A young couple from Cape Town have been separated for weeks because lockdowns in both New Zealand and South Africa were implemented shortly before they’d been due to complete their emigration to the Oceanic island country.
“What would’ve been a short separation has turned into a long nightmare,” says Nelisia Rohlandt, a financial adviser.
She’d been all set to go and had been looking forward to being reunited with her husband, Kevin, who’s already in New Zealand. She’d quit her job, sold her car and her bags were packed.
But shortly before Nelisia, their two dogs and cat had been set to depart, the SA government announced the national lockdown would start on 27 March and New Zealand implemented its lockdown that same week.
“Kevin is trying to help me financially from New Zealand but sending money internationally costs a lot.”
She says she can’t sleep at night, wondering what the future holds. She’s enquired about the possibility of repatriation flights to join her husband but she’s had no feedback.
“My life is on hold and every day feels like a lifetime. I feel like a prisoner but I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Nelisia and Kevin decided in September last year to move, following the emigration of Kevin’s brother and his family to New Zealand a few years ago.
They started the process and Kevin, who works in construction, was able to quickly find a position. By December their paperwork was in order and they started getting rid of most of their possessions. Kevin went over in January and now lives in Christchurch.
“We decided he’d go first to find us a place and sort out furniture,” Nelisia says.
She stayed behind to organise the paperwork for their pets and sell the last of their possessions.
“The uncertainty is driving me crazy,” she says.
Despite the time difference, they regularly talk on WhatsApp or video call each other.
“He was very sweet and ‘took me with him’ the other day to help pick out new bedding. Other times, he takes me along on shopping trips so I can see how things work over there and what it looks like, such as their self-help pay points.”
The couple, who met in 2014 and got married in 2017, have never been apart for this long.
“Since the day we met, we’ve rarely spent a day apart. That’s why this time is so incredibly hard for us. Kevin isn’t just my husband – he’s my best friend.”