No, I’m not pregnant. No, I didn’t get a book deal. No, we’re not getting divorced.
We are planning on moving to Cape Town, South Africa in the Spring of 2012. That’s 8,000 miles away from home.
I’ve been avoiding discussing this topic as my Internet persona, because a) I couldn’t figure out how to break the news (Collin’s cousin wrote up a press release when he and his girlfriend decided to move to NYC. We’re not nearly that clever) and b) It’s not 100% sure, in that Collin’s job offer can’t be made “official” until after his thesis is turned in, and there’s always the possibility of visa trouble. But in my real life, I’ve been operating under the assumption that I will be leaving the country in a few short months. I almost spilled the beans this morning via the all-caps rage tweet “THE HUNGER GAMES MOVIE COMES OUT AFTER I LEAVE THE COUNTRY,” and then I realized I might as well share this development properly on my blog.
So how did this come to be? Collin studies TB/HIV coinfection, and South Africa is The Place to study that, because sadly, there are a lot of people with the coinfection there. When I met him, he told me he planned to move to South Africa after getting his PhD. My best friend from high school had just gotten back from a Peace Corps term in South Africa, and from what I heard from her it sounded like a place I couldn’t handle living. So I said, “That’s great. Just FYI, we won’t be dating anymore when that happens.”
Then, you know, life happens, Collin and I get more serious. He says he can’t be apart from me, and I’m the most important thing in his life, not his career. So a full-on move to South Africa’s out. We get married. Collin is inching closer to graduating. The conversation comes back. What about collaborating with the South Africa lab, so Collin’s only there a few months out of the year? The thought of being without Collin, even for a few months, makes my stomach turn, especially if I’m living in a new city where I don’t know people. Well then why don’t I come with him for those few months? Well won’t all that periodic moving stall my already-stalled career even more? And given my ambivalence about my career path and utter failure to bring home the bacon, shouldn’t we probably, as a family, take the best possible opportunity for Collin’s career?
How can I be the reason that Collin doesn’t follow his dream? How is that compatible with my marriage vows?
And won’t this be good for me too? Life experience to fuel my writing! I can be an expat blogger! I can volunteer with a women’s rights NGO and stop feeling so guilty that all my feminist activity involves criticizing Top 40 songs! I can do something hard and scary and live to tell the tale!
It’s only for one or two years while Collin completes a post doc. This is the only time that we can drop everything and move to a different continent for a couple years. We don’t have kids. Neither of us has to leave a job to do it. It’s now or never.
And we can spend the rest of our lives obnoxiously saying, “Well, when we lived in Africa…” and pretentiously covering our walls in woven reed baskets!
Well, sold. Sure, I’m scared. Am I going to miss the US? Holy crap, yes. Am I nervous about culture shock? Hell, I had culture shock when I moved to Washington state and football started at 10AM. So yes. But I can do it. And in doing it, be with my husband as he follows his dream, and allow my own life to get a heck of a lot more interesting.
November 14, 2011 at 3:48 pm
So first off … WOW.
Secondly, how absolutely wonderful for you both. I mean, yes terrifying, but what an exciting adventure at the same time, right? I packed up my life for my husband’s dream three years ago … and while moving from one coast of the US to the other isn’t exactly the same as moving to freaking AFRICA, I think I know a bit of what you’re thinking.
Cheering you on, every step of the way. =)
November 14, 2011 at 3:49 pm
Well this is awesome. I’m SO excited for you (and about 25% pantswettingly jealous) and I can’t wait to hear more!
November 14, 2011 at 3:51 pm
HOLY CRAP, ROBIN!!!!!!
That is so awesome.
I am really really excited for you. What an amazing opportunity!
And I’m excited for me, too – because I want to come visit you!!!
November 14, 2011 at 4:00 pm
So, so exciting! I hope you keep posting here with your adventures abroad. What an incredible opportunity for you both- I’m sure it will be scary at first, but most worthwhile things tend to be.
November 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm
Wow, that’s amazing! Congratulations for tackling the “now or never” feeling head on.
For what it’s worth, I picked up and moved to Australia for a year in 2008. And yes, there was culture shock, and *yes* it was incredibly hard in a great many ways (and also yes, of course they’re not comparable countries), but it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It radically changed my perspective on the US and had an enormous influence on my writing. If the stars aligned again, I’d move abroad for another year or two in a split second.
Also, before you move, please come visit New York. I’d like to buy you a coffee. In a completely non-stalkerish Internet friendship type of way.
November 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm
So big Robin. Wow, I’m really proud for Collin and you to take this big step. As the person who convinced my partner to move to a place my partner didn’t want to live, it’s a big sacrifice but I know Collin will appreciate it more than words can say. It’s a big part of living out your vows and encouraging your partner to be the best s/he can be.
I’ve been to South Africa and it is a crazy place. A beautiful place too. And I know the two of you will work your magic and do your part to make it a safer place.
And lastly, penguins! Seriously penguins! So cute! http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com/2010/04/south-african-recap-part-4-penguins.html
November 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm
So so so so SO HAPPY for you. I can understand the terror-mixed-with-anticipation feelings. And I have a strong sense South Africa will be both amazing and hard as heck, but ultimately so enriching and incredible. Can’t wait to read about it as you experience, process, and grow during your time there.
November 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm
Holy buckets, that is so exciting! And scary, yes, but… so many adventures to be had! This is totally a now-or-never opportunity — so awesome that you’ve come across one of those. The woven-reed baskets on your future walls are just icing on the cake. I will look forward to following along!
November 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm
Wow, Robin, that is amazing news. How exciting and scary – you will really be living your life. Can’t wait to hear the adventures of an expat blogger
November 14, 2011 at 4:33 pm
First of all, congratulations to Collin. Is he a biologist? I am curious, because I am one too, my aim is to specialize in infectious disease, so I can unerstand his excitement.
And I can relate to following your partner to another country because ahem it’s what I’m at.
I think you guys will do fine in South Africa. You will even learn some dutch , that is afrikaans which is baby dutch, they say here. I do not think the cultural shock will be so big as going to say, somewhere in Subsaharan Africa. I was able to meet some students from South Africa through an international student association that I used to be part of, and they are lots of fun. And I am sure you will be happy, like you say, writing, volunteering, so many things to do.
November 14, 2011 at 4:51 pm
Hurrah for you guys!!!!!!!!!!! I know it’s not the easiest thing but I am a little envious about a “well we *have* to move some place really different” as a kick in the pants to do this during the time when it would probably be easiest without kid/other career obligations. Which I’m a little ashamed of admitting to because I know, we could figure it out if we really wanted to take that risk and drop our safe jobs, but we’re not risk takers that way. Oh well. Anyway really I just wanted to say congrats and I can’t wait to see what you do with that whole new set of blog fodder.
November 14, 2011 at 5:44 pm
Had almost the exact same (NYC-focused) conversation with fiance last year and… we are moving to NYC in the spring. Do you think that the universe actually hears these declarations that we could “never live ____” and laughs? Congratulations to Colin (for graduating AND the post doc) and good luck with the move!
November 14, 2011 at 5:53 pm
Whoooaaaa. Now that’s definitely huge freaking news. I have so much respect for you two, both willing to just pick up and give it a try. I mean, I thought quitting my job and moving from WI to NC in order to go to grad school was difficult – this is totally more exciting and scary and yay! Definitely looking forward to hearing how things go!
November 14, 2011 at 7:22 pm
WOW! Exciting and scary! Sounds like they’re in a good ratio, though.
November 14, 2011 at 7:49 pm
Holy cow, this is awesome. And terrifying. And a really good way to look at it. And isn’t it weird how stuff can change in our heads from “oh hell no!” to “huh, this might be an asset in some way.”
November 14, 2011 at 9:03 pm
Oh that is amazing! What a great opportunity. I’m excited for you to get to go live somewhere totally new.
November 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm
Huge freaking news!!!! Wow! I’m so excited for you guys. Moving cross-country to a place where we didn’t know anyone right after getting married has been such a huge and wonderful adventure for Jason and me – I’m sure that you guys will find South Africa to be the same!
November 14, 2011 at 10:32 pm
While I try not to dwell on regrets, I have to say that not living abroad as a college student/adult is pretty much my main life regret. What a deliriously thrilling, deliriously terrifying life opportunity. I can’t wait to read about your process.
November 15, 2011 at 8:24 am
Congrats! So exciting. Can’t wait to read more about it here! We can all live vicariously through you
November 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm
woweee!! this is so amazing, I am basically dying of jealousy right now. South Africa is complicated, but beautiful and awesome. I studied abroad there, it was incredible. I can imagine it’ll be a shock but I think you have a great attitude about it and you guys are going to have an amazing adventure. !!!!
November 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm
I am SO SO excited/envious. I want to do field research/wildlife rescue and rehab, and SA is a good place for that as well. If you happen to visit Namibia at some point, I can suggest some good things to do there.
November 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm
How exciting! You’ll be living in the land of Charlize Theron. ^_^
November 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm
Wow!!! How amazing! I am sure it will be a wonderful experience for you both, and one you will truly treasure for years to come.
I know it isn’t much of a comparison, as I was single and in college at the time, but the 3 months I spent in Denmark were truly some of the best times of my life. The fact that you can do this together makes it all that much better.
I realize that you will both be leaving close friends and family behind, but you are absolutely correct that there is no better time than the present. Good for you for taking the leap!
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November 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm
Man oh man, this is huge news! Am excited for you–and if you weren’t a bit nervous, I’d be shocked. It sounds like a great adventure, though, and good timing for you both… I’m eager to hear more and glad you still plan on blogging!
November 22, 2011 at 12:58 pm
wow! you have an amazing attitude about it, and I think everything you’re saying is spot on. Though I would be equally terrified..in a way, I’m very jealous you get that experience. My husband has the type of job where we will NEVER EVER move because he has a client base here in NY and moving would require him to start over from square 1! While I like NY, a part of me would love to try living somewhere else for a little bit..especially if it was “for 1 or 2 years” best of luck to you, can’t wait to hear all about it! PS I can’t wait for the Hunger Games either!!
February 28, 2012 at 6:57 am
Robin, hope this doesn’t sound crazy or stalkerish…I’ve read your blog on and off since discovering it through APW and Broke-Ass Bride. Anyway, checked back in here recently and discovered you’re moving to South Africa! Yay!! I live in SA and I think it’s an amazing country and Cape Town is a particularly lovely city (I studied there for 4 years). If you have any questions I’d be happy to help, I am sure it seems completely overwhelming to move to the tip of Africa from the US.