: “You didn’t expect to be in the middle of Paris, did you? When you said “Yes”, you were planning to come to Africa, I suppose?”
And yes, I did … i suppose. I did take this decision, and yes, I was stepping into the unknown.
It all started a couple of years earlier, when I followed my heart and said “Yes” to the love of my life. The only problem was that he came into my life from the other side of the world.
How it all started
I grew up in Russia and by virtue of luck and my two visionary families, I spent all my school holidays in Western Germany, traveling around Europe. I could easily adapt to cultures and with the same ease I was picking up foreign languages. By the age of 15 the time came, as it does to everyone, to make a decision about my future profession. As most of my friends, and I bet, most of you too, I had no idea what I would or should do. I bounced from one good suggestion to the next, from one extreme idea to the other and getting nowhere, I conformed to my parents’ decision and went to study linguistics and foreign languages.
This however, I only got to realise many years later, in my new life in South Africa.
Instead of delight, my first two years in South Africa were filled with despair and helplessness. Like many naive young expats anywhere in the world, I was confident about my excellent education, solid experience and the ability to adapt to anything. I was also pretty certain of getting a job quickly. Well, I was soon to learn it the hard way that no-one out there was waiting for me and no-one was responsible for my future. The failure - what I’ve always feared the most, was now my closest companion.
These were the hardest years I’ve ever had before and yet they were the most liberating.
The search of my place under the African didn’t bear any result but it did completely break down who I was. The time has come to get back to the drawing board and start from the very beginning.
This time, the rules were different: No-one will make my future - I need to design it myself.
The smallest change in only one sentence has been the biggest breakthrough of my life.