Sunday, November 15, 2009


I am sick with sadness. Yesterday it was confirmed that my husband is being transferred to Johannesburg on 1 December. It is a permanent position, so we…me included…have to move.

I don’t want to go. I love Cape Town, I love my life here. I have put down roots and established a kind of security and contentedness that is new in my experience, and it is precious to me. My previous moves have always come with the sense of either moving away from something I did not like or moving to something better…this move feels like I am being ripped away from the very fabric of my existence. I do not know if I can ever again feel as settled and secure as I have over the past six years. Now I feel guarded…I know this can happen again and I don’t ever want to feel this way again.

I feel very much like I did nearly ten years ago when I answered my phone to hear a doctor telling me my husband had died. Shocked. Shaken. Unsettled. That was an event that shook my world to its foundations, changed my life in a way I did not welcome and without my consent. In certain aspects this is worse…that was dealing with an act of nature that none of us can change and therefore must accept. This is a human act that is ill-considered in more ways than you would believe: it will unnecessarily cost my husband’s employer a boatload of money and it hurts people unnecessarily.

You see, my husband is not just a mechanical engineer, he is also nuclear qualified. The only nuclear power plant on the continent of Africa is just 10 kms up the road from our house here in Cape Town. Because it is the only nuke on the continent, there aren’t a lot of nuclear-qualified engineers hanging around South Africa, so the company imports them, largely from Europe. Since these imported engineers come in as contractors, this means the company has to pay these guys a boatload of money and perks to get them down here and keep them around.

One of the nuclear divisions offered my husband a position and it was not approved by someone in headquarters…they want him to come to HQ and take on a position for which he has no background or experience: HVAC. He is a nuclear-qualified turbine specialist with two years of engineering management experience…why are they importing, at a much higher cost to the company, nuke engineers from overseas and sending one of their own nuke engineers to work on something else…something for which he has no background or training?

If they imported an HVAC engineer, it would save the company the cost of transferring us halfway across the country, a process that will not be cheap. They have to pay for the cost of moving our possessions, moving one of our cars by rail, flying us up and back (and paying for hotels, etc) for house-hunting trips, and it is going to take at least two moving vans to get our stuff up there. Then, they are obligated to pay rent on a furnished place (as much as 50% more costly than unfurnished) for the first six months we are up there to give us time to find a permanent place to live while they pay for storage of the stuff that came up in the vans. This is easily going to cost the company hundreds of thousands of rand (tens of thousands of dollars), every one of which could be saved by simply transferring him to the nuclear power plant a few miles up the highway from our house and importing a qualified HVAC engineer to work at HQ. Considering the citizens are up in arms over the company’s 31% rate hike…and another rate hike is scheduled for next year…one would think that the company would be eager so save a few hundred thou by deploying its technical talents less wastefully, ya know?

I keep having these unexpected “sadness attacks” between bouts of pragmatic thinking. Just like when Chuck died, I feel my nose swell up, my eyes water, and a hollow feeling opens up in my chest. I feel grounded and secure and content in this house, in this city, in my life. And it hurts to have it ripped away.


  1. oh boy, you really have had a tough couple of months. I feel for you :( Sending a hug.

  2. You will be sorely missed my friend. I know that you will find your feet again. You are good at that, as stout hearted as what you are. I wish I could have wave a magic wand for you.

  3. Oh Sweet Violet--I am so sorry to hear this! I really understand what you wrote about the importance of having roots because for so much of my life, I was completely rootless.

    When I met my husband in California, I had just moved back to San Francisco and was so happy to be back in the city I loved so much. I knew he lived in MA the majority of the time--and I so hated leaving SF. I did realize, though, that being with him was being home--although I still miss SF when I am not there.

    I am so sorry you have to leave this place you have grown to love so much. I hope that you will find the same kind of happiness in Johannesburg.

  4. Thanks, Melinda. I have a beautiful home set in park-like grounds. Looking out my windows is like looking into a sea of green. The the weaver bird family outside my bedroom window...I will not see the colony grow as the young birds mature and add their nests. Nash's (my Maltese male) girlfriend, Cleo the hadeda bird, will come knocking on the windows, never to see her playmate again.

    It is all just so heartbreaking. I don't want to go.

  5. You and your husband have had a awful time these last couple of months and having to move under these circumstances is likewise awful. I feel your sadness across the many miles and grieve the loss you will experience and are already experiencing.

    I can only hope that you will find a new place near or in Cape Town that you will come to appreciate, even though it's unlikely that you will care for it as much as much as you love where you are now.

    I wish you all the best dear friend and I'm hoping against hope that this cloudy time will reveal a silver lining in the end.

    With much love,

  6. Wow! It sounds like your life has been an adventure! I'm so sorry that you are sad to be moving. I hope it turns out happily for you.

    I was blog-hopping and landed here. Hope you'll pay my blog a visit soon!

  7. Good Old Eskom. God, those guys are idiots, and we have to keep paying for their mistakes. They sure know how to stuff up peoples lives.

  8. Hi SV, Johannesburg is not that bad, the weather up here is very nice.
    But it is hard to adjust to a new place.
    But I am sure you will find a nice house and be happy and make new friends.
    Cheer up! we can amways meet for tea / coffee


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