This morning I emailled my CV to a relocation firm here in South Africa. My back ground is teaching in Special Needs and family support as well as two years spent as a Child Welfare Officer with a large sporting organisation.
All the skills I've gained over the years through work and studying were all put to good use with relocating our family to South Africa.
I'm pimping for work and have discovered it's every man/woman for themselves so I thought I'd blog a round up of what I've achieved here in the past year, who knows? at the very least I might get a book deal or even better paid employment in this area of work.
So here goes...
I arrived in Centurion in January 2010 with my Husband who is on a Inter Company Transfer Visa and my now two children aged 13 & 17 both on student Visas. I am here on a visitors visa of which I had hoped to obtain a work visa, based on information given prior to leaving the UK. My Husbands company are in the process of extending the visas.
Prior to our arrival I had not visited the country, we arrived within 4 months of the job offer being made and upon our arrival discovered that apart from a 6 week rental contract in the company name, nothing had been organised for us and there was no support available. Completely unfamiliar with South Africa, I made it a priority to settle the children and within 42 hours they were in school. My eldest was playing football with Birmingham City prior to our relocation and I found a football club for him, TUK's, to train with prior to leaving the UK. The school was chosen for us by the company as they had to have an offer place prior to the visas being issued.
In regards to the application for visas, my Husbands company provided the necessary paperwork for the transfer, but I was left to communicate with the school and arrange for their current schools to access their learning abilities and starting dates. I also made all contact within the UK in regards to where and when we submitted forms, chest xrays, police checks with out any support.
I then had 4 weeks upon arrival to open bank accounts, obtain proof of residency, register with RICA to obtain SIM cards, apply for a loan, purchase a car all necessary items in order to enable us to find a property to rent. We had no telephone or access to the internet in the apartment rented for us, which made the whole task a rather unpleasant, frightening and time consuming process. We further discovered to our alarm, when the eldest child recieved an injury on our 2nd week in the country that our Medical Aid hadn't been properly organised. This took several months of threatening phone calls from the hospital before we were able to sort it out and reclaim our payments. During this time we couldn't get a credit card or loans (other than the car, which due to the 2 year visa restriction meant a heafty deposit and high payments) all inital costs were made from our UK bank accounts. We did make plans with a UK bank offering all the services we needed but they failed to deliver, including cancelling my bank card in the first week due to 'unusual' activity.
After finally renting a property, I then had to find out how to get the water and electricty connected, telephone line and internet installed along with DSTV and sort out car and contents insurance. My husband was travelling abroad during this time and due to me not having proof of employment this was a difficult and long winded affair. We also had problems with customs in regards to releasing our container and this involved trips to SARS with additional release papers that the UK agents had failed to comply with. There were issues in regards to additional payments and with persistance and many visits this matter was over come and our furniture was only delayed by 2 weeks. However, during this period items were needed to be purchased which meant going places during the day unaccompanied in a foreign, unfamiliar and dangerous company to obtain.
It wasn't until April/May last year that I then turned my attention to Doctors and Dentists, familiarising myself with the Medical Aid, how to call an ambulance which hospitals, doctors, dentists met the payment requirements for the Medical Aid.
Now a year on I have started to build a support network, any help I have recieved has been via a network of people in the UK other expats all over the world and people I've met in South Africa, all online on social networking sites. I joined an expat group in Pretoria called Internations, which helped me to get out and meet people, but I've yet to meet anyone that has been in a similar situation. Everyone I've met to date has had help with all of the above to the extent that their companies include utility bills as part of the rental payments and cars and cells phones and medical aid cards have been handed over on arrival. Also most expats are not paid in local currency meaning that they still have credit history in their original country.
I feel now that the time is right for me to start to look for employment, I had intended to continue with my UK studies, but this impossible with sorting out all of the above and distance learning required the use of the internet which, other than 3G on mobile phones, we were without.
I feel that my ability to do the above has come from my sheer determination to succeed and to make a life for my family out here. My skills from my previous employment have been used to their fullest, communication, organising, negoitiating, overcoming hurdles have been best tested in this area of my life. My ability to remain calm and focused in some of the most difficult of situations has paid off and has enabled me to be very familiar with Centurion, Pretoria and most parts of Jahannesburg. Within 3 weeks I was driving after dark for football training, locating government buildings, improvising, adapting everything I know to help me be understood in such a different culture.
The biggest battle I face and still struggle with is the feeling of lonliness, lack of employment and a social life, which I feel should have been addressed on our arrival in order for me to have met people to have been offered support in regards to settling here. A simple list of properties to view, doctors, dentists an appointment to have the Medical aid explained, contact numbers for the municipality departments, telephone, internet, recommendations for car insurance companies, tourist leaflets on places of interest and more importantly a contact person in case of emergency especially when our eldest was injured and again when the youngest broke his arm and required surgery in July.
Having achieved all of this and alone, I feel I am in a good position now to offer support and guidance to other families relocating to South Africa and I would like to use this knowledge and experience to gain employment in this field.
I look forward to hearing from you and to potentially discuss a way forward.