Lynsey was born in Windhoek, Namibia. She is the only family member to be born in Namibia.
Her family heritage is a fascinating puzzle. Her father is South African, but he too is the only person in his immediate family to be born (and raised) in South Africa. His parents emigrated from Holland to South Africa with his siblings prior his birth. Lynsey’s mother, born in Scotland, moved with her family to South Africa for her father’s work in the shipping industry.
English was Lynsey’s native language, spoken at home and in the classroom in Windhoek.
What do you remember about your early years in Namibia? “Namibia was a German colony, so there were quite a few German castles around. We lived on a hill with a castle on top.”
“Because I was so young, I don’t have many memories of life in Namibia. I do remember having a lot more space to run around and play. Our social life was a lot bigger than the one our family had here. Almost every weekend we had brais (BBQs). I really missed that when we moved.”
How old were you when your family immigrated to the U.S.? “We immigrated the week of my 10th birthday.”
Did you have family in Seattle or the States? “No, we were the only ones from our family moving here. None of us had ever heard of Seattle before we moved here. It came on our radar right before we moved. We had heard of Starbucks and I think, at the time, Austin Powers had just come out and Dr. Evil lived in the Space Needle…that was all we knew.
Do you remember how you felt about leaving Namibia and moving so far away? “I was really excited. I don’t think I understood I would never see my friends again. We had visited the states before. Florida, New York…my sister and I were really excited because we thought America was all like Disney World and Toys R Us. Needless to say, the reality we discovered was a bit of a let down.”
Was life in the U.S. what your expected? “It actually was not at all what we expected. We had envisioned our neighbors bringing us cookies and being best friends with all the neighborhood kids. It definitely did not happen like that. We moved into a pretty suburban area on the eastside and people just were not that nice.”
“I think it was hardest on my mom and dad. We were at an age when parents are not making friends with their kids’ classmates’ parents. Those connections happen in elementary school. We only had one car, so while my dad was working, my mom would sit at home alone. I think it was a very stressful and lonely time for them.”
What do you remember about starting school? “I will never forget the first day. No one talked to me. I entered 5th grade. Kids already had solid friendship groups established. I was the freaky kid from Africa with a weird accent. The second day was a repeat of the first and I went home crying.
I remember one boy in my class saying ‘You’re not from Namibia, you’re not black.’ ‘How can he not believe me’, I thought. I didn’t know how to prove it to him. It was really difficult. Slowly things got better. Another new girl arrived in our class from Michigan. Her moving was perfect timing because neither of us knew anyone, so at least we had each other. We became fast friends and ended up becoming best friends. She is actually still my best friend.”
“I realized my accent made me really different. I tried to lose it as fast as possible. I just wanted to fit in so badly.”
What is it like only having your immediate family in the United States? “For us, I think it is not too different than when we were living in Namibia, because it has always just been the four of us. But it is weird on Thanksgiving or other holidays because it is still just the four of us… it’s just a regular dinner because it is just us.”
“Moving here without family or friends, we’ve always just hung out together. We really enjoy hanging out together. We choose to hang out together. In college, my sister and I would go home every weekend. Our friends thought it was really weird, but that is what we wanted to do.
I think our connectivity is a combination of us only having each other when we moved and our cultural background. My mom and her family are really close. She lived at home until she married my dad…it was culturally normal. Where here, it is like you have to be embarrassed if you are living with your parents…everyone is trying to be so independent. I lived at home because I wanted to be with my family. I was always happy and excited to say I lived with my parents after college.”
What are you most proud of today? “This is a little weird, but I think being the president of my sorority is what I’m most proud of because I have always been really shy. It was a really big position that required working with all different types of people, my peers and people much older than me. In high school, I was involved with ASB, but I was never bold enough to go for a big position. I am proud that I was able to get confidence enough to step outside of my comfort zone.”
“I think many people are shy because most people don’t take the time to get to know them. Since I moved here, I have always tried to befriend the new people because I know how it feels to be new or left out.”
What do you think your parents would be most proud of? “That I graduated from college and was able to get a job right away.”
Can you think of a time that what you wanted did not work out or that you failed? “I think I am going through that right now. I don’t know what my future looks like with the current job and I am not sure it is the path I want to be on. I feel like I didn’t set myself up very well after college because I jumped too fast at accepting a job without actually sitting back and thinking if it was what I wanted to do with my whole life. I am in the staffing industry, but I am pretty sure I want to be a teacher. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was little. But now, I don’t want to disappoint or let down the people I am working with at my current job.”
After our interview, Lynsey returned to school to receive her Masters in Education and is one step closer to realizing her dream to be a teacher. How lucky our country is to have her entering the education sector!