In December of 2018, my husband and I make the day-and-a half trek to South Africa. We decide to spend six weeks this time, because our previous month-long stays, his two years earlier and mine a quick year behind already, were just not enough. What differentiates this visit is my, crystal clear knowing that I can’t accept the absence of family any longer. Our daughter encourages us, (didn’t take much for me) to get a sense of how it would feel to enjoy more extended visits and to explore spaces we could call our own.
We meet an American couple, the parents of our daughter’s friend who have experienced the "move" and the South African Retiree Visa application process required for terms longer than ninety days. They make it more tangible for us over multiple lunch and dinner meetings, by generously sharing the ins-and-outs of the daunting South African bureaucracy. We visit numerous flats to become acquainted with areas of Glenwood, Durban. We rule out too many steps, although being on a higher floor is preferable. We become accustomed to seeing the mechanicals exposed in kitchens and bathrooms, drain pipes and 60-gallon water heaters suspended from ceilings. We consider small renovation projects as we decide where our aesthetic meets up with the South African version of comfort. We learn about Share Blocks (SA version of co-operative apartments), that the first floor is really the second level, about LUG’s (lock-up garages) and load shedding. Plus, a million other things.
We visit the in-laws beautiful home in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, where a severe water shortage requires extreme conservation, no drop taken for granted. Our family is together for the holidays; we are grateful and we celebrate. We return to Durban with a week or so left to our trip. The dread of impending departure tries to usurp the last few days of joy. We have not found a place, although we are always welcomed at our daughter and s-i-l’s. We snuggle with our grandson, cherish the remaining dinosaur bath times and play doh sessions.
At home, I continue to scour the South African property websites. At least, having seen some flats in person, I can properly imagine ceiling heights and the solidity of concrete construction. We follow a couple of listings, especially the one in the same cul-de-sac as our daughter’s. The space is perfectly bright, with two bedrooms, a charming outdoor space, and it is on the first floor. A steep hill precedes arrival to the gated building. After imagining the difficulty of carrying groceries up the extreme incline to our front door, we dismiss this option.
We proceed to make an offer on a place around the corner, but this falls through when the seller decides to remove the listing, until and hopeful the South African elections will increase the value of the Rand.
We find another, not-yet-on-the-market option with an elevator in the building, two bedrooms and a vintage vibe in the kitchen. Our offer becomes contingent upon whether the renting tenant chooses to leave. Or not! We withdraw.
In our absence, our daughter does all the legwork, visiting properties, shooting videos and reporting her discoveries on an almost daily basis. We are counting on her, with the accompanying visual aids to steer us to our new summer (really winter) home.