Feeding the Five Thousand

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..

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Digital Detox

Botany Bay
Clear Your Mind (photo taken at Botany Bay, Kent)

 

…and I’m back. I’ve been away and decided to take a break from the internet, the mistress than never sleeps and is relentless in her quest for your attention.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.  A holiday is supposed to be just that, a holiday.

Apart from a quick scan to check for vital emails I traded the internet for building sandcastles, visiting real castles, going for picnics, playing in parks and unadulterated quality time with family and friends.  We had a wonderful holiday, BUT, apart from the shot at the top of the post, I won’t be posting ANY of my holiday photos or writing about it.

I haven’t got a clue what my Facebook friends have been having for dinner for the last few weeks or what hilarious antics have been perpetrated by their pets or small children.  I haven’t seen updates telling me how long my friends have been friends with some someone on Facebook who I’ve never even met (accompanied of course by a slideshow of their friendship).  I’m assuming most people I know have been away or are currently on holiday at this time of year.  I hope they enjoyed or are enjoying themselves and look forward to hearing about it in person next time I see or speak to them.  I can live with not instantaneously knowing all these details.  It’s a relief not to see social media’s collective stream of consciousness for a little while.

With all the terrible things happening plastered across the front pages of newspapers and the whole Brexity mess going on at home in the UK, it’s impossible not to know what’s going on in the world, but taking a step back from the relentless cyber news cycle and everybody’s online reactions and comments to it all was an unburdening.  There was no temptation to click on link after link for further information, or to discover completely irrelevant but utterly tantalising content.

Once you’ve finished reading this stellar blog post and liked, commented and shared it (oh the irony), give the digital detox a whirl.  Switch off your computer.  Lock up your smartphone.  Stop liking, stop sharing, stop commenting and go out, have fun and be present.

Now that my holiday’s almost over, I had better get my thinking cap on for some new blog posts, so please stay tuned (again, I realise this is an ironic request).  

In the meantime, if you are going ON holiday, please go OFFline.

10 Things I’ve learned from running an Expat Facebook Group

I am THAT woman.  I don’t know how it happened, but I am the mug that runs our local expat Facebook group.  I assumed there would be one (an expat Facebook group, not a mug) when I arrived in Johannesburg.  After all, I’m sure every major city has had at least one of these groups for ages.  I searched for it before I arrived, I asked around when I got here.  I got tumbleweed.  So eventually, I stepped up to the plate and set one up.  It took all of 10 minutes to pick a name, write a description, add a photo, select the settings and add a few friends.  I think I started off with about 10 people.

On the back of the initial 10 minutes that I invested, not much happened for the first couple of weeks.  Then a lot happened.  It’s become a bit of beast.  A much needed and generally much appreciated beast, but a beast nonetheless.

Here are 10 things I’ve learnt from running an expat Facebook group (and yes, there are links at the end of the post).

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Chicken Dumps Pig?

Yep, that was today’s lamppost headline of the day.  Chicken – dumps – pig.  I’m sorry to say I couldn’t track down the actual story on the Daily Sun website.  I tried.  Instead I did dig up an alternative sensational chicken story that they ran last year.

It appears that the Daily Sun is a goldmine for catchy and unusual headlines and juicy juicy stories.

Chicken Dumps Pig!

Back to reality……we had a Dragon Crossing the road, a Severed Spider Corpse hidden amongst the pool toys and a Giant Praying Mantis scaling the side of our house.

What can I say, it’s just another day in Africa.

 

Mile High Living

Zombie Breakfast
As established in the post Happy Expat Wife, Happy Expat Life, I’m rubbish at drawing.  Sweetpea has kindly contributed this doodle of a sunburnt zombie family waiting forever for their breakfast eggs (or brains) to boil.

There are a few quirks to mile high living.  I covered the zombie skin we get in Jo’burg’s crackling dry winter months in the post High Altitude, Dry Altitude, but there are are other things about life on the Highveld that you might be interested to know about. 

Dry Altitude

In addition to zombie skin, dehydration is something to watch out for. Unlike more humid climates where you find that your sweat glands have sweat glands, the dehydration here is stealthy. Because your sweat evaporates so effortlessly (rather than running down your back or into your eyes) you probably won’t realise how much moisture you’re losing. Dehydration IS very real though, so be sure to drink plenty of water, especially if you are enjoying any of the local wines or craft beers.  If you don’t, you will look AND feel like a zombie. Continue reading

Ladies who Lunch

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It’s what you think we expats spouses do all the time, isn’t it?  Go out for lunch and have a jolly old time. Well, yes, sometimes we do.  Here is a group photo of our international ladies social club taking a morning walking tour, followed by – you guessed it – lunch.  It took place on a weekday when our children were at school, our husbands at work and in many cases a house helper was doing the cleaning or ironing in our homes.  I know what you’re thinking….

It’s an easy life.  Perhaps when these ladies get home they will find that the electricity has gone off, or the water….or both.  Perhaps they are in the throes of packing up to move with uncertainty and upheaval ahead.  Some of their husbands have left the country already and have started new jobs in new locations.  The wives will pack up and follow in the coming weeks.

They are lucky to be going for a jolly morning out, rather than working.  They are lucky not to HAVE to work, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to work, it means that they are not allowed to work.  These ladies have degrees, professions and skills.  There is the qualified and experienced occupational therapist who is manically jumping through hoops trying to gain the South African equivalent qualifications, so that MAYBE she MIGHT be permitted to work for the few remaining months before she has to move again.

They’re all smiling and happy.  You can’t see this of course, but I know that they are smiling.  It was an enjoyable way to spend a morning. However, with every outing, there’s almost always a new lady.  She might be feeling really lonely, culture shocked and slightly terrified to be out in Johannesburg’s inner city for the first time.  From a distance she is part of the group.  Her hands are occupied with her camera prop and she paints on a smile and probably, by the end of lunch she will feel less lonely.   Continue reading

Walk on the Wild Side in Joburg

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Okay, so it’s more of an amble, lazy stroll or perhaps just a mooch on the wild side if I’m honest, but if you head on down to The Sheds at 1 Fox in Ferreirasdorp, Johannesburg, you can wander round the studio and admire the crème de la crème of 2015-2016’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition.

The images are stunning and include battling bee eaters, ethereal insects, an army of soldier ants and surreal (and yet in actual fact real) landscapes.  Some images are mind bending and it can take a while for your brain to decode what you are seeing.  Other images are so beautifully and creatively composed that it’s humbling to realise that the very youngest photographers are only 10 years old.

It was blissfully quiet when we visited, presenting the opportunity to take our time and enjoy the exhibition.  Understandably, no photography is allowed inside the gallery space, so you’ll have to drop by in person to appreciate the skill, infinite patience, ingenuity and star aligning luck involved in capturing these amazing shots.

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There are a selection of glossy photography books, magnets and postcards for sale at the entrance.  Prints must be ordered from the Natural History Museum in London.  The exhibition runs until 31 August 2016, you can find out more HERE.

Action Barbie’s Failsafe Focaccia

It’s possible that this will be the first and only recipe I’ll ever share with you, but it’s a goodie and has been a lifesaver over the years. I’m a reluctant cook and love to have a few cheeky tricks up my sleeve. When I say I’m a reluctant cook, preparing a meal for guests generally involves either not inviting them in the first place and appearing to be deeply antisocial or inviting them followed by a tiny meltdown, a sense of impending doom and dirtying virtually the entire contents of my kitchen cupboards.

The end result is a kitchen which looks like it’s been hit by a tornado.  I also look like I was in the kitchen when the tornado swept through, frazzled, ruffled, food stained and crazy eyed.  If I’m lucky, there will be a passable meal for our guests at the end of the kitchen chaos.  …See why this could be the one and only recipe?

Despite constant gentle reminders from my culinary superior husband to ‘tidy up as you go along’ and that ‘prior planning and preparation prevents p*ss poor performance’ and that I should ‘cook with love’ I still get my oven mitts in a twist almost every time.

When we lived in Lagos, the selection and variety of restaurants was limited, so dinner parties were a popular form of entertainment regular form of torture. To make hosting a dinner party more challenging, Lagos was a particularly tricky place to find all the ingredients to complete a recipe.  This added to the torturous drama of producing a fabulous dinner. At one point we expats gals got together and shared our most ‘Lagos Friendly’ recipes, ones that were tasty and that you could reliably get all the ingredients for (or at least enough of the ingredients to make a decent go of it).

Action Barbie’s* Failsafe Focaccia is one of those recipes, it is in fact one of the most impressive tried and tested recipes I’ve ever got my mitts on.  It is dead simple to make, it smells and tastes divine and so far I’ve been able to source the ingredients wherever in the world we’ve been living.  Win, win, WIN.

So, here’s how to make it… Continue reading

Wonder at the Wonder Cave

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The ancient Wonder Cave is North of Johannesburg in the Cradle of Humankind and was discovered by Italian miners in 1898.

This is South Africa’s third largest cavern and there are plenty of beautiful rock formations to see. There are stalagmites (the ones that grow downwards from the ceiling) and stalactites (the ones that grow upwards from the floor).   One formation looks like a giant mushroom, another like a praying Mary.

There are 87 steps from ground level down the lift, which isn’t too taxing, but it does of course mean that when you’re done, there are 87 steps back up.  Continue reading

Alarmed

We spent five years living in Lagos, Nigeria. To date, I’ve barely touched on our time there. It’s a chaotic and often frustrating place to live and it’s difficult to know where to start as there are so many memories and mishaps to dust off.  As a first taster, I’m sharing one of the many (but far from the most) frustrating vignettes with you.

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This is a smoke alarm.  I think it’s used for catching mosquitos.  No?

The estate electrician phoned one day to tell me that he was coming to install smoke alarms. I was confused as we already had plenty thoroughly our apartment.

Me:                        We already have smoke alarms.

Electrician:          Yes, I am coming to put smoke alarms.

Me:                        Where are you going to put them? Why are you going to put smoke                                                        alarms? What’s wrong with the ones we have? Continue reading