Nthabi Taukobong, Safer by the Sea

Safer by the sea

If you’re reading this, you’ve survived the worst of the pandemic. Soon there will be sufficient herd immunity for life to continue as we all redefine our new reality. Just the other night I got to register online for the vaccine, a feeling that is both exciting and very scary at the same time. I am thrilled that with the vaccine in my system I’ll stand a better chance of fighting this global virus. But did I mention that I am petrified of needles and can’t imagine having to be jabbed in public? Maybe I’ll disguise myself with a cap. I will definitely be keeping my mask on so that no one will know who the crazy woman is screaming for her mama! Will I be one of the lucky ones with no side effects after the jab, or will I be shaking and shivering in bed for days? Either way, I believe it’s worth the risk.

Turns out, safer at home is not the only place I wanted to be. I felt very landlocked towards the end of the first year of Covid life in the City of Gold. I found myself endlessly dreaming of the days when jumping into my car, or taking a quick flight, to be at the beach was no issue at all. Then the Delta variant snuck in and shook me back to reality, reminding me that the journey we are on is far from over. As I looked around my lockdown home – noting all the wonderful refurbishments I had been privileged to do while safe at home, and grateful to still have a home to renovate as I please – I realised: man, I really need to get out! Yes, my dreams of overseas trips are entirely on hold, as I tend to lean on the cautious-to-a-fault side of life. But my own country’s coastline was calling me, and I could hear the imaginary gentle lapping of the waves lulling me into sweet sleep.

As luck would have it, I had a very tiny window of opportunity to travel to the coast with my son to await family relocating to South Africa from the United States. We were to help them settle in. But with repeat lockdowns, the uncontrollable Delta variant and violent rioting and looting here at home, our overseas guests decided to wait it out just a little longer until things settle down. The travel gods were, however, in our favour, because my son and I made it to the coast (initially with a suitcase only meant to last us for one week) just before travel in and out of Johannesburg was further restricted. 

So now, here we are by the ocean. I promise, there will be absolutely no further complaints from me. Seems like being by the coast is actually the safest place for us to be right now. Staring at the ever-changing sea every day has really flipped my perspective on the lockdown life I was living. You see, lockdown in an inland city is an entire pandemic on its own. No sea breeze to remind me that I’m still alive and the lack of walks along the ocean front on sunny days really made Nthabi a dull girl. Yes, I am still under lockdown, but oh my sweet ocean breeze it’s with an entirely different perspective! And with a new view, even my horrible lockdown moods have changed. After a year of living with restrictions, all my yoga, deep-breathing exercises and quiet moments of meditation had worn out – pandemic fatigue had crept in and I needed to get out.

Now that our travels so unexpectedly found us living at the other end of our country, I am thrilled to report that my son and I are both walking, smiling billboards of pure joy (well, behind our masks, that is). We’re greeting anyone we encounter at the shops with a happy wave, and dancing around our temporary home super grateful for this one-in-a-million fated opportunity to live somewhere else for a while. Our music playlist is ‘beachy’ divine, cooking our daily meals is once again fun and sleeping while listening to the wailing wind outside is actually very soothing. I so wish we could all get to swap homes, even if temporarily, during this time. Those along the coast move inland and vice versa because, boy, does it make a difference to shift house and view, and to change one’s daily routine even if just for a minute.

Living by the sea for chapter two of my lockdown life has made me realise that I moved with the very heavy baggage of my former inland-city-girl issues, a variable I needed to quickly review. When I first arrived, dressed entirely in black, like only inland city dwellers know how to do, I noted that all my high-strung city issues and stresses came with me. But I could not make room for them in our temporary seaside quarters because it would feel no different to living in Gauteng with all its inland madness. So, I am taking the time to continue working on myself as there are still a few areas that need closer attention. This way, I can ensure that next year and next lockdown home (wherever that may be) finds me in a mentally and physically healthier space. Because in the future, wherever life may lead and whatever home I will get to live in, I will always need to be right with me. No matter how hard I try, I can never run away from myself. Even with beautiful ocean views the real work still continues to take place from within. Stay safe y’all.

Words: Nthabi Taukobong