It was an icy November evening in 2010, exactly 7 years ago today, when my best friend and I hopped on a plane to London from Milan. I had spent the past ten years living in Northern Italy, literally all of my adult life, and this was the beginning of a new chapter. We landed shortly before midnight.
We both had been unhappy in our jobs for various reasons for quite some time, so when we lost our jobs, which I now see as a blessing although at the time I was devastated, we started looking outside of Italy for new opportunities. By the time we flew over we had researched housing, grocery lists, medical services, transport and even further education. We felt we knew enough to get by and reach our goals and it helped that they speak English in England – that just makes everything easier!
What we didn’t have when we got on that plane was work or accommodation. We were arriving in a new country with only a cabin bag each and hope for a brighter future – a huge leap of faith.
I write a lot about my experience with chronic illness, my diet and my faith, but there are many things about me that you probably don't know.
This is a fun post I wrote over on Instagram in April and I wanted to share it with my readers here. You're probably familiar with the 20 Fun Facts tag that's been going around on social media. This is my response to that.
1. I was born and raised in South Africa, on the East Coast, in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province, also known as The Zulu Kingdom.
2. I remember the first black girl that came to our all-white school after apartheid was abolished and the transition began. That's when I started noticing the inequality and separatedness around me... I was about 12.
3. We didn't have lions roaming the streets, but we had visiting vervet monkeys, peacocks, a variety of snakes and there'd be a chorus of frogs and toads to sing us to sleep at night!
4. I speak 3 languages fluently: English, Afrikaans and Italian. I only know a few words in Zulu and Spanish, I wish we had learned more at school.
5. My favourite subjects at school were geography, science, biology, art and religious education. My least favourite was physical education!
6. My family moved from South Africa to Italy in 2000 and I lived there for 10 years before I moved to England.
7. I became an English teacher in Italy, teaching English as a second language to children and adults. Loved it!
8. I never got a car license, but I rode a scooter in South Africa and in Italy. So fun!
9. I love gardening and nature, but am really allergic to dust and pollen... So it doesn't really work.
10. I moved to London with no job or accommodation waiting, my friend and I each had just a carry-on bag and dreams of finding better job opportunities - and praise God we both did!
11. In London, I worked as a teaching assistant helping children with special educational and physical needs. Loved this job even more!
12. Started going to church for the first time when I was 30 although I'd always considered myself a Christian, my whole life, prayer and Bible reading were huge for me, but I never attended a church apart from an odd Easter service as a guest.
13. I love being creative, I enjoy lettering, calligraphy, drawing, colouring, crochet, knitting... When I was a teen I even sewed myself some clothes!
14. I find it very hard to pray for myself. I hardly ever do... I think that's strange, but maybe there are others out there like me.
15. I love being near water, I miss the ocean so much! It was my happy and calm place... To think and pray. But being among trees is just as good... So refreshing.
16. I love writing, but my cognitive function is really bad with ME/CFS so if it weren't for auto-correct, most of this would not be understandable! I laugh at myself a lot, at the crazy things I type.
17. I was diagnosed with ME/CFS in April 2015 and lost my job that same year, I have lived on my bed for most of the time since, but I have amazingly supportive parents who moved to England to be closer to help us out and a sister who has become my full time carer. She's five years younger than me. Blessed beyond words!
18. I love snail mail, though I hardly ever receive any, technology has ruined that for many of us, I suppose. Nobody really writes letters anymore. Now I blog instead!
19. I love paper, notebooks and pens and have a huge collection of stationary. As much as I enjoy technology and social media, I absolutely love paper. I could live in a hobby shop!
20. I have moved house 27 times in my 36 years. I love the excitement of moving to a new place and decorating a new space!
I'd love to read your 20 fun facts - let me know if you've posted yours,
leave a link in the comments below!