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“I had the American Dream experience.”

Welcome Polly

It takes a special kind of person to pick up and move 8,000 miles from the only home she’s ever known.

Luckily, at Cape May Brewing Company, we like special people. So, when Candice “Polly” Pollock-Bell applied for a full-time position in the Tasting Room, even though we didn’t have any full-time positions, we knew better than to let her slip through our fingers.

“Polly’s previous experience, while not warehouse-related, required the critical thinking and organizational skills that we need in the warehouse,” says Distribution Manager Justin Vitti. “Also, I was slack-jawed at one point in the interview when she told me that she’d been driving a forklift since she was eight. She said that she was rusty, but after ten minutes practicing in the parking lot, it was clear that she was perfect for the job.”

Welcome our new Warehouse Manager, Polly!

IMG_8084Polly is originally from Benoni, South Africa, a town just outside of Johannesburg. Of the Brew Crew, she’s definitely the farthest from home.

“It’s actually the same town Charlize Theron hails from,” she tells us. “I grew up two blocks from her, so maybe I’ll have the same greatness. I’ve met her — she’s fantastic. She’s pretty much like me: an awesome person.”

If you can get through a conversation with Polly without breaking into belly laughter at least three times, you’re either a curmudgeon, asleep, or simply not trying.

Polly moved to America for the best possible reason: love.

(All together: “Awwwwwww….”)

She’d done a lot of traveling before then but had intended to take a 6-month sabbatical on Long Island five years ago. While working as an au pair, she met her now-wife Malerie, a Boatswain Mate, Petty Officer 2nd Class, on the Angela McShan with the US Coast Guard. At the time, Malerie was stationed on Fire Island.

“We met playing rugby,” she says. “To make friends when you’re traveling, the best thing to do is to join a local sporting team.”

Obviously.

“I had the American Dream experience,” she says. “Now I’m here. Next year, I take my citizenship exam, and I’ll have my little blue passport, and I’ll know all the words to ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.”

IMG_3885-2

These days, immigrating to the United States isn’t easy, particularly if you’re trying to do it the right way. There are a lot of hurdles, and, if you don’t time everything perfectly, you’re out of the running.

“Leaving huge numbers of friends and family in South Africa to start a new life here — I made the choice that this was the better decision for me,” she says. “But, at the same time, my country was great.”

In speaking with Polly, it’s clear that she both misses her home and is one of the few people we’ve met who could handle being 8,000 miles from her friends and family. (Well, 7,989 miles, to be exact.)

“I came from an awesome place,” she says. “It’s absolutely beautiful. That adventure of moving to a new country: I don’t think anyone can truly understand what you go through. But, I always find myself trying to explain to people: they’ll be like, ‘Why did you want to come to America? We know America is awesome, but why would you leave behind all those animals and everything? It’s like The Lion King. “Maaa Sequenyaaaa…”’

IMG_3886-2“There’s more to it. I try to remind people — I feel like this is my mission while I’m in America. Most people say they’re proud to be an American. I say, ‘No, you’re lucky to be an American. Because I’ve had to spend a lot of money, a lot of time, effort, and heartache to be here.’

“But, it was so totally worth it.”  

The immigration process involves Polly applying for a 90-day fiancé visa, during which she and Malerie hastily arranged a quickie wedding before having a “proper” wedding that her friends and family from South Africa and Malerie’s family and friends from Nashville could attend. They were asked to be on 90 Day Fiancé — a show on TLC that chronicles such relationships — but the filming crew missed her return trip from South Africa.

Now, it’s a waiting game. Polly has all of her paperwork in, she’s done everything she needs to do, and now she just has to wait for Immigration to take care of it. She has her two-year Green Card but expects to be naturalized within a year or so.

“It’s a bit of a process,” she says. “I’m very good at waiting.”

IMG_3900As you might imagine, Polly enjoys trying new things and meeting new people — this is where her love for travel comes from. And she has traveled extensively: essentially all of Europe, India, Mozambique, Kenya, Namibia, and much of Africa.

“People make me happy,” she says. “I try to surround myself with as many happy people as possible, because, in turn, it makes me happy.”

She truly enjoys experiencing new cultures. Even having been in America for five years, she’s still finding new things to experience.

“Just going to a diner is an experience for me,” she says. “Moving to New Jersey, I heard that you have to have pork roll on your egg sandwiches. I didn’t know what pork roll was, at all. Or Taylor ham. So the first thing I did was go out and have an egg sandwich with a pork roll on. I was excited and I loved it.

“It’s those small, little things in life that I’m like, ‘Ohmigod, this is awesome!’ Every day, I try to do something that’s different, just to educate myself or learn something new.”

Before her trip-slash-move, she was employed in corporate recruitment and social media for a company in South Africa and was working toward a bachelor’s in marketing.

IMG_3891-2“It was a small company,” she says, “so I was a woman of many hats. One day this was my title and the next day it was this.”

Sounds familiar. Kinda how we roll at CMBC.

“That’s why it’s a pretty good match here.”

In addition, Polly is a freelance, online personal trainer on the side.

“It comes in very handy lifting all these kegs and sixtels. That’s why I’ve got these big guns,” she says, showing off her enviable biceps. “I’ve got to keep them on safety because this is a gun-free zone. We recently started a Safety Committee, so they told me to keep them away. I don’t want to be hurting anyone.”

Even though she’d originally applied in the Tasting Room, the position of Warehouse Manager was right in her wheelhouse: growing up in South Africa, her father owned a warehouse for peening material.

“I’ve grown up in a warehouse,” she says. “I grew up driving the forklifts and busting my ass out there, so, when Christine called me, she was like, ‘You seem like a nice person; you’ve got a well-versed resumé. What do you want to do?’ I was like, ‘I just want to work for Cape May Brewing Company. I want to work there. What can I do?’ It’s growing so quickly, I figure I’ve got to get in now while there are still places to go.”

IMG_3902-2She’s come on at a particularly chaotic time. Not only have we been installing a new canning line that takes up an inordinate amount of space, but the old canning line is still our primary packaging line. With both of them there, her domain of the warehouse is at critical mass when it comes to space. In addition, everyone in her department is having babies.

“It’s been like a baptism of fire,” she laughs. “I shit you not. Justin had a baby. Now Craig’s about to have a baby — she’s due this Saturday. So, the moment Justin gets back, it’s gonna be like, ‘Well, Polly, you’re on your own. I hope you’ve figured it all out already!’”

But, it sounds like she’s been learning a lot.

“Craig has been a fantastic mentor, that needs to be said,” she says. “It’s been wonderful to learn from him because he’s been in the position when the company grew so quickly. He’s basically molded the path for what my position is. It’s so much easier having him there.”

Polly is looking forward to learning a lot while she’s here.

“I’m getting thoroughly educated in different types of beers,” she laughs, “but I’m excited to learn new life skills and grow as a person, emotionally and mentally. Those are my primary goals here.”

She still follows some of her favorite sports teams from South Africa.

IMG_3904“In terms of rugby, of course, the Springboks.”

Of course. For those of us not as well-versed in African rugby, that’s the South Africa national rugby union team, named for a three-foot-tall antelope found in southern and southwestern Africa. They’ve got a maximum speed that’s faster than Parkway South traffic on a Friday in July, so that sounds like as good a name as any for a South African rugby team.

“And the Proteas. They’re the best cricketers in South Africa.”

The South African national cricket team, at the time of writing, were beating India in the Cricket World Cup. And, knowing what we know about cricket, by the time you’re reading this, the match is probably still going on.

Yet, not only does Polly understand cricket, it’s in her blood.

“I come from a long line of famous cricketers, which is why I’ll never, ever change my last name,” she says. “Pollock is one of the most famous cricketing household names in the world, not only in South Africa. Google Shaun Pollock, Graeme Pollock, Peter Pollock. They’re my second cousins. There’s a little bit of credibility in my name.”

IMG_3882-2But she’s also well-versed in American sports, at least as far as what ESPN began showing in South Africa when they began broadcasting ten years ago.

“I follow sport avidly,” she says. “When ESPN started showing in South Africa, they only showed major sporting events. So, I am a Yankees fan, I am a Rangers fan, and I am a Patriots fan.”

We’re going to forgive Polly for all of that because she’s an awesome person, otherwise.

“I love Tom Brady,” she says. “I’m still from, back in the day, an A-Rod fan. No one talk to me about steroids, because I believe that everyone else was doing it and he just got caught. And, to be completely fair, this entire Stanley Cup season I haven’t even watched because I was so disappointed with the trades they did at the beginning of the draft. I’m still in mourning.”

Polly moved to Cape May over the winter, so she’s really been enjoying watching it come to life as we near the summer season.

“Everything was shut down and closed and dead, which was a little disheartening, because, coming from Long Island where everything is bustling and everything is open until 2 in the morning, you can always get food. It was a bit of an adjustment.”

IMG_3892-2But, as the weather warms, things have been picking up.

“Now, it’s so beautiful,” she says. “It’s quaint. The tiny, little houses and the colorful façades, it’s so beautiful. The beaches are phenomenal — they’re so clean, I can’t believe it.”

South Africa is known for their beaches, as well, but primarily for surfing adventures. At that other well-known cape — the Cape of Good Hope — you have the Atlantic Ocean meeting the Indian Ocean with their conflicting currents, creating waves unlike anywhere in the world.

“We have wonderful beaches in South Africa, but in all honesty, the beaches here are beautiful. You’ve got the Bay, as well, so that makes it a little calm. It’s good for surfing, they’re Great White-infested, but you really can’t compare them. It’s different.”

Polly is enjoying her time here so far.

“I’m so happy, I love it,” she says. “Every day, I’m so happy to come to work and it’s great.”

She’s particularly enjoyed getting to try new beers, especially Crushin’ It and Follow the Gull.

“I’m absolutely in love with Crushin’ It,” she gushes. “I love it so much. When I first sat in my interview, they asked what kind of beers I liked, and I’m like, ‘I like lagers, I’m getting into sours, but I don’t like IPAs.’ That has changed — 180!”

Be sure to say hello to Polly the next time you see her around the brewery!