When the Hemispheres Switched – Part 1

Adventure, beginnings, fear, ignoring the chatterings of a severe risk aversion and a leap of faith are all related to how this blog started. They’re also words I associate with the switching of my hemispheres…

Ah, I see you there rolling your eyes and circling your forefingers around either side of your head and muttering to yourself, “What is she going on about? Loopy, loopy chick!”. Well, perhaps, but actually it really does make sense. I’m talking about when I left my family, friends and home in South Africa for an adventure in Europe. It’s not really as ‘devil-may-care’ as I’d like it to sound. In fact, I have a very vivid memory of me prodding my forefinger in the vicinity of my husband’s face (he’s a tall guy, ok? Think well-fed Chihuahua versus St Bernard) and making him promise that it would be for the shortest time possible and that we’d be back in the blink of an eye. Expat contracts don’t work that way. In fact, they’re rather unpredictable in nature and you learn to go with the flow and make the most of the here-and-now… but he didn’t tell me that because he knew better. You don’t yell a warning at an ostrich while it’s got its head buried in the sand – you’re going to get a nasty kick and a very scrambled egg.

Now how did I get on this tangent? Well, all these lovely memories got hauled up by the arrival of a South African family to my current city this past week. I’m finding I’m putting myself in the new lass’s shoes, trying to give her very worthy advice based on the lessons learnt in my first few weeks here. Call it therapy for me, if you will. Plus, I’ve never really had a chance to relate all my “When the Hemispheres Switched” stories on my visits home because: a) we’re too busy catching up on what has being going on behind our backs; and b) I don’t want to ruin the great vibes when our nearest and dearest are quaffing the best red/white that South Africa has to offer, while I savour every sip of my it-costs-more-to-get-there-than-the-wine cream soda.

The problem, I’m finding, is that there’s a very fine line between giving valuable advice and underestimating the lady’s resilience. Add to that the most bizarre thought that occurred to me: Allow her to experience some of the things herself. Now, could this be supreme genius on my part, allowing the lady to immerse herself in experiences, creating memories that she can share back home, “You won’t believe what happened to me today…” and learning things in her own way and on her terms? The alternative is slightly sinister with overtones of ‘schadenfreude’ and I’d like to think that I reserve that only for my most mean-spirited foes. So, what the heck, let’s go with supreme genius.

Now, giving advice about business and shopping hours (none on Sunday), parking rules (important in a city in which there is slim to no chance of finding any in the vicinity of where you’d like to be and in a space that was demarcated for horses without the cart, testing your proficiency as a professional parallel-parker), etc. all makes sense. It’s the smaller, finer lessons learnt that are the trickiest when deciding to share, overshare or not to share at all.

The one that really bothered me was whether to warn her about the baked goods. Oh, there’s nothing at all wrong with the baked goods here – they’re heavenly, delicious, wickedly crammed with all kinds of fillings – some fruity and some that should have a percentage of alcohol stamped on the side. You see, the problem comes in when you sample a fresh Breze (pretzel) – the crispy, salty golden outer layer with a soft bready dough inside. You like it so much, you go back for more so you can enjoy it the next morning.

Yum, before you know it breakfast arrives and you grab that Brezel out of the packet and, defying common sense and convention, you sink your pearly whites into a weapon of dentists’ dreams. Overnight, it turns into a deadly boomerang – light as a feather and as hard as a brick.

Now then, do I assume that any person new to the city would make the mistake I did, based on delightful ignorance? Hmm, perhaps that’s just one of the things best left to discover…