Expat life – when your friends become your family

The decision to move from home, family and friends and go start over in another city; let alone a city on a whole other country and continent is not an easy one. In 2009, just after we got married, we left our perfectly comfortable life in Johannesburg, South Africa to come and live in the UK.  Fast forward six years later and we have a son called Neo and call London our home.

When we first came to London, we were drawn to other South Africans in London and quickly made friends with a few of them. They reminded me of home and I was less homesick when I still continued to speak my home language and we would all get together to cook and eat food from South Africa.

It was only when I got pregnant late in 2010 and we joined National Childbirth Trust (NCT) after a suggestion from a colleague that our circle of friends expanded. Sometimes, all it takes is to have one thing in common and in the case of NCT: we are all having our first child and we are all clueless, nervous and scared! When our babies were born all within weeks of each other and we started spending more time together while on maternity leave, I started to realise other things we have in common with people who would otherwise be complete strangers. And these are the people I now, and still call my friends.

Of course, there were people we met who we didn’t immediately connect with; or who we lost along the way and stopped being friends with. It took me a long time to appreciate that it’s ok because real friends can never be lost!

My good friend Gugu once said that friends are the family you choose; this could not be any truer when you are an expat.

I get a different kind of fuzzy feeling when I reflect back on the friends we have made here. Sure, they are not many and they don’t need to be. What matters is that we are there for each other and that our friendship has grown to more than the fact that we have children the same age or are from South Africa.

It is less about having a lot of people around you and rather about having few trusted and quality friends. The ones you can call at short notice to baby sit or come around for a braai (barbeque). Or ones where you spend the whole afternoon and evening talking and laughing and only realising when the children run past you screaming and laughing that it is way past their bed time. The friends where, even after spending so many hours together, you realise you still have so much to talk about.

These are the people in our lives that just bring so much joy. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that our life in London is full with our very own hand-picked family!

Do you have any experience/stories as an expat? I would love to hear them in the comments section below.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kgomotso xx

Friendship is a sheltering tree

Friendship is a sheltering tree

My four-year old

Lately I have been looking at Neo and marveling at him. I have been paying close attention to his fingers, his toe nails and the funny way his tongue sticks out between his teeth when he says ‘tent’. Four whole years later, I am still in awe of him, of how he is a perfect mix of me and PJ and of just how much I love him. I think about what kind of person he will be when he is older and I pray every day that we are guiding each other in making him the best version of himself he can be.

I was telling a friend the other day that I know I am not the perfect parent and he is not the perfect child and that’s ok. It’s like Lou Reed from Metal Machine once said: perfection is an ideal for the foolish. As much as I am teaching Neo a whole lot, I am learning so much from him as well. I am learning to be a good example to him and for him to be proud to call me his mother. It is not an easy task. It requires me to constantly challenge myself and to not always lose my cool. It requires me to dig deeper, to be creative in the way I normally deal with things, emotions and circumstances. I don’t always get it right and that’s ok too. I just need to learn to forgive myself a bit more and focus not just on the bad, but the good as well.

I hope when Neo grows up and is older he will be able to read this blog, after all, it has his name on it! After four whole years, I look at him and wonder what I would be doing if I were not singing to ‘hold back the river’ with him in the car; if I was not giggling from something he said or just running and bouncing after him. What I would be doing if I didn’t gather all his unpaired socks; if I didn’t get look forward to his hugs (lately I have to tell him to squeeze tighter); him kissing me on my cheeks and coming in for snuggles every morning.

It has been an incredible four years (and one month) with a lot of highs and thankfully a few lows. I pray that God keeps him and us; that he stays true to himself and that he is happy. Happy birthday my Neo. Modimo ke oo. James 1:17.

Lots of love always xx

Every Good and Perfect Gift

Our California road trip adventure holiday

California Adventure

California Adventure

There is a proverb in Setswana language that says ‘Go tsamaya ke go bona’ which, when directly translated means ‘to go is to see’ and which means that travelling and getting out of your comfort zone, opens your mind and expands your horizon.

I didn’t realise when I was planning our California road trip that it would have such an impact on my life. When I was planning our family holiday to California, I was focused on the logistics and bookings and making sure we had a fun itinerary and I was both looking forward and a little anxious about what was in store for us.

Here is what we did:

1. Cycle the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge
Cycling the Golden Gate Bridge is very common in San Francisco; the amount of cycle hire companies at Fisherman’s Wharf is proof of that. What made it an adventure for me is that I am not a confident cyclist; especially if the road has pedestrians, bicycles and cars – and that’s all the roads everywhere in the world, to be honest!

The cycle hire shop gave us a map and we took a self-guided tour to Sausalito from Fisherman’s Wharf. PJ and Neo rode together on a bicycle fitted with a child seat and I rode solo.

The tour which takes about an hour and a half to two hours (according to the cycle hire shop) took us three hours! Luckily we had the whole day to do this because I stopped a lot! Every time I stopped Neo would shout ‘Mom, let’s ride!’ At some point, I was so tempted to throw in the towel, to just give up and go walk back – damn the bike – but I kept thinking of how one day I would tell Neo about this experience; or about how I would relate the story back to my friends and family. I don’t want to be that guy… The one that gives up when things get rough or uncomfortable.

I am so proud of myself that I did something that scared me, and loved it in the end. Mostly, I am proud that I can say I cycled on the Golden Gate Bridge; not many people can say that!

We cycled to Sausalito and took the (last!) ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf but not before grabbing some food from the Napa Valley Burger. Sausalito is a charming little town; it’s a less touristy version of Fisherman’s Wharf and I wish we had spent more time there.

We had a picnic at Fisherman’s Wharf and some people watching at the same time and  then rode the last block to return the bicycles.

I think the hire place were both relieved and surprised that I had made it back considering how nervous I looked when we cycled out. We got there just before they closed too!

Cycling San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

Cycling San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

Steadily making our way there

Steadily making our way there

2. Riding the cable cars in San Francisco
I loved that the cable cars are old and quaint and was taken by their vintage quality and the authenticity. Everything about them is done so manually I was in awe. In a time when just about everything is automated and things can happen with just the touch of a button, I loved how old school these cable cars are. They are operated the same way they have been since the mid1800s.

We went there in the afternoon and it was a bit of a wait but the ride was worth it. To be honest, when I was reading about it, I thought it would be faster than it actually was but liked that it was sedate enough for Neo to enjoy it. The ride was thrilling and it ended too soon.

Ready to ride the cable cars

Ready to ride the cable cars

3. Whale watching at Monterey
When I was telling Neo about going to California, I kept telling him that we would see whales and dolphins. I reckon even as an almost four year old, he is bound to remember seeing the whales more than anything else. I had to do a lot of research finding a cruise company that would allow a three year old on board. Most places online had a minimum age of six years old. We finally found Chris’ Whale Watching and they were more than happy for Neo to come on board.

The cruise was lovely and we spotted some dolphins and a few whales plus a lot of seals. Neo was happy and so were we.

Monterey Whale and Dolphin Watching

Monterey Whale and Dolphin Watching

4. Surfing at Santa Barbara

This is possibly the highlight for the whole trip for us. I found Santa Barbara Surf School and they teach all ages. When I was planning this, I had initially only signed up PJ to surf and then a few weeks later when the surf school emailed to confirm, I decided to sign me and Neo up as well. I told them that Neo is confident in water and they agreed to teach him and that he is possibly the youngest student they have ever had. Most surf schools have a minimum age of 12.

The day of the lesson was lovely and hot with clear blue skies – no chance of the lesson being cancelled due to bad weather. I was excited and nervous. I am not a confident swimmer and I honestly imagined being swept away by the Pacific Ocean. Even with all this, I still wanted to go ahead with it; I didn’t just want to sit on the side and wave as the boys have all the fun.

We drove to Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara while listening and singing along to loud music to calm our nerves. The surf school booked the three of us into a private lesson with two instructors: one for Neo and one for PJ and me. We got kitted out in wetsuits (the water can get cold and they would rather we focused less on how cold the water is and concentrate on having fun surfing) and the two instructors did a quick demo on the beach of how to stand up on the board. Then I was up! I put on a brave smile, negotiated the rocks in the ocean and then lay down on the board. The first wave was massive, toppled me over and washed away whatever confidence I had managed to build up. Hardly a minute in the water and I wanted a time-out. So I came out the water looking a little bit defeated and wanting to gather my thoughts and thinking of a solid reason of what I’m going to tell the guys about not going back in the water. Then something else happened: I sat on the beach, could literally hear PJ screaming with ecstasy because he stood on the board for the first time. Then I looked at Neo so brave and fearless, surfing or, as he would say later ‘catching a wave!’. I sat there and thought ‘I want to be able to look back on this day and smile at how much fun we all had as a family’. As I was sitting there, I was greeted by two lovely ladies who had seen us earlier and asked how Neo was doing. They had seen us earlier when we were wearing the wetsuits and marvelled at how young Neo was and how keen he was on surfing and more importantly, how he was enjoying it so much.


Neo waiting to 'catch a wave!'

Neo waiting to ‘catch a wave!’




I think that’s what it took for me to want to go back in.

The rest of the surfing lesson was amazing. Brilliant! Incredible! Exhilarating! When I went back in the second time around, fear was the very last thing I was feeling. I felt free and I felt like I was on top of the world. It is a feeling I will never forget and I hope to feel like that again someday. I stood on the board and screamed so loud, I’m sure my mother in South Africa heard me.

Paddling - even looking at this picture has me smiling.

Paddling – even looking at this picture has me smiling.

I will never forget Santa Barbara and I will never forget surfing and how it made me feel – from being a bunch of nerves to feeling on top of the world. And, of yes, I will most definitely do it again.

More than just another trip, our road trip forced me to confront my fears, look at them in the eye and tell them to go bother someone else. I came back from this trip reenergised and refreshed and ready to take on the world. I think fear is normal but I don’t want it to rule my life. I want to be a positive role model to my son; I want to make my family proud and I want to constantly challenge and surprise myself.

It is amazing what travelling does to a person, doesn’t it? The things that we did, that had me saying ‘…I am not confident…’ are the ones that stand out in my mind, the ones that I enjoyed the most. I am trying to imagine just how much fun I would have had if I had decided not to do any of them…

Thanks for stopping by

Kgomotso xx

Neo’s style – sunny in California 

I love hot and sunny temperatures and when we were in California for a family road trip recently, the weather didn’t disappoint. I loved dressing Neo in sandals, shorts and character t-shirts.

Here are my favourite picks of Neo’s style for summer*:

  1. Dinosaurs

Our first stop on our road trip was to Monterey (pronounced Mon-eray by the locals). It was a glorious day and we spent the afternoon doing boat-based activities. Neo wore brown cargo shorts from Gap paired up with a blue dinosaur t-shirt from Next.

At the Monterey Bay

At the Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf

  1. The blues**

Leadbetter beach was the first place we went to when we arrived  in Santa Barbara. It was a wonderful 27 degrees and time to let the toes free! Neo is wearing blue demin shorts from Primark, a Santa Cruz (very apt!)  t-shirt from Tesco to match the clear blue skies😀.

Leadbetter beach in Santa Barbara is the perfect spot to dip our toes in the ocean

  1. Green and Blue

It started getting hotter as we headed south from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles. Just outside Los Angeles, we stopped at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and were very excited to go into Air Force One. Here he is wearing a blue t-shirt I picked up at the (now closed) British Music Experience and green shorts from Gap. I just love the green and blue combination with a touch of yellow.

At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

  1. Painted purple

I bought a few character t-shirts before we left for LA in case Neo wanted some while we were away and they turned out to be too expensive. On the morning when we went to see the minions at Universal Studios, he picked the batman t-shirt I got from Primark for £4 to wear with his purple shorts from Polarn O Pyrett.

With the minions

Hanging out with the minions

Here is Neo chatting with Fiona and Shrek.

With Fiona and Shrek

Giving Fiona and Shrek a bit of the cold shoulder

  1. Cowboy

For our visit to Disneyland Resort at Anaheim, I wanted a non-disney t-shirt so he would be easy to spot in a crowd. He had other ideas though and insisted on wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Woody from Toy Story with striped shorts from Zara. The t-shirt was a great conversation starter and we found ourselves chatting to other parents also waiting in lines for the rides.

Big smiles


  1. Spiderman

We spent the last day in the US exploring the sights in Hollywood and Los Angeles. It was still lovely and hot so Neo wore a dark grey pair of shorts from H&M with a bright spiderman t-shirt from Primark. He was in very good company – we met three other Spidermans at the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Walk of Fame

I absolutely loved dressing Neo in shorts and t-shirts and I can’t for warmer temperatures here so we can have some fun in the sun.

*Neo has other hats but he insisted on wearing the spiderman cap (from Primark) and the blue and yellow sunglasses (from Boots) the entire time we were away!

** The cars came with us everywhere we went but have not been played with since we’ve come back.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kgomotso x

Our California Adventure Family Road Trip

California Adventure

My family and I have come back from the most awesome, fun filled and amazing road trip in California, the incredible #rammzepicroadtrip. I remember looking out the window while on the road and thinking what a brilliant time we are having and I wanted to pinch myself to make sure it was all real and I wasn’t dreaming. It wasn’t all smooth-going all the way, and that was the beauty of it. Our holiday had all the ingredients of a perfect family road trip: lots of laughing out loud, sunny and warm temperatures, lots of highs, some down time, a bit of stressing followed by warm hugs, some scream-with-excitement moments, a decent number of lie-ins, late nights and good food. My husband PJ called it the ‘bestest family holiday!’and I tend to agree.

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