Questions

Ever since the wedding, I have been inundated by a sea of questions. That’s to be expected during the first few weeks of marriage, especially in a situation like ours, where many of the basics (for example—where are we going to live long-term) haven’t been determined. But sometimes I find myself saying inside, Can we just ease into married life, please?

There are three questions I am asked a lot and would like to address:

  • What is my new name? Legally, I’m not changing my name—at least not now. It’s just too complicated to change my Abstract Bridename, when my visa and South African paperwork are all in my maiden name. Socially, I will style myself as Nicole Corlew Curtis. We’ll see how long I can keep that up since it is a bit of a mouthful.
  • Am I still a missionary? And if so, can one still donate to my missionary account via SAMS? Yes, my status as a SAMS missionary with Growing the Church isn’t changing. Everything remains the same, including my ministry work and my need to raise my own support. And yes, people who want to support my ministry can still donate to my missionary account through SAMS. (Thank you!)
  • What is married life like so far? This is a hard question to answer! It is wonderful and full of joy. It is a transition to be sure, especially when you marry later in life as we did and have been used to doing life on our own. I am rather surprised to find the joy and challenge in the detail—getting used to sharing a bed with another person, having extra help around the house, traveling together to church, making meals for each other, coordinating schedules. I am reminded of what Fr. Leigh Spruill said in his homily for our wedding: A wedding is like the incarnation of Christ. It is only the beginning. And it is true—our wedding is only the beginning of our marriage, and it takes time for two lives to weave into one.

A New Chapter

In a whirlwind, a new chapter of my life begins; now I am a married woman. Seven weeks ago, I was headed home; I couldn’t wait. International and domestic travels, wedding appointments and planning, quality time with family and friends, doggie time with my fur-nephew, Christmas, wedding, honeymoon, celebrating a new year, meeting with SAMS (my mission agency), back home in Cape Town—all done within six weeks. No wonder I’m tired and way behind in my thank-you cards and unpacking. (I won’t even mention the messy state of my flat and all the weeds in my garden.)

But I’m excited to begin this new chapter of my life, as I add the title of “wife” to my seasoned labels of daughter, sister, and friend. I wonder what the first year of marriage will hold for us; I know it will entail a lot of change.

IMG_5138Wayne and I are so blessed and so happy. Sometimes I still can’t believe how much God has blessed me with such a wonderful husband. I still pinch myself when I think about our wedding, which surpassed all of my dreams. From the time I woke up to the time I went to bed, I enjoyed every moment of our special day. It was a day of pure joy. I will never forget the feeling of happiness I had when I was able to get a glimpse of all our guests sitting in the church; in my mind I thought, Wow. All these people love us. How many people have the honour and privilege of being surrounded at one time by so many people who love them? We are so blessed!

We are so grateful for our family and friends who helped to make our day so special and who continue to share in our happiness. We love you all.

Girlfriend Time

Having coffee with Betsy
Having coffee with Betsy

This past Friday, 9 August, was Women’s Day in South Africa; and I had a fabulous weekend celebrating the joys of sisterhood with my girlfriends. On Friday, I went to breakfast with some girlfriends and in the evening went to the gym with one of them to work off the breakfast. On Saturday, I had my first “girls-night-out” with some new friends, and it was great to hang out in Cape Town, eating Thai food and enjoying good conversation. On Sunday, I met a new friend, Betsy, a fellow Nashvillian who recently moved to Cape Town with her family. It was great to finally meet Betsy, and I’m grateful for our mutual friend who put us in contact with each other.

The past few weeks at work have been very hectic, and I was thankful to have a little girlfriend time over the long weekend. I keep saying that I want the next six months of life in Cape Town to be about making friends and embracing life here. I’m so grateful for the five new girlfriends I have met in the past two weeks. At all times God is simply amazing, but sometimes he just outdoes himself.

Home

St. James Beach: one of my favorite spots to walk
St. James Beach: one of my favorite spots to walk

Yay! Tomorrow I get to go home. I thought as I packed up for the next leg of the recent church trip. On the St. George’s trips to South Africa, we spend our first week in Johannesburg and then fly to Cape Town on Friday. Normally, when I repack for this leg of the trip, I think, I get to go to Cape Town tomorrow! This time I thought, I get to go home. Yay! I miss the mountains and the sea. I miss my flat and my bed. I miss my friends. I miss home.

This line of thinking is a good sign. Cape Town is indeed becoming home to me. However, I was a bit unnerved about this first feeling of home, and I fought against it on the flight to Cape Town and for several days afterwards. Nashville is where my family and friends live; it is where I grew up. It’s home, not Cape Town.

And yet Cape Town is feeling more and more like home, and that’s good—I keep telling myself, although a part of my heart stings. I have had several feelings of “home” during the past month—playing board games on Easter afternoon with the young members of the Adams family, my dear friends, visiting a friend who had a recent operation, routine grocery shopping at the local shops, curling up with a good book on a quiet evening.

Yet it’s ironic; the more I live into life here and the more Cape Town becomes home to me, the more homesick I get for home. I feel the tension. At times it’s intense. At times I want to go home and hug my family. I miss them.

Friends via Nashville Connections
Friends via Nashville Connections

It’s hard living in the in-between of two homes, but I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It’s a natural part of adapting to cross-cultural living. I look forward to the day when I can call both cities home without an ache in my heart or at least without the intensity of the ache.

As believers in Jesus Christ, living in the in-between is nothing new. It’s what we’re called to do, being dual citizens of heaven and earth. And at times, that type of living is difficult as well. It is also a tension.

I’m praying for the courage to live with the tension.

Adapting

I can hardly believe it, but I have been living in Cape Town for nearly six weeks. Saturday will mark the milestone. All is going well. I continue to work hard on the Anglicans Ablaze study guide booklet. I’m beginning to meet with local and provincial youth leaders so that we can start building relationships. I participated in my first Rooted in Jesus training, and on Saturday I will start the Mission Shaped Ministry course, in the hopes that Growing the Church will have the opportunity to help start a Fresh Expressions of Church at a local university.

 CarOn the home front, I have moved into a lovely flat, opened a bank account, subscribed to an ISP, and started grocery shopping on my own. I bought a car earlier this week, and I’m beginning to drive. (Today I drove on the motorway for the first time!) I am spending a lot of time with my South African friends and getting to know them and their families better. I enjoy this time the most, and I am learning loads about South African culture from them.

I am also beginning to miss the familiar—my family, my friends, my church, food, the shops, Starbucks, an active social life, work that was routine, tennis, kickboxing, walks around my neighborhood, grocery stores with aisles of choices, houses that aren’t gated in with fences and barb wire and locked up with burglary bars, walks in the parks, the freedom to come and go as I please by myself, my puppy-nephew, taxis that abide by traffic rules, words spelled with z‘s and not s‘s.

There are many things that I love about my new culture; others I find rather strange. No doubt my feelings indicate the birth pangs of culture shock, which is just a natural part of the process of living in another country. During my missionary training at MTI, we were warned about the phase of culture shock and were prepped for it. I think being aware of this phase is key and will make going through the process much easier than if I didn’t know otherwise. The most important thing about culture shock is not getting stuck in it. Equally important, I believe, is not blitzing through it, trying to escape the discomfort. I’m praying for the courage to live into the culture shock, to acknowledge the discomfort, to reflect deeply on my home culture and on my adopted culture, to emerge on the other side as a person who can live healthy and happily in both of her worlds.

Connected!

I finally have Internet at home, and I am excited beyond belief! I had to go through loads of paperwork to have a phone line in my name and to get a DSL service provider; but once all those things were in place, it didn’t take long for the companies to get me connected. Yippie!!! Can you tell that I am excited?

Boys Fishing in Gordan's Bay
Boys Fishing in Gordan’s Bay

I have been in Cape Town for nearly a month, and things are going well.  However, during the past few days, the mental stress of settling in has caught up with me. Each day I have spent loads of time trying to get Internet at home, a cell phone, a bank account, and a car. In a normal situation, these things can be time consuming; but as a foreigner, it seems to take triple the time. It can be quite exhausting. Plus, not having Internet at home has made me feel very disconnected from my family and friends. That feeling was definitely adding to my mental stress. I’m thrilled that my family and friends are now just a click away. Thank God for our marvelous technology.

I’m grateful, though, that my friends and colleagues at Growing the Church have helped me with all the settling in items that I named above. I can’t imagine trying to do this on my own. After experiencing such things on the “other side” as a foreigner, I will be much more empathetic and helpful to my international friends when I move back to the States. Moving to another country is truly like starting over. In a way, you have to rebuild your life—establishing yourself and unlearning a lot of things that may work in your home country but not in your adopted country. It is definitely a learning experience and not for the faint of heart.

First Few Days in Cape Town: Highlights

I have been in Cape Town less than two weeks; but in many ways, I already feel like it is home. My colleagues at Growing the Church have become my new family. They are taking such good care of me, and I feel like I have known them for a long time. Trevor, Estelle, Janice, Auntie Joyce, and Mike have welcomed me into their hearts and homes. I am blessed to have them in my life, and I look forward to being a part of their amazing work. In my short time here so much has happened. Here are some highlights:

1. The day after I arrived, Trevor (my boss) and his wife hosted an afternoon tea for me.
2. I started to work on my first project—helping to write and edit some sessions for the Anglicans Ablaze DVD study guide. (Anglicans Ablaze was the big Anglican conference Growing the Church hosted in Johannesburg last October.)
3. I moved into my flat, which exceeded my wildest expectations.
Walking the 5k 4. I walked my first 5K.
5. I went grocery shopping for the first time. It will take me a few more trips to get used to the  different foods and the method of shopping, but I loved buying fresh tropical fruit—mangos, avocados, lechi nuts. Plus, the eggs I bought are farm fresh and don’t have to be refrigerated; there were even a few feathers on the eggs.
6. I went to an afternoon braai (barbeque). My friends Estelle and Thurston braaied yellow tail and snook. Yummy!Estelle and Thurston
7. I learned the basic rules of cricket and rugby. (But I think I have forgotten them now.)
8. I had a lovely Sunday lunch with my friend Ali.
9. I attended Sunday morning service at Christ Church.
10. I bought a duvet for my bed.