Inspiring Immigrant Women – Meet Natasha

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“Inspirational stories are tales of hope, promise and encouragement.” Bailey Richert.

Today is the first story on my series of Inspirational Immigrant woman – Life Your Way

I am Natasha du Preez, and this is MY story!

Let me introduce my family … Deon, my husband and best friend; daughter Zani our eldest and Martin our son lived in Pretoria, South Africa. We decided to take the “plunge” and move to Australia. Deon arrived in AUS in July 2010 and the rest of us arrived in Brisbane on 25 November 2010! Welcome to my journey …

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So here we are … nearly 4 years have passed since our move to Australia. It only feels like a couple of weeks ago when we first stepped off the plane and set foot in our new surrogate country, Australia. Brisbane, or Brissie as its known in AUS, would be our first hometown on our journey in to the unknown.

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Let me start at the beginning … My story started 13 years ago. Deon thought it a good idea to attend a seminar about immigrating to Canada. I remember sitting there thinking to myself that Canada and me will not gel … I’m a sunny South African girl who thrives in the sun and all I saw in the slideshow presented to us was snow, snow and more snow. I did not really give migration much of a thought after this, but I guess Deon started thinking about our future way before I was ready. A couple of years passed before he discussed his plans with me of applying for a PR Visa to Australia since his degree was on the required skills list. Again I did not really think much about it. He thought it’s a good option to have if we ever do decide to migrate … so I let him be. I have an amazingly caring husband, who knows me so well and knew that he had to give me time to adapt to the idea of migrating … this was not going to happen overnight …

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How did I decide and know it’s the right time to migrate … We are Christians and therefore strong believers; so nothing in our lives happens without praying about it. After the process of applying and receiving the thumbs up we had to make our initial entry into AUS during the year thereafter. We took the LSD Trip (Look, See and Decide) to Perth and stayed with good friends of ours. I was not ready to emigrate at that stage, so arriving back in SA, Deon and I hardly talked about migrating for the next 3 years. It was something I had put to the back of my mind and did not really want to give it any more thought. Deon knew he should let me be to digest his plans in my head on my own. He was ready to make the move … I was not.

Once we made our initial entry into AUS, we had 4 years to make the move before the visas would expire. In October 2009 Deon said we had to make a call … are we going or are we staying. Our visas were going to expire in October 2010. If we decided to stay then all will be ok and we would carry on with our lives as we know it. If we decided to go, then we would have to start planning when to put everything in action. I went to bed that night asking God to show me the way and give me a sign with what He wanted us to do … I was so confused … it’s not like we’re moving cities … we will be moving COUNTRIES … CONTINENTS! We’ll be turning our whole world and everything known and familiar to us upside down. I sat there thinking about my parents and siblings and how I will miss them. Will I even be able to cope without family nearby? That night God gave me a clear and beautiful answer … He guided me to read a verse from the Bible and this verse said that new things are on the horizon and that they are on the verge of happening and that all will be good. Goosebumps took hold of my body and I knew I had received clear direction on the path forward. He gave me an answer! I’ve never before experienced something like this. Now if you are not a believer then you might think this is so silly … how can any person act on something from someone they can’t see? For me it was a clear answer to what I was seeking guidance from God a mere couple of minutes ago … peace and calmness came over me. I knew what had to be done. 🙂

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When we made the decision to migrate, the best decision for me was to stay behind with our children until Deon secured a job … We were not fortunate to migrate with a job offer, which normally results in the company paying for all costs involved. Financially we had to pay for everything ourselves. Deon realized that he needed to be in AUS to actually be considered for a job. At this stage our house was sold so we could all fly over to AUS, BUT we decided that it would be better for him to go and secure work first. I figured he needed to concentrate on finding a job without being worried about myself and our 2 children being happy and settling in. I’ve heard horror stories of migrating families packing up and leaving for AUS without any job offers and then struggling to adapt to their new life as well as finding it hard to secure an income ASAP. This puts a huge amount of unnecessary tension on the family. Some of these stories resulted in a divorce or the family packing up and going back to their birth country losing lots of money. I did not want this for our family. If Deon could not secure a job, at least he could come back to SA and we could decide on a way forward from there. Whilst Deon was in AUS,  Zani, Martin and I moved to Cape Town to go and live with my eldest sister, Desire. My parents live close to her and my middle sister, Minette, lives in the adjacent town. My brother Ono and his family only lives 4 hours from there.  This arrangement worked out perfectly and I could really enjoy their company to the fullest and also support my sister Minette, after her husband passed away from cancer. This was a sad time for all of the family!  Deon was offered a job in August and we decided it would be better for him to settle in, research schools and universities as well as find a house before we joined him. Our son was also still in school and he already had to change schools during that year, so we wanted him to finish his school year in SA.

The worst part of immigrating was to say goodbye to my family!  It’s one of those things I did not want to think about … wished I could delete the day and wake up the next morning on the plane already on my way to AUS … all the goodbyes over and done with. I am a very, very emotional person and I cried at night thinking about THE day. How on earth would I be able to get through THAT day! I decided to listen to one of my best friends, Marize, who were in the same boat I was a couple of years ago. She gave me the best advise and said to not allow anyone to come and see us off at the airport … say your goodbyes at home and have someone else drive you to the airport so that your head is clear once you arrive there. I knew this would be especially hard for my parents. They wanted to come and see us off at the airport and so did my sister Desire and her daughter Mia, but I wanted to cry my heart out and clear my head on the way to the airport. I did not want to sob like a baby at the airport … I would and could not cope with that. It was hard … really really hard. I still get choked up when I think about those goodbyes. To hug my parents and siblings for the last time and not know if and when I will see them all again … that was hard, I will not lie.

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We’ve been apart for nearly 4 months before we joined Deon! How did I cope in the first couple of weeks in my surrogate country … Deon bought us a car.  The expensive rego (registration fee) resulted in us not so keen on buying another car. So I became the designated family “taxi” driver. But in saying that, public transport is so great that most of the times they would all make use of the train and/or bus services. We arrived the Friday night and Monday I had to drop Deon off at work. It’s the strangest feeling to not have anything familiar around you; no landmarks to help indicate that you are on the right road … where am I … am I on the right road … where do I live … and to top it all the lanes on the roads in AUS is narrower than in SA, as is the parking bays! Trucks passing our 4×4 made me nervous every time. The GPS became my closest friend and she took us to wherever we wanted to go :)! In the beginning I was petrified of taking the wrong turn off. Lady GPS says take the 2nd exit at the roundabout (circle as we know it in SA) and then I’m not even sure if I understood her correctly!

Everything in Brisbane is hot and humid and you felt drained from early in the morning after hanging just ONE bundle of washing! I learned very quickly to hang my washing before 7.30 (or earlier) during the summer times! 2 Hours later and most of my washing would be dry. Everything was so unfamiliar … shops, food, clothes, medical aid, doctors, schools. I could not understand the Aussies 🙂 … they were talking a very unfamiliar language … how you going? (how are you?) … this avo (afternoon) … the servo (service station) … Maccas (Mc Donald’s) … the rego (registration) … have a cuppa (cup of tea/coffee) … come over for tea (dinner) … cheers (thank you) … a schooner (beer) … sickie (taking a sick day off from work – even though you may be perfectly fine!!!) … jip (yes) and many more strange words! I guess they must have felt the same with my SA English 🙂

We had loads of rain shortly after we arrived, but since it was Queensland’s rainy season this was usual for Brissie. Just over a month since our arrival we were part of the 2011 Queensland floods. I remember TV hosts talking on television about suburbs, which had to evacuate, and I would have no idea if we lived in or near any of those areas. I’d call Deon and ask him if they are talking about our suburb. I did not know east from west!

Grocery shopping was a big headache in the beginning. I still think you need a license to steer the trolleys 🙂 (they are so difficult to steer since all 4 wheels turn in all 4 directions and the trolley wants to go in its own direction given a chance) What would normally take me half an hour now takes 1 – 2 hours! Products are different; labels are different … what works … what is the best product to use?! Then the price differences are huge. Pay anything from $1 to $5 for a loaf of bread, so which bread is the better option and is the expensive bread actually better? We quickly learned how to shop. Most of the supermarkets will sell their freshly baked products at a fraction of the cost at the end of the day and anything near the sell by date will also be sold at huge discounts. Although AUS is an expensive county, I also found that once you know how and when to shop you could save lots on groceries and clothing. I’ve bought some of my best bargains in AUS!

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One of my fears I had with immigrating is loneliness … I was scared of being lonely.  It’s not that I need people around me all day to make me happy, but at least I could pick up the phone in SA and speak to family and friends or arrange to catch-up over a cuppa (cup of coffee) when I felt the need for some company. I had great friends whom I’d known for a great number of years and I enjoyed their company very much. I see myself as somewhat of an introvert so I knew I would not make friends that easy. I’m not the kind of person who likes to turn up at get togethers by myself without knowing anyone there … I feel so uncomfortable! Also, I used to be very busy with wedding photography, editing and meeting clients and now I will have none of this so it could get very lonely. So yes, it took time to meet a couple of people in Brissie … a few of them became great friends of ours. We had the loveliest Aussie couple as neighbors.  Mario & Pauline is always game to go out with us and they are always there to lend a helping hand. They still are great friends of ours even though we now live in Perth!

I chose to be positive … I did have a couple of days in the beginning where I was all teary eyed and ready to sit in a corner and cry cry cry. I missed everything and everyone close to my heart;  I had no friends;  could not go shopping as everything was so darn expensive if you convert back to rand value and had nowhere I could go during the day.  I would get up, put on my tracksuit and do some washing and cleaning, watch television and wait for Deon and the kids to come home. I realized I should do something about this and had a good old chat with myself, telling me that I can choose to make the best of this or I can choose to be miserable. This is a great opportunity for us as a family to explore another part of the world. I made a decision that day to never ever feel sorry for myself again! I definitely still had off days, but I can honestly say that those were few and far between and I coped perfectly with those off days! Our daughter struggled in the beginning and did not want to be in AUS. She missed her friends and family … it was December and everyone she knew was having a fantastic holiday. In Brisbane she knew no one and had no friends and to top it all, it just kept on raining and raining so we could not explore or go to the beach. I had to be strong for her and had to show her that we as a family will get through this together. We had our first Christmas without the family so we had to start new traditions and we actually had an awesome Christmas. We had loads and loads of sharing and caring time together. Visited lots of places and did lots of things costing us next to nothing … watched television series … had Seven Eleven coffees sitting at Southbank and enjoying the view over the city. It was amazing to realize once again that small things seems to be the best things in life! Great times! 🙂

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Have I changed my outlook on life … Family have always meant the world to me, but since we live so far from them I cherish every moment spent with them. I love and enjoy every Skype call and every Facebook message and/or notification. I realize that the world is as big as you want it to be or as small as you want it to be … some of our best friends are widely spread over the world and we all keep up to date with each other through social media.  I’ve always valued photographs, and do so even more now! Family pictures are worth more than gold to me. I treasure and make the most of every photo opportunity with my family here and in SA. The impact of immigration on my life has made me stronger as a person. It made me a better and stronger Christian who believes whole-heartedly that God has a plan for us as a family and He has been our help and savior throughout the last 4 years.

Deon, myself and our kids became an even more tight nit family … we are in tune with each other and know how to brighten the very few somber days one of us might have.  We look out for each other and we see the world differently than before. My children and my husband are my bestest of best friends 🙂 I love spending time with Deon.  We love to explore together and we love being in each others company …  we have a huge appreciation for each other.

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We definitely felt it necessary to find a church … We have always been fans of Hillsong music and we knew Hillsong church was in Sydney, but we never knew there was a campus in Brisbane. The way Deon discovered that there was a Hillsong campus in Brisbane is still a mystery to us. He bought a mobile phone and the only people who had his number were our friends he stayed with in Brisbane. Nobody else had his number so it was just totally weird when he received a call from Hillsong Brisbane asking him if he would be interested in being part of their sound team. He used to help out with sound in our church in SA! He was flabbergasted … he did not attend a Hillsong service let along know that there was a Hillsong church in Brisbane and apart from that nobody else had his new mobile number. This was no coincidence! This also resulted in Martin becoming a youth band member of Hillsong … something he always dreamed of happening! Attending Hillsong has been a privilege for us as a family.

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Since our move we all do our part in the house … From day 1 my family had no problem to each do their part. Like most South Africans, we had a domestic lady who cooked and cleaned for us. She was like a 2nd mother to my children. We were spoiled but we do know how to clean, cook and iron. 🙂 Moving to AUS, we each have our cleaning chores. In the beginning we decided on a designated day during the week where each of us had to do our bit in the house. This became difficult, because lots of times we weren’t all home on that day. We then decided to each do our part on any day during the week. This works perfectly! I hate ironing! So figured that when I take the washing off the line I should iron it with my hands and fold it straight away and put it in a neat pile in the cupboard. This works like a charm 🙂 The only ironing I do is Deon’s work shirts and pants and a couple of shirts for the rest of us that needs ironing.

My relationship with my family back home has not changed one bit. Skype is my best friend and Facebook connects them to my daily life in AUS. I share loads of photos on Facebook with them; that way they are part of our daily life. Special days like birthdays, engagements and the recent birth of the first grand child and great grandchild in the family does make it hard to be so far from them. It’s times like these where I have a new found appreciation for Facebook and Skype!  We’ve had 3 of our family members come over for a visit when we lived in Brisbane.  My parents came over for for a 6 week visit;  my eldest sister Desire came over also for 6 weeks and her daughter and fiance came over for a couple of days.  I have been back to SA twice.  We went back home as a family this past December … Martin enjoyed his schoolies (matric holiday) with all his SA mates (friends) in Plettenbergbay;  we had 2 family weddings and Deon turned 50!

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Shopping for fashion In the beginning I found shopping malls not of the same standard as we had in South Africa. SA mostly has beautifully laid out malls and most shops have gorgeous window dressing … very inviting to spend your money :). In the beginning I found most shops in Brisbane plain and not interesting and especially window dressing of shops was not inviting. They definitely had beautiful clothes, but their displays were non-existing. In the last 2 years quite a few of the malls have upped their game and was upgraded which makes then much more inviting and pretty. I do find fashion much more to my taste in AUS. But in saying that I did love fashion in SA as well. What I really love in AUS is the financial year-end sales in June/July and the Christmas sales straight after Christmas. Most of the shops have great specials on most of their stock … and I found the prices so low during these times.

I really miss beautiful decoration shops like we had in SA. The varieties of interior decorating shops are behind to what we were used to in SA. Quality furniture like we have in SA is very expensive in AUS, so for that reason we brought over all our good quality furniture. We would not have been able to afford the same quality furniture in AUS.

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Our son started school in year 10. Martin was a year older than his class mates because AUS kids start school a year earlier than in SA. There was the option for him to skip year 10 and start with year 11, but since our home language is Afrikaans and our children attended Afrikaans schools in SA, we thought it better for him to stay in year 10. That way he could get used to school in English as well as school in AUS. That was the best decision! He attended a fantastic public school in Brisbane and made friends for life. He is a drummer and this school (Mansfield State High School) has a huge music department. This was right up his alley. School activities compared to SA are very different. School sport in SA is huge, but here in AUS the kids have to join sport clubs to be part of a sport team. Sport is not really part of school the way we were used to in SA. Our children both attended great schools in SA so naturally I was not sure what to expect in AUS. I’ve heard horror stories about public schools and there was no way that we could afford private schools in AUS, so we had no choice but to have him attend a public school. The education department in AUS actually rates schools on their website and this was a big help to choose a school. The only catch was to find a house in the catchment area for the school. With Mansfield State High being so popular we were told that rentals in the catchment area was not that easy to come by. Deon started looking for a rental house way before the kids and myself arrived in Brissie, so we ended up renting a house for 3 months without even living in it. We could not have found a better school for Martin. What I loved was the fact that when Aussies asked me what school my son attends, all their responses were the same when I told them …”we’ve heard great things about that school and we heard that it’s a very strict school”.

Our daughter studied at Griffith university in the Gold Coast and the whole process of applying was quite different to what we were used to in SA. She had to travel by train and bus for 1 ½ hours to attend university. University in itself is obviously the same as in SA, but we found that they do not have the amount of socials and get togethers the way universities have in SA. Zani is more of an introvert than Martin, so she took some time to meet and make friends. (Her story will follow soon). At the end she was happy with uni and her friends and she had a great time.

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Renting is way different to SA. Every time we have rental inspection it makes me feel like a naughty schoolgirl who did something wrong and now waiting for my punishment. Have been through this for the last 4 years and still can’t get used to it. Feels like my privacy is invaded … the agent walks around with a camera taking pictures of every mark and scratch. If you want to hang pictures against the wall you have to ask permission. So this resulted in us not putting up any paintings and/or photos. Great news for us is that we are building our first house in AUS. Our own little peace of land with walls painted the way we want it and pictures on every single wall! This is a family project with each and every one of our own personal “stamps” visible.

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My advise to anyone considering such a big change would firstly be that your relationship with your partner/husband/wife needs to be very strong.  One can fire up over the smallest of things and the blame game can become part of your daily life if one half of the party is not ready for such a change.  Both people in the relationship needs to be on the same page about migrating.  If one half is not happy and does not want to be in the new surrogate country then this can lead to a disaster.  You need to get your head in the right space … migrating is not for the faint hearted!

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So if I had the choice, will I do this all again Apart from all the adaptions with our new life we are happy and came out stronger and better people. I can honestly say that MIGRATING was the hardest thing in my life, but I would do it over again if I had the opportunity.  A lot of positives for our family came from this decision.

So now we are living in Perth … yet again another move for us.  Moving to Perth is seen as migrating for Australians.  Perth is so far from the rest of AUS that it seems like it could be a country on its own.  This move was definitely harder for me as I really loved everything about Brisbane and the Gold Coast … apart from the humidity!  Some of my favorite places is Brisbane city, Southbank, Eagle street pier, the Gold Coast beaches and I’m a huge fan of Noosa!  Perth is slowly but surely growing on me. We love the gorgeous blue ocean.  It’s somewhat of a different lifestyle to what we had in Brissie … very relaxed and laid back!  We love the beautiful sunsets as well as the gorgeous beaches.  We are looking forward to going snorkeling; surf some sand dunes;  camp on those sand dunes and lay around on the beaches soaking up the sunshine.

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I am a proud South African who will always love my country of birth, and will always have a special place for it in my heart. I will always miss the smell of “die bosveld” and “fynbos”, the African ocean, the beauty of the African landscape and the different ways Afrikaans is spoken. I will always be a Springbok fan and cannot see myself ever cheering for the Wallabies (sorry my Aussie friends) especially if the Wallabies are playing against the Springboks. I will always and with pride wear my Springbok supporter t-shirt! Even though I left SA, it has never left me. I have a couple of decades of African soul & blood in my roots … only difference being that I am an African child now residing in a surrogate mother country by the name of Australia. I will always be grateful to AUS and the Aussie people I’ve met who welcomed us with open arms. This land Down Under has loads of similarities to my beautiful African land.  I feel welcome!

 I am happy and at peace. I am a wife, mother and a proud Immigrant woman!

Thank you to the following 2 ladies for beautiful make-up and hair!

Jane Guildea from “Make me Beautiful Jane”

Cornel Labuschagne from Jami Hairdressing