From New York to Johannesburg: A Move to The Motherland
There are different parts of me and I can share them with each community at different times. As a young single mother in a new environment, I don’t fully connect with one community. But I have one strength, I can connect with many people, in different areas, so I am maximizing this strength as I build communities in South Africa. — Essence (2022)
How does one buy the house of their dreams in New York and then suddenly move to Johannesburg? That’s Essence Hayes’ story.
Essence is a returning guest whom I met through a Facebook community of podcasters and helped me with some Livestream questions during the pandemic. Born and bred in New York, she recently moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, after going on a yearly trip with friends and being convinced by one of them to move. Essence had always been open to adventures, so seizing opportunities to explore new places just clicked with her. Still, with her daughter in the picture, she was even more motivated to do so because the life she envisioned for her daughter did not feel as possible in New York as in Johannesburg, even if everyone else thought she was settling.
South Africa has come with its challenges, of course, being a less-resourced country than the US and having to deal with things like electricity being turned off, but she has been adapting. She loves that she fits in as having skin tones similar to South Africans and enjoys being warmly greeted in Xhosa. However, she is still learning the language and cannot respond appropriately yet.
Being an outsider, and especially a Black American, in a country where identity politics is so relevant, Essence notes that she has enjoyed the diversity and not experienced racial segregation. However, she is aware it exists there as everywhere. This might be because of the metropolitan nature of Johannesburg, which like New York, is a potpourri of people from everywhere. For a similar reason, she also hasn’t experienced…