I have been in Amsterdam since January 2021 but I am originally from South Africa. Most people will know South Africa for its complex history under Dutch rule, its political past under Apartheid and of course, our iconic leader Nelson Mandela. But South Africa is so much more than that. It really is a melting pot of cultures that come together to make up the South African Rainbow Nation, with 11 official languages gracing our lives.
Just like my country, I too am a diverse creature with many different sides to me. I am a lawyer by profession with a background in Banking, but my heartbeat is all things food related. I am passionate about food and I believe my friends and family when they say I am a great cook because well... my hips don't lie. I am happiest when I combine food and travel. I have travelled quite a lot and have explored different parts of the world; from countries in Africa like Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia (to name a few), the USA, a few parts of Asia, the UAE, and most of Europe and the UK to lovely island destinations like Cuba, Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius and Zanzibar. The highlight of all my travels definitely has to be taking part in the Rickshaw Run when me, my partner Ernst and our very dear friend Dennis, entered a 'race' driving our own Tuk-Tuk (Indian Rickshaw) across India from Jaisalmer in the North to Cochin in the South. That was an intense experience of excitement and discovery, food, new friendships, love and memories that will last forever. The Rickshaw Run is a charity adventure in India and is organised by a group of crazy individuals from the UK known as The Adventurists. If anyone is in need of some excitement and fun when the world finally comes right after Covid, I can strongly recommend exploring what The Adventurists have to offer.
Ava, Ernst and Dennis in India
It was never my immediate ambition to leave South Africa. My sister's tried to encourage me to join them in Atlanta but I was always very happy where I was. I had decided early in my life that if I ever left home, I would move to Europe. After I met my partner, we turned that into a plan to retire in Austria at the end of our careers. When Covid threw the world into chaos, and I lost my Uncle, my 'second father' to Covid in August 2020, we decided to seize the moment and fast tracked the decision to move. I resigned from my job in October 2020, put our house on the market in November, booked our flights and made our way to Amsterdam in January. I had a successful career as the Legal Head in the Investment Banking real estate finance division at one of South Africa's biggest banks and I thought Amsterdam makes sense as 'The Destination' because English is widely spoken and it is an active financial services market, so I'll easily fit into a job here. But I did not expect to be so overwhelmed with the loss of my Uncle, leaving my parents and my friendships behind and not having to switch on a laptop for the first time in a 21 year long career as a lawyer, that the decision to rush back into a job is one I am now paying more careful attention to. For the first time in my life I can selfishly invest that time into myself and I'm excited to see what's going to happen next.
It's been an interesting journey so far. Connecting with people during lockdown was an almost impossible task and none of my good friends in Europe, live in the Netherlands. Travel restrictions have frustrated the chance to meet up with my friends and I am very grateful for finding the AIW Network through MeetUp. The network has given me the opportunity to socialise, meet women who share similar experiences to me, and have conversations that trigger different thoughts about my own journey. Every single one of the women I have met so far, has helped me ground myself a bit more strongly into my new home and my new identity. For this, I must thank Paula and all the ladies who have been so open to sharing their time and their stories.