Today I received a handwritten card from a friend who is far away. She’s from one country, I’m from another. I currently live in South Africa and she moved away from here to a fourth country. The card didn’t arrive in my post box. We don’t have a post box. It came in true expat style via a mutual friends’ suitcase with a smattering of goodies to boot. The wording on the front of the card is a Danish proverb which is completely apt for expat life, “The road to a friend’s house is never long.” Although, I’d probably alter it to “The road to a friend’s house is never long, even if they are thousands of miles away and living in a completely different time zone.”
South African wildlife is off the scale, but you don’t even have to go on safari to experience it, there is plenty (sometimes a little too much) right here in our neighbourhood backyard.
I’ve variously written about and/or where possible photographed the spiders, snakes, birds and the scorpion that we’ve encountered around the estate and occasionally in our home. However, I’d never managed to get a really good look at our resident monitor lizard, until now…
Although I very recently lampooned a fictional stereotypical expat called Charity Charity who is hopelessly devoted to helping all the causes, in reality I have a great deal of respect for the expats who go out and make a genuine difference to their host country.
Expat Leslie Randolph is someone who has done just that. She is making an admirable contribution to South Africa through her involvement with Lawyers against Abuse. Leslie is a fabulous individual, warm and kind and great fun to be around. Here she shares her story and her passion for the cause she has been fighting for:
“I think many expats share an overwhelming desire to give back to their host country. I know I did upon arriving in Johannesburg nearly three years ago. I believe we have a responsibility to give back to the country that is hosting us and, if possible, to leave it better than how we found it. In Johannesburg, the opportunity to give back is easy because the need is so incredibly overwhelming. The challenge is to figure out where to give your time and talents and how to maximise your impact in the short amount of time you have in this home away from home.
Upon arriving I dove into it! I was cleaning out my closets weekly, giving away toys my kids may (or may not) have been tired of playing with and donating them to any cause that tugged at my heartstrings. And let’s be honest, they all did. I quickly signed up to volunteer at a local preschool in the township of Kya Sands and began doing puzzles weekly with the children. On paper, I was an expat rock star, but in reality I was failing the children I was supposed to be helping and myself. Volunteering eventually became a box to check weekly versus a passion, and while I was physically with the kids each week I wasn’t emotionally present. While some volunteers are completely altruistic, I am not. I wanted to find a cause and project that impacted me as much as I impacted it.
I finished out the year at my preschool, and as the kids graduated, so did I. I told myself to take my time to find a cause that I was truly passionate about so that volunteering wouldn’t feel like an obligation, but a privilege. Shortly thereafter I was introduced to Lawyers against Abuse (LvA), a non-profit organisation that provides free legal services and trauma counselling to victims of gender-based violence (GBV).
If you’ve lived in South Africa for any amount of time, you know that GBV is endemic, but you might not fully comprehend the magnitude of this crisis. Continue reading →
The culture here in South Africa is ‘early to bed, early to rise’. Is it because the sun rises so early? No, it’s because of the delightful hadeda bird that serves as a daily alarm clock.
Have you ever heard the ear shattering screech of the hadeda as it pierces the the gentle quiet of dawn? This is but a timid sample, yet if you turn your volume up as high as it will go, you too can appreciate this special sound.
Good morning and you’re welcome.
You can learn more about just a small selection of birds we’ve encountered in Johannesburg, including the hadeda, the weaver bird and the go-away bird by clicking here.
Expat stereotypes. We all know them. We all love them. We all love to hate them. I previously wrote about three stereotypical expats who are unlikely to survive expat life. And before you get all excited up on that high horse of yours, just take a little chill pill and know that this is entirely tongue in cheek. After all, there is bound to be a little bit of the ‘doomed expat spouses‘, Hilda, Pauline and Nellie, in all of us. Equally, many of us have had our Charity, Emma and Betty moments. We all need to take ourselves with a pinch of the proverbial. So sprinkle that salt and read on about three expats you are almost certain to meet on a posting and might want to avoid.
Charity by name, charitable by nature. She is the well meaning expat who goes everywhere with a bleeding heart dripping from her sleeve. Armed with her trusty book of raffle tickets, she goes into battle determined to save all the orphans, all the homeless and all the desperate and disadvantaged of the entire planet single handedly.
Charity means well, her bleeding heart is made of solid gold. She works tirelessly for all the causes. Fatigue is something that she never experiences, but occasionally, just occasionally those around her do. Sometimes, we run when we see her coming with her earnest eyes, dripping those trembling gold tears from that bleeding heart of hers.
We love and respect Charity, but sometimes we just want to have a margarita and dance like nobody’s watching without having to buy a raffle ticket first.
“Hi Charity, yes, I’ll take 25 tickets please, thank you very much.” Cheers to Charity.
Victoria Falls is a gigantic earth rending waterfall, It’s neither the highest, nor the widest in the world, but it’s one of the most impressive (we were extremely impressed, EXTREMELY impressed). Vic Falls also makes CNN’s list of 7 Natural Wonders of the world. If you have the opportunity, you should absolutely go.
Victoria Falls has been inching up our bucket list since we moved to South Africa and finally made it to the top. We followed in the footsteps of explorer David Livingstone, albeit in a great deal more comfort.
There are plenty of things to do close to the falls dependant on water levels, your appetite for adventure and the age of any children you have in tow.
Here’s what we managed to squeeze in to around 48 hours. All of the activities (except for the nighttime moonbow hunt) were family friendly and probably best suited to families with children aged 6+.
I’ve allocated points to each location, the tougher the location the more points you get. You then multiply the points for each location by the number of years you lived there, tally them up and bingo, you have your Badass Expat score.
My current score is 111.
Worst Country for Expats as ranked by Business Insider
Points Earned Per Assignment Year
Number of Years in Country
Badass Expat Score
What’s the most challenging thing you had to do to earn your badass expat stripes? Did you deal with constant power and water cuts? Police check points? Wildlife? Weather? Culture? Language? Traffic? Lacklustre supermarket offerings? Crime?
Do you think any of the countries on this list shouldn’t be on it? Which country is NOT on this list, but should be?
It takes a special person to follow their partner to the armpit, ars*ehole or ends of the earth. A very special person indeed. One in a million in fact.
One of my favourite expat quotes EVER was coined when a British couple moved to the small island of Okinawa, Japan. At the time (aside from a formidable US presence on military airbases, which was a self contained community with their own on-base shops and cinemas and social life), the sum total of the expat population was around 10 people and most of them had Japanese spouses and were there on a fairly permanent basis.
It’s almost certain that the British couple were the only non-military expat couple on the island. Okinawa’s population at the time was around the 1 million mark and thus quipped the wife to the husband whose job had taken them to this tiny isolated dot in the Pacific Ocean: