THE Great Trek involved waves of pioneers called Voortrekkers migrating from the eastern frontier of South Africa’s Cape Colony during the 1830’s and 40’s. They aim was to escape British rule and find their promised land. Some 12-14 thousand primarily Afrikaans speakers dispersed northward and north-eastward.
These Voortrekkers were pious, hardy and brave (and possibly a tiny bit bonkers heading off into the wild unknown). Their experiences are comparable to those of the pioneers discovering America’s Wild West. Setting out to claim new land the Voortrekkers also travelled in covered wagons, but they were pulled by oxen rather than horses, they had to contend with Zulus rather than Red Indians and encountered lions in lieu of wolves. Continue reading →
Maybe it’s because Halloween is approaching, but I’m finding Johannesburg a bit spookier than usual at the moment.
First of all we encountered this toxic creature basking in the sunlight. It is a Koppie Foam Grasshopper, a type of bush locust. I reckon its body was about 10cm long. This nightmarish apparition feasts on the poisonous milkweed plant and stores the poison. If threatened it secretes a noxious foam, which is harmful to pets (and I guess to humans) if ingested. Shudder.
South Africa is famous for diamonds. Whether you are living here or just visiting, you will no doubt appreciate some guidance if you are in the market for a loose stone or piece of diamond jewellery.
Expat Michelle Morrow is passionate and well-informed about all things that sparkle and has learned a huge amount about the diamond industry whilst living in South Africa. She kindly agreed to share her top 5 tips for buying diamonds with us. Continue reading →
There is a vast swathe of the jagged southern coastline of South Africa that is prime whale watching territory. The small coastal town of Hermanus has the advantage that it perches on low cliffs fringing deep Walker Bay, offering excellent land based whale watching. The town’s fortuitous position means it has been rated as one of the top 12 spots on the entire planet for spotting the gentle giants of the ocean. If you go during whale season, you are virtually guaranteed to see whales (yes, that’s whales plural) without even having to set foot on a boat.
We hoped we could experience the highlights of Hermanus and surrounds in 24 hours, here’s how we did… Continue reading →
It can be tough being the Trailing Spouse on an expat posting, there are times when you feel like you are the excess baggage. The life and career you had built before is almost certainly on hold or possibly gone forever, particularly if you are not permitted to work in your host country and the goal posts move even further apart if you decide to start a family while you are overseas. There are two choices – bemoan the doors that have closed to you or go out and unlock some new ones. There are many inspiring expats who have used their time to do something new and go in unexpected directions.
Fellow expat Debi Beaumont is one of them. She had a busy and successful career in London and when she landed in Johannesburg as a shiny new expat, suddenly career-less and also pregnant she slowly realised that her hobby was becoming a passion that opened new avenues up to her…
“When I arrived in Johannesburg for the first time (we’ve been back and forth a lot!) I was new to the expat thing, I knew nobody in the city and I was so extremely nauseous with my first pregnancy that it could take hours to drag myself out of the flat each morning. How on earth was I going to meet anybody and make friends, I wondered. Continue reading →
No, it’s not that sort of announcement. I’m not expecting, but once upon a moonshine I was and hopefully you will soon be able read about the slightly less conventional road to parenthood that we travelled in Lagos, Nigeria in an actual book.
Following on from Lisa Ferland’s anthology Knocked up Abroad, a second book, Knocked up Abroad Again is in the imminent works and I’m excited to have contributed a chapter.
Winging it in West Africa is my account of being an expectant-and-then-new mother in Lagos and trying to circumnavigate tropical diseases (a phase of shoe licking did nothing to quell my anxiety), field ‘helpful’ parenting tips from our steward Augustine and assess the perils of being pregnant in a Lagos traffic jam.
We survived shoe licking.
Augustine – bless him – was always ready with interesting parenting advice.
The only reason there are so FEW cars on the road is because of the rain. The traffic was bad, but the monsoon rains would make it impossible to get anywhere.
Parenthood is daunting enough, but hurl cultural conundrums, language barriers of life overseas and in my case, the utter craziness that life in Lagos hurls at you on an hourly basis and you end up with a melting pot of fascinating stories. In this case 26 stories set in 25 different countries contributed by an interesting and resilient group of expat women.
As promised, here is Part II of my A-Z of Lagos Lingo. If you haven’t read Part I yet, click here.
N-Z of Lagos Lingo
N is for NEPA plc: The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHC or PHCN) used to be called the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA plc). Due to the frequent power outages, it was more commonly referred to as: N.ever E.ver P.ower A.vailable, p.lease l.ight c.andle.
N is also for Naira: Nigeria’s currency…and is for Naija: A slang name for Nigeria …and for Nollywood – I’ll let you work that one out for yourself.
O is for Oyinbo: (I’ve also seen this spelled oyibo) Literally it means peeled skin. If you are a white person, you will probably hear this often, usually to get your attention (yes, you are the peeled skin person) or as an informal greeting.
We went to see the Lippizaner show in Kyalami, Johannesburg. Lippizaners are beautiful and usually (but not always) white-coated stallions first bred in the 1500’s for military purposes. The horses are highly trainable and are the modern day rockstars of the dressage world.
Knowing very little about horses though, I went along expecting to see people riding rearing horses (as per the logo on the tickets). I was anticipating War Horse on steroids, flaming hoops and circus tricks.
The official language of Nigeria, the language of business and commerce, the common language for Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas and other tribes to communicate with one another is English. Whether you are a native English speaker, or like many expats have English as a second (or impressive third or even forth) language, it sounds like one less thing to worry about when moving to Nigeria.
However, even when more standardised English is spoken (and a lot of the time it will be the less comprehensible pidgin English that you hear around you), there are various words and phrases that are likely to confuse, amuse or befuddle you from the moment you step off the plane. You might figure them out easily, you might not. Let me help by decoding a little bit of Lagos Lingo for you.
A is for Area Boy: A local hoodlum. Watch out, watch out if you are told the area boys are about.
B is for Breaking Plates: Plates that are not plastic. i.e. the regular kind of porcelain plates that most expats over the age of 5 would eat from. Continue reading →
South Africa is a meat loving nation. The braai (barbecue) is practically a national pass time, heck, it’s nigh on a national sport. Just to give this claim some context, you need to see this mother-of-all-meat competitions running at one of our local shopping centres..