‘Where am I?' Cindy puzzled for a fleeting moment while drifting between an almost tangible dream and the reality of waking to a new morning. Everything around her was static – nothing moved. No wizzing traffic around her, no scurry of last-minute packing nor frenzy of weighing suitcases – tugging out that pair of shoes squashed in at the bottom and tipping the scales to a disadvantage - or lugging around of a laptop which belonged on top of which suitcase? Just static. Stillness. A real bed. No tight curled-up squeeze in the seat of a ‘plane. But then that had been several days before and only now, her days seemed to be recognizable and strangely unchanged.
So she had done it! ‘I'm here', she thought.' I'm finally here.' The thought was exhilarating and full of promise and newness of life, but simultaneously scary and somewhat unsettling. Her dream had been beautiful, reassuring. A voice had been singing to her in her dream – she had reached out to turn the volume of her bedside radio up but the volume refused to be raised. The voice continued singing and as she awoke, the singing resounded in her head as though she was singing, too. She lay still for a while and tried to remain in this state of tranquillity and joy, but as is the habit of dreams, it slowly waned and the morning light filtering through the blinds became her reality. Cindy tossed around for a while, trying to regain the comfort of her bed when she had awakened on the flow of her dream.
She got up and went over to the window, tugging on the string of the blinds and rolling them up. The blue Australian sky appeared bluer than the sky she remembered at home. A crow hiccupped a sqawk which brought back memories of her previous visit a few years back. Everything seemed so familiar – but simultaneously unfamiliar …how could that be? Yet it was.
After a quick breakfast of Jungle Oats, Cindy set off wearing her new street walkers, a water bottle and an indulgent smile. She was spending a few days with family before returning to her house-sharing accommodation. As she stepped off the driveway the ocean lay spread out in the not-too-far distance … a vivid blue expanse of life … one of the main attractions which had won her over. Her feet moved faster and faster until she reached the bottom of the hill; she walked quickly across a main road and onto the cycle track. The boatyard appeared to be exactly as she had last seen it. She took her digital camera from her pocket and took yet another boatyard photograph … this one was different though; it wasn't a holiday photo but one portraying the nature of her new everyday life.
Where to live … where to work? As a freelance editor Cindy would be living not only off the editing she could attract to her laptop but off her nervous tension as well! She resolved to compile a list of potential clients and send out emails introducing her services to as many as she possibly could. This was in fact what she had already done before she arrived, but she had to admit that she had not done this with the necessary passion. The reason? She had not come to a final decision about relocating until six days before her flight. There had been so many considerations, too many for comfort. Topping that - she had tried in the past to change her impromptu nature but realised that most of her best decisions had been the ones taken suddenly; when conviction had taken over she usually knew what to do.
Cindy had arrived with a bulk editing project for which she was thankful. This would keep her very busy while marketing in her new environment and making herself known to publishers, students and other instances where her skills were needed. Once she had found the key to marketing the Aussie way, income would be no problem.
The marina was moderately busy. A lone fisherman was sitting at the end of the pier casting his bait. She walked along the pier and peeked into his bucket, which already held three shiny mallets. He was friendly – a Greek expatriate who had lived in South Africa for many years. An amicable conversation ensued. ‘Locals around here are friendly, outgoing and relaxed', she thought as she walked further along the beach. A friend back in her home country had commented that she had found the Aussie drawl, ‘No worries, mate!' particularly irritating. Cindy, on the other hand, experienced it as a warm welcoming greeting – causing her to relax her tense muscles and realise that life was indeed beautiful and that she had left the stress and strain of life in a hectic city … for exactly this!
‘No worries, mate!' – she needed to repeat that to herself often. This could be the key to counteract the occasional surge of longing for the familiar things she had left behind. As her feet took her further and further along the beach, the sound of the ocean permeated her thoughts. Seagulls swooped effortlessly through the sky and landed gracefully onto the beach. A picture perfect.
An undeniable restlessness was evident in the pit of her stomach. She was house-sharing in a suburb not within walking distance of the beach. She was reliant on others to be dropped off at the beach. The remote control to enter the house was kept in a secret hiding place so that close family and the new house-mate could have access without bother. She could not yet afford to buy a small car. Buses were fun for a while but it was very hot at the bus stop. Her quality of life had just enlarged … or had it? Her coming and going was dependent on the bus route. There were many places she would love to be but could not get there. A restlessness took over.
Cindy realised something – the missing link to her peace. She had no front door key to enter her house. She had no car keys in her bag or pocket. Surprised she realised, ‘I have no keys at all! I take my bag and I walk. I don my street walkers and I walk to the bus, or the club, or the greengrocer. I have no bunch of keys to misplace!'
Her thoughts went back to the previous Friday evening. A newly-made friend had invited her along to a church service. As she walked in something strange had happened. She felt as though she had been transported to a familiar place – a church in her home country. It was delightfully noisy. A happy noise with people chatting and friendly faces milling around, welcoming strangers.
For the first time since her arrival, she saw a few dozen Africans; hailing from Kenya, Zimbabwe and various parts of Africa. She shook hands and was met with broad smiles flashing pearly white teeth. Her heart experienced a mild cramp. An undeniable tug. An ‘I want to go home' tug. This was confusing!
The service started and up front were people of various races and cultures, leading the joyful singing, praise and worship. Cindy had felt at home. Very much at home.
Finally turning away from the beach back to the cycle path, she confronted herself with a question. ‘Am I truly living here?' An immediate comforting thought presented itself. ‘Nothing is cast in stone. Planes fly daily. Tomorrow night you could be sleeping in your home country … if you wanted to.'
‘But I came to live here, did I not?' The answer came – ‘Yes, you did. And you will. Once you have found the keys.'
By Charlotte Stevens