Caught Between Two Worlds

My family and I have been living in transit for a while now. We’re caught between two worlds: the Africa of our past and the America of our future.

If it weren’t so insulting to liken our experience to the millions of refugees who genuinely don’t have a country to belong to, I would say my family and I have been displaced for almost two years. But we have made a home in Glenorie.

We have my parents and brothers and nieces and cousins and a handful of longtime friends in Sydney. Now, we are just playing the waiting game until the worst of the pandemic recedes, and we can board a plane again.

In the year before Covid, my husband took over 20 international flights. My flight count was somewhat less, mainly because we have young children and Sam and I agreed one of us would always be in the same country as them. I laugh now thinking about this lifestyle. It seems like a whole lifetime ago.

It was a whole lifetime ago. In January 2021, we welcomed the newest addition to our family: our third baby boy. Dana was conceived in quarantine, inspired by boredom and stress and tequila, not necessarily in that order. We had literally just closed the front door of our life in Kenya. Our clothes still hung in their closets. Toys still waited in their baskets. Our fridge was probably still turned on. On the other side of the world.

After eight years living in East Africa, Covid changed everything. In a late night call, Sam’s boss “strongly encouraged” us to leave Kenya before its borders closed. We were already a few margaritas into the night, but we quickly sobered to the reality that we needed to act immediately. However, the decision to leave was complex.

We knew Kenya, it was our home. But what we didn’t know was what kind of havoc the virus would wreak. “You need to be the safest place you can be,” Sam’s boss told us. “This is going to last at least two years,” she said prophetically. Had it not been for her leadership, we would have stayed in Kenya and likely wouldn’t have made it home to Australia like many other citizens still struggling to get back.

But we did make it here. And we feel pretty damn lucky we did. We’ve had months and months of unrestrained freedom. For over a year, Covid wasn’t the first thing we thought about when we woke up. Case numbers and social distancing, and check-ins haven’t been all-consuming. That freedom is bittersweet now that we are in the throws of the Delta strain vehemence.

But also, for us, Covid kind of never faded from our minds. We’ve never stopped watching and waiting. We’ve been living in a state of uncertainty. At times it feels like we’re treading water, waiting to go back to Africa or to America, where my husband is from— waiting to make a decision.

Waiting to know what is safe, what is wise, what the shape of our future will be. The waiting is weird. Do we try to make friends? Do we join team sports? Do we invest in a trampoline? Do we take a holiday? Do we tell people we’ll leave soon? Do we not? To be, or not to be?

Our eldest son Gulliver started Kindy this year. He told his new bestie at school that we’ll eventually move away and his new friend went home and locked himself in his bedroom and cried. He wanted to be Gully’s friend forever. Caught Caught Caught Caught

What is normal for one kid is less normal for another, I guess. But is that how I want my son to feel? Like he’s always on the brink of a major catastrophe? Unable to truly release himself into friendship? Fortunately, he’s too young to self-censor in this way. And fortunately, he’s also old enough to remember the wonder of the African savannah.

Now that we’re in lockdown, Gully is the best homeschool student I could hope for. He is enthusiastic and diligent. He even dresses in his school uniform to work at the tiny desk next to his bunk bed he shares with Rafferty, our three-year-old. Caught

I don’t know whether it’s ethical to send Raff to daycare with the stay-at-home orders. But so long as the Hills District isn’t in hard lockdown, this daycare takes the pressure off our whole family. In the spare moments between breastfeeding and kindergarten maths, I run a documentary production business based in Kenya. Caught

I receive regular DHL parcels from my colleagues in Nairobi and max-out terabytes of internet data uploading edited video content for clients around the world.

My husband exists virtually between East Africa, the UK and Washington DC, lobbying governments to adopt better energy efficiency standards. He talks about appliances throughout the night most nights. He works a lot. Thankfully we don’t have a social life because it’d probably be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

We breathe. We walk. We play a lot of games. We wait. Our boys grow. We spend a lot of warm, special time with my parents. We spend a lot of time talking with Sam’s family in Houston, longing for their touch. We change nappies. We sometimes change bedsheets. We grow. Life moves forward. Life stands still. We are grateful. We are healthy. Soon enough, this chapter of time will become the next chapter, and we will long for the simplicity of waiting.

FULL DISCLOSURE: My mum is the editor of this magazine. Along with others in our community, Mum asked me to write about my experiences with Covid and lockdown. Caught Caught Caught Caught

I’ve deliberately avoided reflecting on our post-Covid reality because it’s all been pretty full-on. We live in Mum’s granny flat, though. So she knows what I’m up to. And like the amazing mum she is, she gives me what I need when I need it. So, thank you, Mum, for not only being an almighty backstop but for the opportunity to thank the Hills District for holding us while we wait.