Connection and Community

When we had made the decision to uproot our lives in the US and move to South Africa, I was so hungry for information about what living in South Africa would look like. We had been to South Africa several times as a couple, Darin had come on work trips, and we had spent 10 weeks here with our children. We knew some people, had been into various shops, and had a familiarity with the sounds of English being spoken with a variety of accents. However, there is a big difference between leaving home to visit a place for a few weeks or months and entirely uprooting your life in one place to start over in another. What were the schools like, would I have access to familiar ingredients to cook with, what about healthcare? 

I scoured the internet to find stories about living in South Africa and found a few women who were more than happy to answer my questions, however random and weird they were. There was Annie, an American living in Pretoria, whose entire blog I read in one day and when Darin came home from work I had all sorts of info to share with him about all sorts of issues. I also found Lisa-Jo Baker, a South African living in America, who wrote about her home country with such beautiful words. (In a weird working of the Lord, we ended up working with Lisa-Jo's parents for several years and even worked with Lisa-Jo on several projects here in South Africa.) I can't forget about Caroline, who was living in South Africa but getting ready to move to the US; we bought our first car from her and her husband!  And Trace, who was the neighbor of my former college roommate, who had moved with her family to Johannesburg. I sent a lot of messages to these women and eagerly took in the stories of other expats I came across who were living life in South Africa.

Once we were overseas, I learned what stores to shop at, what ingredients I could use as substitutes in recipes, we put the kids in school, found a doctor and even learned what "feint and margin" means. In time, we had friendships with South Africans and other expats as well and could commiserate about the intense heat in summer and cold winters without central heating. Yet, I still felt alone and often unknown. There were things that I was dealing with that my other expat friends weren't experiencing, and there were all sorts of feelings inside of me that I wasn't sure anyone around me would understand. 

I was so desperate for community and once again I scoured the internet to find it. I can still remember when I first came across the Velvet Ashes website. I read through their blog and felt my heart saying "yes" and "amen" to so many of the articles I read. Soon after I found their website they started talking about Connection Groups and I cried; both tears of happiness in finding other women who were like me and tears of relief in knowing that I would soon have other women who would understand me and walk with me. 


After getting connected to Velvet Ashes via their website and Facebook, I discovered many other resources that were made specifically for women like me; women who had left their passport country and were living in a host country under a variety of circumstances. There were women who were working, women who were staying home, married women and single women, those with children and without, women who had just arrived and women who had returned to their passport country, women who moved overseas as expats for business or other reasons and women who were with missions organizations. These resources include Taking Route, which has a blog, podcast, Facebook and Instagram page; A Life Overseas, where I found so many resources about Third Culture Kids and deep conversations about living and interacting well in your host country; The Traveling Academy, an Instagram account about overseas school life in all of its variations.

My list is by no means exhaustive, but these are four platforms that have given me a community of people to turn to with all sorts of random and weird questions and all of my good, bad and ugly feelings. If you are living outside of your passport country, or know someone who is currently living or will soon be living outside of, or has just returned to their passport country, check out these resources and pass them on. While most of these resources are directed at women, A Life Overseas is not only for everyone, but also has a lot of perspective and wisdom to offer people who are not planning to leave their passport country anytime soon. 

I have made real friendships through these groups and have grown through hearing a variety of perspectives on different topics and through learning from people who have cultures and backgrounds that are not just like mine. These communities have helped me through a lot of challenging times and I know that they will provide me with a lot of support and wisdom as we plan and carry out our return to the US. 

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