From Africa, With Love

Expat of the month
  • From Africa, With Love
Published on 2010-06-01 at 00:00
My name is Caroline Collie and I'm originally from the 'Original' Washington which is in the eastern part of North Carolina in the USA. My husband is originally from South Africa, but we met in Edinburgh, Scotland.

My name is Caroline Collie and I'm originally from the "Original" Washington which is in the eastern part of North Carolina in the USA. My husband is originally from South Africa, but we met in Edinburgh, Scotland.

When and how did you decide to move to South Africa?

Around the beginning of 2009, my husband and I were living and working for a church in Scotland but we wanted to do something more related to making a difference in the lives of people in poverty. We thought about moving to South Africa because his parents still live here, and we'd just had our first little one. Cutting a continent out of the equation would mean we wouldn't spend all our time travelling from Scotland to South Africa and the USA. An opportunity arose for us to work with an organization called Samaritan's Feet, which was planning to bless a lot of people in need with new shoes during the 2010 World Cup. It was a good fit in good timing and we were excited to jump on board and start up a new charity here -- Samaritan's Feet South Africa!

We made the move in September of 2009, and we've settled down pretty easily partly because we had work before we arrived. Our little one is so young he has made the transition seamlessly. The most complicated part of settling down here might be a bit like everywhere else. It is usually right at the beginning, when you're learning the patience to wait for internet to get set up, finding a place to live, getting a mobile phone, realizing the cost of living isn't at cheap as you expected... that kind of thing.

Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?

I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for four years before moving to South Africa. It was an awesome experience and I miss my Bonnie Scotland and her people very much! I've visited thirteen countries at this point. I hope to have the opportunity to travel lots more!

What do you like the most about South Africa ?

After being in Scotland for four years, I have really treasured the good weather in South Africa. Having so many sunny days one after another has been a treat. The weather feels more like home in North Carolina, which I think makes me feel a little more at home. I also find the people really friendly, and the scenery is just exquisite! Our flat has a closeup view of the ocean and the just don't get that everywhere.

How is / was the cultural shock ? What are the main differences with the US ?

I had a head start on culture shock since I married a South African and lived outside the US for four years, but I sometimes still feel like I'm finding things out. It has definitely been easier than my experience in the UK, because I feel like the culture is more similar to the US in a lot of ways here. 


One of the biggest differences is learning that things you think you have a "right" to may not always come to you that way. South Africa is still a first and third world country at the same time. We've been really surprised by the some of the really unreasonable principles of the banking system -- I sometimes think South Africans must pay more on bank charges than anyone else! You might think you have a "right" to pay reasonable bank charges, or reasonable amounts for telecommunications, but sometimes that just ain't the way it is. :) The difference in relationships between people of different "colours" has been something to get used to as well. It is clear that progress is being made, but things aren't yet where they could be. It makes me uncomfortable a lot!

Do you miss anything from your homeland?

More than anything else, I am always missing my family. My sister just had a baby in March that I'm hoping to meet at Christmas. This is the longest I've been away from home, and that's a big challenge by itself! I of course miss some of the home cooking, and perhaps more than anything else baking stuff like Bisquick, Jiffy Corn Bread Mix and chocolate chips!

Your best souvenir ?

The best South African laugh so far: We forgot the handbrake a few weeks ago, and our car rolled a few hundred metres across a parking lot and into a new BMW. The damages were HIGH. Our insurance company sent us a package with the note "Dear Mr. Collie, The perfect ABS braking system. Regards, Karabo." Enclosed in this overnight Fed-exed package? A brick. You have to love a sense of humour. But you wonder if they'd get your claim sorted sooner if they weren't so busy mailing out bricks.

How is the ambiance in South Africa, as we are approaching the World cup 

People are really excited about the World Cup being here in SA...there's a great vibe at the moment. Cars everywhere are flying flags and have little South African flag covers for the side view mirrors. People are wearing Bafana Bafana jerseys all over the place, especially on Fridays, when a lot of places have made it policy for their workers to wear them. Everybody seems to love Brazil -- me included!

Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging mostly because I felt like I had something to say. I like writing to be an encouragement to others, and it was a bit of an outlet in the early stages of becoming a mother. It was also an easy way to share photos and stories with family members and friends who were interested, (without overloading the inboxes of folks who weren't!) I think I have a positive message, and I like taking the opportunity to challenge people in one way or another. My recent encounters with poverty have really challenged me, and I think if more of us were exposed to what I'm seeing, more of us would be challenged to make a difference.

Did you make new friends with your blog?

I have definitely made new friends in the blogosphere, which has been amazing. Some of them have become better friends IRL, some have helped me along on the blogging journey, some are even supporting my ministry or encouraging others to do so. My blog readers have been a source of encouragement, and have even "saved the day" in some really difficult moments during our transition to South Africa. There are too many stories to tell!

Expat-blog (of course!): when did you register? Any particular reasons?

I registered at expat-blog shortly after I arrived in South Africa. I was looking for connection with other South African bloggers, and also hoping it would send some friends my way. It certainly has, (even one friend who has helped with my taxes!) so thank you! 

Which advice would you give to people who would like to live in South Africa ?

Do it! South Africa is absolutely a world in one country. There is so much to see and do, it is just a great place to be. Come prepared for the fact that there is more crime, there is more need, there are some challenges. You might go a day without the water working ... your power might be off for a while. You might have to wait a while to get internet or a cell phone, or service from your Car Insurance provider...but South Africa is worth the wait, and a wonderful place to be.

From Africa, With Love