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:
Have you heard of Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route? It’s a South African gem, less polished than Cape Town with its sapphire waters and its neighbouring wine lands with their citrine and ruby wines, less well known than the emerald green Garden route, less of a rough diamond than Johannesburg, but a gem nevertheless. It’s an area often sidelined as an overnight staging post for a trip to the almighty Kruger Game Reserve, but it’s absolutely worth a visit in its own right. Here’s why… Continue reading →
Icebergs, people, cacti….you can’t always see the full picture, maybe because your perspective is skewed or obscured. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile and dig a little deeper (in this case inside my wheelie bin) to get the full story.
These large cactus ears popped out from behind our chimney over the Christmas break. I thought they looked about the size of a human head each.
I let our landlord know and a man with a ladder duly appeared to remove them.
I meant to ask him to let me see the cactus before disposing of it, but it had already gone in the wheelie bin by the time I’d walked the dog. I smiled and pretended that was exactly the answer I had wanted to hear. It wasn’t though, I am inquisitive by nature and really wanted to see the cactus and confirm whether my human head estimate was accurate.
I waited for him to leave and the minute his car turned out of sight I was rummaging in the bin and ended up tipping the contents all over the driveway to see what I could see.
Johannesburg’s Ponte Tower is infamous, notorious and really really interesting. It embodies the former decadence, ensuing decay and current regeneration of the City of Gold. It’s a brutalist, concrete hollow cylinder of a building in the city’s Central Business District (CBD). The tallest residential building in Africa, it rises 55 stories tall and along with the Telkom tower is an instantly recognisable feature of Joburg CBD’s skyline.
Glamour: Ponte started life in the mid 1970’s as luxury real estate dubbed the ‘Vegas of Africa’, where the plushest apartments spanned three floors and had built in jacuzzis. To see a smattering of photos from those bygone I only found this one article: Buildings are Geological Agents. There are only a couple of images and you have to scroll most of the way down through the post.
Garbage: When decay set in and the original hipster residents moved out, the empty buildings were broken into and hijacked. Ponte became a complete no-go zone. It was an overcrowded den of iniquity with a direly severe rubbish problem in the 90’s. There was no running water, no electricity and when the rubbish collections stopped, residents would lob their waste into the central void. Unfortunately, there it stayed until it rose a festering 14 stories high (or 2 or 3 or 5 – I’ve read different things and I’m not sure which is factually correct, but 14 is the number given by our guide on the day). Ponte was a slum in the sky.
Gritty Regeneration: In recent years, Ponte has changed again. The illegal tenants evicted, the rubbish has gone and the building has been refurbished to a good standard and is now home to a mixture of families, students, working and middle class residents. It is possible to tour both the inside (marvelling at the views from the top) and the eerie core with a circle of sky high above. Continue reading →
For a city as gritty as Johannesburg, you might be surprised to find out just how many fab hiking spots there are in and around it. My friend, American expat Becci Monge has kindly written a guest post with her top local hiking picks.
Becci got hooked on hiking last year when she decided (and by the way successfully succeeded – enormous kudos to you Becci and the rest of the Jo’burg based She-Trek team) to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. In preparation for Kili, the She-Trekkers explored (and continue to explore) the best hiking spots on offer in our local area.
Getting a hair cut should be a fairly simple procedure and yet I have found it to be one of the lesser known, but very real challenges of expat life. Plenty of expat blogs cover all the obvious, big ticket hurdles to being a successful and happy expat: emotional resilliance, repatriation, culture shock, depression, leaving well etc. But there are plenty of lesser known hurdles we face as we ricochet around the globe and getting a decent haircut is firmly on that list.
Whether I’ve asked for ‘a trim’ or ‘the same but shorter’ or shown a picture from a magazine or a photograph of my own hair I seem to have had more than my fair share of awful expat haircuts than I care to mention. Here are a few of my lowlights…. Continue reading →