Inspirational Immigrant Women – Meet Desiree

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This is the 3rd story in my series on Inspirational Immigrant Women ‚Äď Life your Way.

Meet beautiful Desiree ūüôā

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I’ve always joked with my family that I could write a book about my journey, and now that I’ve come through the other end of it, it’s great to share my experience. ¬†Although there were many challenges, especially emotionally when first moving to Australia, more than that was a solid determination and perseverance; ¬†I knew from the start that God in His infinite wisdom was in control.

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But let me start at the beginning … the time when I decided to make the move! ¬†

It was February 2006 … I was in the throes of a divorce and going through a tough time but was excited about a trip I had booked to visit my eldest son who was turning 21 and living in Dubai. ¬†The plan was to then spend a few weeks in Perth to visit my eldest sister Charmaine and her family (they emigrated from Zimbabwe in 1994). ¬†Ten days before I was due to fly, a girlfriend and I were attacked outside her home in Pretoria. ¬†I was hit over the head with a shifting spanner and was thought to be dead. ¬†My friend had a fractured cheek bone and a black eye … we were both lucky to escape with our lives. I was also fortunate enough to be cleared by the doctors to be allowed to fly!

Around my third last day in Perth, my sister and I were chatting when I said to her “let’s do this!”. ¬†We knew that if I came over to AUS, it would also be the only way to get my folks over as two thirds of their children would then be here (we are three girls).

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Decision made, we started speaking to people – a migration agent said my case would be very difficult if tackled without help as I had no formal education as a Personal Assistant. ¬†I could in no way afford his fees so we decided to give it a go on our own anyway. ¬†On my return to Pretoria there were mixed emotions … my family were supportive, friends apprehensive, but nonetheless, were pursued. ¬†A good friend of my sisters whom I had met in Perth, sent me a link on Seek.com for a PA position in Denmark (near Albany). ¬†I had no clue of the distance to Perth all I could see from Google was that it was near the sea … who doesn’t want to live by the sea, right ūüôā ¬†My CV attracted interest from the business owner (a real estate agency) and I was so excited when he asked if I could come to Australia for an interview!! ¬†To this day I still don’t know how I got the money together to return to Australia, but as I said, I knew God was in control.

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Arriving back in Perth in July, I had 2 interviews lined up, one for a job in Norseman managing a hotel, and the one in Denmark – I got both jobs!! ¬†Denmark to me was the obvious choice. ¬†My soon to be sponsor, Peter, is a vibrant go getter with infectious energy. ¬†We got on tremendously from day one. ¬†Now that I had made the decision I was excited and terrified all at once. How was I going to say goodbye … was I doing the right thing … what if my visa didn’t get approved once in AUS … what if I couldn’t get my youngest son in … what if we couldn’t get my folks in???? ¬†I also had a new love interest … what if he didn’t want to come with me!?

We filled in all the necessary paperwork (piles of it!) before I left to go back to Pretoria, South Africa, and submitted it.  Back then they were desperate for regional workers so we were assured the visa would most likely be granted. In faith I sold up what little I had.  The only piece of furniture I kept was an antique Rhodesian Teak hall stand Рother than that thirteen boxes in total summed up my whole life.

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My visa was granted late October 2006, this in itself a miracle due to my lack of formal training on paper! ¬†My flight was booked for November 3rd 2006 and I was terrified. ¬†I felt like I was on a roller coaster hurtling forward and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be on it or just wake up one morning and wish everything was back to normal!! ¬†So much to organize; too many goodbyes and NO guarantees!!

I arrived in Perth on a Friday to much fanfare from my family here. ¬†They made me feel special and my sister and her husband were proud of what I had achieved … so was I ūüôā ¬†On the Sunday we trundled down to Denmark – my stuff was still in transit, but due to the generosity of people my sister knew, I had a bedroom suite, tiny TV, pine dining suite, a bookshelf, a salmon pink couch, some towels, crockery, cutlery and my suitcase of clothes. ¬†On the Monday we drove to Albany, bought some basics (kettle, toaster, fridge) and on Tuesday morning I started work and my sister and her hubby drove back to Perth. ¬†She said afterwards I cast a very small lonely figure as they drove away. ¬†Reality check – big time!

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Of course, things were different, very different! ¬†From being paid fortnightly to putting in my own fuel and learning a new job, right down to the freezing Denmark weather (it was November for goodness sakes!) and wondering where all the burglar bars were!! ¬†Even the garbage collection was a lesson in itself … a kind neighbour¬†explained¬†that I could not leave my folded boxes next to the¬†refuse-bin¬†as it would not be collected. ¬†I had to cut them all up! (Serious??!!) ¬†He proceeded to help out – it turned out he and his wife were from Cape Town, they were an amazing¬†couple who took me under their wing – we are still firm friends today.

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My youngest son, Ian, came to visit me in February 2007, we started searching for a sponsor right away.  This process took ten months and meant he had to leave the country twice to re- validate his tourist visa.  I was very thankful for financial support supplied by my sister and brother-in-law!!!  In South Africa Ian was a second year mechanic, after much searching, a company in Albany finally took him in (owned by South Africans) and I could breathe a sigh of relief!.

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In between the everyday “normal stuff” was the loneliness … let’s just say that my phone bill was enough to take up a week’s wage in the beginning and I reckon I just about had shares in the local bottle shop! ¬†My poor sister would regularly be consoling me down the phone line over a glass of wine or three! ¬†I did make some friends, many of whom I still stay in touch with today. ¬†I attended the local Baptist church on occasion (I found it radically different to the charismatic church I had attended in Pretoria) and worked extra hours, but the loneliness was there at the end of every day and most weekends too. ¬†To alleviate the cycle every six weeks or so I’d make the four hour journey to Perth, arriving all excited on a Friday night and leaving in tears and with a knot in my stomach Sunday lunchtime … it was awful but I have always been a very determined person, and so we persevered.

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There was light at the end of the tunnel ūüôā ¬†Our permanent residency was granted in December 2008. ¬†Pete (my boss) had taken the office staff for a drink at the local pub, it was my birthday (22nd) and my phone rang around 5pm. ¬†The lady congratulated me and said ours was the last visa granted for the year!! ¬†We were ecstatic, it meant we could apply for my folks to come over!! ¬†We did this without hesitation – more piles of forms, but it was so worth it!

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And so we continued … Ian on a high loving his job, his new friends, and he was amazed at the freedom that living in Australia offered a young man who previously couldn’t afford to do much! ¬†I was still lonely but it had become a part of me. ¬†I was eternally grateful for where I was but looking forward to the day my four year regional ‘duties’ came to an end so I could move to “the big smoke” (Perth), and get a life!

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Pete made the decision in January 2009 to sell up and move to Perth … I was devastated! ¬†He sold the business to two of my colleagues and I was “part of the contract”. ¬† They were not allowed to fire me. ¬†Things weren’t so good for me at this stage – instead of using my skills that Pete valued, I was made receptionist come girl Friday and very subtly made to feel “you are only here because we can’t get rid of you”. ¬†Trips to Perth became more frequent and tears flowed almost daily. ¬†I felt trapped but had no choice until 2010 when I could leave the regional area … I didn’t know how I was going to make it. ¬†The immigration department was no help – not giving me a direct ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when asked if I was allowed to find another sponsor. ¬†But thankfully relief did come – in the form of another real estate agent in Mandurah. ¬†I felt “saved”! ¬†I think it was around March 2009 when I moved to Mandurah … Ian chose to continue his career in Albany.

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This is when things finally started to turn – I was lonely but I had found more peace within myself. ¬†Work was great, the weather was awesome and my sister was only a forty minute drive away and I wasn’t sponsoring the bottle shop as much!! !! ¬†I knew great things were about to happen.

By that stage, my boyfriend in South Africa, despite visits to and fro and thousands of Skype dates was clearly never going to make the move, so we called it quits late 2009 and I was heartbroken.

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Roll on 2010, the most exciting year in my story so far!! ¬†My brother-in-law opened up his own real estate office in Leeming, which is South of the river in Perth. ¬†He had been in real estate for eight years by then, and as I had been in the industry since 2006, I was the easy choice to be his office administrator … so I finally made it to Perth!!! ¬†I was beyond happy and excited! ¬†We opened the office in that May, just a few months shy of my four year “sentence” (which is what it felt like!!)

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By this time my sister was encouraging me to register on E-harmony (an internet dating website) – it was time I “found someone” she said.

I registered on the website on a Saturday morning in June and a day later received a “nudge” from Rob. ¬†We met in person a week later and fell in love!! ¬†Rob had his own story of tragedy, losing his wife to cancer only a short time before we met. ¬†Together we have found happiness again and along with our six children (all young adults) and two beautiful granddaughters we count ourselves extremely blessed.

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In 2011, just two weeks before Rob and I got married, my parents arrived in Perth too.  I had finally found peace and happiness РGod had granted me a wonderful Christian husband, a new family and allowed my parents to be here to witness it all.

My middle sister arrived in Perth in 2012. ¬†She is currently awaiting her “last remaining relative” visa. ¬†We are also searching for a sponsor for my eldest son who still lives in Dubai but is now married to an Afrikaans girl and has given us a beautiful granddaughter.

As with my own journey this far, I need to constantly remind myself that God is in control, He holds us in His hands and by His grace we can hope that my son will eventually get here and the immediate family circle will be complete. ūüôā

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I asked Desiree to share her photo session experience with you all and this is what she had to say about her fantastic day …

Thank you Deon and Natasha for making my photographic experience a truly wonderful one! ¬†I was nervous and not sure what to expect, but within minutes felt so relaxed, excited and had fun, fun, fun!! ¬†The settings were just lovely and you made it so easy to “follow direction”, all the different poses and expressions were easy to understand. ¬†In total, a fun exciting day – I felt like a movie star!! ūüôā

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Thank you to the fabulous team for making these ladies look absolutely beautiful :

Make-up:  Jane Guildea from Make me Beautiful Jane

Hair:  Cornel Labuschagne from Jami Hairdressing

Click HERE to read previous stories in this series

1.  Natasha du Preez

2.  Anke Martins

DO YOU WANT TO BE PART OF THIS SERIES … do you feel you have a story to share? ¬†click HERE to see what its all about and also send an email to natashaphoto@bigpond.com and I will forward all the relevant information to you!

Much Love

Natasha xxx