Untethered – Or how Expat Life is like Camping

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This photo first appeared on the post Johannesburg’s Top Hikes.  Credit Becci Monge.

Expats often talk about feeling like they are in limbo.  Much of the limbo feeling is to do with the uncertainty that accompanies an impending international relocation.   When it’s time to move on, the juggling act of trying to seamlessly line up new jobs, schools and housing with your shipment timed to arrive as you get the keys to your new pad is a mammoth task.  It’s how I imagine living on quicksand might feel, all the goal posts shifting at the same time but in different directions, leaving you with a queasy sinking feeling.

Alongside limbo, I find that there is another feeling that can blindside you when you are in the throes of moving. It’s both liberating and terrifying. It’s a strange feeling of being completely detached and disconnected from the day-to-day life that you have been so busy building, a feeling of being cut loose and utterly untethered.

What do I mean by untethered and what on earth has it got to do with camping?

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Out of Africa

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It’s been woefully quiet on the blog front.  Woefully, pitifully quiet.  That’s because during the long summer break, we’ve been in transit.  It was our turn to pack up, ship out and move on.  After five fabulous years, the sun has set on our South African adventure.  It has been a huge wrench to say goodbye.

Since those first stumbling days where one child got a little too up close and personal with a lion cub and the other innocently asked whether Nelson Mandela was the guy on the red and white KFC boxes our kids have learned, experienced and grown (quite literally, height wise they are both catching up with me at an alarming rate) an enormous amount   They’ve encountered  many of the wild residents of African bush, learned about the unfairness of apartheid, ridden an ostrich and can recite the alphabet in Zulu.

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Where are all the Old People?

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Living abroad, certain differences between your home country (or wherever you’ve just moved from) and the country you have moved to are startling.  They are eye-popping and jaw-dropping, immediately leaping out at you in the first days and weeks.  Other differences are more subtle and take far longer to register.

I slowly noticed that one of the differences between South Africa and everywhere else I’ve ever lived is that you rarely see old people in public spaces.  I don’t mean old-ER people, like the glam grannies I see hanging out at play areas or in coffee shops with their grandchildren while mum and dad are still at work.  Neither do I mean the sprightly pensioners who eagerly help out with after school activities.  I mean the truly elderly, the ancient, the frailest citizens.

South Africa, I really hope you don’t mind me asking this question.  It has been simmering away and niggling at me for months, it is very much an observation and absolutely not a criticism.  South Africa, where are your wrinkled and your wise?

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5 Reasons to Visit Cape Town’s Castle of Good Hope

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For a long time the Castle was the tallest structure in Cape Town – not any more!

The Castle of Good Hope is unlikely to be top of your list when visiting Cape Town.  After all, it has to compete with THE mountain*, THE infamous island*, the abundance of vineyards and craft breweries, beautiful nature and beaches and superb restaurants, copious shops, sunset cruises and the stunning new Museum of Contemporary African Art.  But if you have a spare half day, tucked away behind the unappealing stone walls is a fascinating attraction.

Here are 5 reasons you should visit the Castle of Good Hope: Continue reading

Visiting or Moving to South Africa? Here’s how you can get Culture Smart!

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Culture Smart! has updated their guide to South Africa and as part of their first ever blog tour, promoting updated and brand new titles, I was invited to take a sneak preview.

What is Culture Smart!?

The concept of the Culture Smart! book series is similar to traditional travel guides in that they cover the basics of geography, history, language, climate and so forth. However, rather than accommodation, restaurant and sightseeing listings, Culture Smart! focusses on culture, customs and traditions.  This is for the traveller who wants to travel easily without offending local sensibilities.

 

What can I expect from Culture Smart! South Africa?

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Farewell 2017, Hello 2018

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Farewell 2017, Hello 2018

The holiday is over and it’s back to reality.  New posts are already in the works.  In the meantime, just incase you missed them the first time around or just really really want to read them again, here’s a quick round-up of Expatorama’s top posts from 2017.

  1. Ponte Tower – A Tale of Glamour, Garbage and Gritty Regeneration.  I read about Ponte Tower before moving to South Africa and was intrigued – an unusual hollow cylindrical building with a checkered history.  I didn’t realise you could visit the tower until early last year.  The tour is fascinating and I highly recommend it if you’re in town (i.e. Johannesburg).
  2. Hair Raising and Hair Razing Experiences Abroad.  This post falls under  ‘lesser known challenges of expat life’ that don’t normally get covered on expat blogs.  Getting a haircut may be a lesser known challenge and yet the struggle is real.
  3. Expat Life Through Rose Tinted Glasses.  This was a fun post to write, it involved wine and LEGO.  When it comes to expat life, not everything is always as rosy as it seems.

     

The most read post ever is Why Expat Partners are Like Dung Beetles – a post basically detailing how completely awesome both expat partners and dung beetles are.

Expat A-Z Part II – From New to Zoo

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Welcome to Expat Life – It can feel like a bit of a zoo.

Continuing from part I of the A-Z of expat life, which covered ‘Armpit of the Earth’ to ‘Moving’ here is part II, from ‘New’ to ‘Zoo’.

N is for New.  New experiences, homes, languages, countries and cultures.  Embrace the newness.  N is also for Next Life, as in those wistful words frequently uttered by my husband and many other expat working spouses; ‘In my next life I’m coming back as an expat wife.’  A charmed life it can be, but being a ‘Lady who Lunches’ is not always quite as easy and glamorous as you may think.

O is for One in a million expat partnersThese are the patient, resilient, uncomplaining (okay, that’s a lie, they complain sometimes, sometimes they complain a lot) men and women who follow their other halves half way across the globe for a different or better life.

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Cheers to all the One in a Million Expat Partners

P is for Packers.  They descend on your home like a swarm of ants armed with bubble wrap, packing boxes and tape.  You thought you were ready, you thought you had it all under control until the chaos of the the packers is unleashed.  They scatter to the far corners of your home and garden.  You have to keep an eye on them.  If you didn’t lock and barricade the door to the room with your suitcases that are not to be packed, they’ll be the first thing out the door and wedged at the back of your container.  Kept a bit of food in reserve for a final supper?  Careful, it could easily end up packed and festering in a container for weeks.  Left a small i-pod, cash or sunglasses lying around?  These could end up being packed in someones’ pocket and never seen again…..and the ripping sound of packing tape being stickily unwound will haunt you forever more.   P is also for Personal Grooming, another of the lesser known challenges of expat life.  My particular bugbear under the Personal Grooming category is getting a haircut.  It can be a bit of a hair raising or should that be hair razing experience. Continue reading