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As this is my 100th blog entry I am going to allow myself to indulge a bit……

From the magazine ‘The Neighbours of Olde Oakville”

 

The South African Experience in the Great White North: Meet Anne Morkel

Mag2

 

Some journeys are measured in time, like marriage, careers, and parenthood. Some journeys are measured in accomplishment, like owning your home and building a community reputation. Then there are the good old-fashioned journeys measured in globetrotting distance. Anne Morkel has taken all three, the latter her most recent. The South African ex-pat moved with her husband Phillip and two youngest sons Bryan, 27, and David, 18, to Oakville in 2011, and the journey has been one of cultural idiosyncrasy, personal, and professional exploration. She reflects, “We chose this, and we came to stay. If you come to another country, you have to make this your home. You can’t live with one foot in one country, and one in the other.”

The decision to leave her home, including family and friends, was not an easy one. But when Phillip was offered, in Anne’s words, the “most amazing job offer,” the Morkels knew they had to seize the opportunity. Though it has proved to be a creative period of what Anne calls “disruptive innovation,” the choice to leave South Africa meant leaving much of their lives behind. Anne had a hard-earned reputation in her community as a teacher of Science, Life Skills, and Afrikaans. Living in a new community without it was a humbling experience, as Anne shares, “Not that I was arrogant, but I had a reputation and profession. I was a well-known, integral, functioning and useful individual. There’s an adjustment process.”

Coming to Canada was an opportunity to build that reputation again, and Anne certainly has, adding, “It’s been humbling, but exciting. The process has been energizing. Canada allowed me to be my own person. It’s wonderful… and quite frightening!”

When the Morkels arrived in Canada, there was a bit of a honeymoon period. “The first three months were like we were on holiday!” she laughs. That holiday soon ended, and a little bit of homesickness set in, especially when winter hit. One of the only ways to get through that shift was to lean on her South African roots. Says Anne, “I have a lot of respect for Canadians, for Canadian resilience. It’s not an easy life. South Africans are tough in the sense that we’ve had to cope with different things. We come equipped with a strength of character.”

To deal with the challenges of a new country and new landscape (both physical and metaphorical) Anne looked for little bits of home where she could. “You buy stupid things like crisps because those are the things you miss,” she adds, laughing. But beyond that, Anne needed to find where she belonged in her new community. “You learn to survive. I learned to become grateful for friends and warmth, and that we’ve been accepted. We didn’t expect that. We didn’t know what the reception would be like.” 

Ever the professional, once Anne got her bearings, she began seeking new ways to put her skills to work. Her philosophy was simple, “You need to get out there and make your mark. You have to find something to fill that void,” and so she pursued a talent that lent itself perfectly to her big move: writing. She began as a travel writer, documenting her move with entries and photos (with the occasional cameo from Josh, their chipper and sprightly Jack Russell!) on her blog that underscored the enormous journey from country to country, and culture to culture.

Anne continued writing her blog and chronicling her time in Canada, and eventually caught the eye of Eve Hemming, a South African writer who was compiling an anthology of South African ex-pat writer’s work. Much to her family’s great pride and esteem, two of Anne’s pieces can now be found in Eve Hemming’s book: 

 Scatterlings: A tapestry of Afri-Expat Tales.

When she isn’t writing, Anne is out enjoying everything Oakville has to offer. Whether it’s going for a walk or trying skiing, or simply enjoying her new neighbourhood, she takes an active role in her new life and has absolutely no time for complaining. She states quite emphatically that winter is “A little long, but you have to get on with it! Oakville is lovely, there are a lot of trees, and the people are so receptive.”

As for Morkel family goals, Anne and Phillip are still waiting to get their oldest son, John, 30, to Canada. Middle son Bryan is pursuing his Professional Engineer Status, and David is just finishing school. Anne adds, “It’s not easy to move a 15-year-old, but now he’s playing sports he’s never played before and he’s going to the UK with his Rugby team.”

Next up for Anne will be taking her own goals off of hold and getting back to achieving them, perhaps even setting new ones as she says, “Now I’m ready to fly.”

 

My famous rusks...

My famous rusks…

 

 

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