Wanda is a South African born entrepreneur. Since her first trip to the United States, she had been dreaming of living in this multifaceted and unique country. Captivated by the many opportunities that the United States offer individuals from all backgrounds, experiences, and diverse talents, she embraced the opportunity when it came along to pursue her dream and never looked back.
When Wanda compares her current life in the United States to her former life in South Africa, she does miss a few things (the wineries, the beautiful landscape and certain food), but she mostly appreciates the safety that she lives in now and the chances she has gotten in America. “I moved here for the opportunities”, she says. “If you come here and work really hard, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. That is very inspirational to me. During the Apartheid years, and even several year thereafter, South Africa was very much a man’s world (in some places still today), but here are many opportunities for women.”
Wanda came to the United States with her husband 10 years ago. Both are cofounders of their software development and consulting company in Austin, Texas. But Wanda had more dreams and decided to go back to school to get a bachelor in business and attend law school afterwards. She is convinced: “If you work hard, you can be very successful here. And we are willing to work really hard.” Wanda also likes to work hard at the gym. Working out is a great balance to her stressful professional life. But at the gym she really misses something about South Africa: the companionship of her training partners and the equipment. “I was used to Technogym workout equipment. It’s an Italian brand and just great! But the gyms here rarely have that.” She has a passion for fitness and works out 4-5 times a week.
The South African appreciates the things that most of us take for granted: freedom, competition, electricity, fast internet. And safety. “I don’t miss the burglar bars in front of our windows here. Homes in South Africa are like fortresses, almost like prisons”, she recalls. She was born in Durban and later moved to Johannesburg.
Wanda has been back to her home country only once and she has some valuable tips for tourists:
– “If you get in your car, immediately lock your car doors and be aware of your surroundings and who and what is around you.”
– “Always put your purse in the trunk. It is just not safe in the car. People will just break the windows to get it.”
– “Explore the country in groups and make sure you research the hotels and travel arrangements ahead of time. Avoid isolated places and never travel alone.”
– “Always arrange for transportation in advance. Never just get into a cab or unknown vehicle.”
“You just always have to be in protection mode. I ended up going to the store with only my ATM card in my pocket. I wouldn’t even take my cell phone anymore. They are fast to distract you and then attack you from behind. In the meantime while you are busy collecting yourself the attackers are gone – and with them your belongings!” These experiences geared her to be in protection mode and always check her surroundings. That’s a good thing, she says – and something that she probably doesn’t even need in her safe Texas suburb where she enjoys the safety and freedom as well as the peace and quiet of her current life.
But not everything she remembers about her home country is dark and criminal. She has many fond memories of South Africa. “It really is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. And the wineries are amazing! I haven’t found wine as good as South African wine. And I really miss biltong, that’s similar to American jerkey, but just a lot better. And the people overall are really friendly and inviting.”
So if you were to travel to South Africa, what would you have to see and where would you have to go?
Cape Town is a must. Table Mountain and the wineries are a wonderful experience. Both Western and Eastern Cape have unique sceneries and offer excellent tourist attractions. Game parks and game resorts are fun and very beautiful also. The vast beauty of the Drakensberg mountain range in Natal is a memorable experience. The beauty of this country is endless and the different animals magnificent.
And which South African wines do we really need to try?
Rust en Vrede
De Wetshof Swartland
These are just a few and there are many more!
Can she imagine moving back to her home country? “No! It took about five years to call this (the United States) home. But moving back would be a much bigger adjustment now.”
And her dogs wouldn’t want to go back either: “We brought them with us from South Africa and they are truly living the American Dream!” A noteworthy lesson that we can learn from this South African is, “that we should always pursue our dreams, not stay stuck in the past, and never give up!”