Thokozani: A Happy Place

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There is a great deal of poverty in South Africa and some expats choose to use their time here to do what they can to contribute to improving and empowering local communities through a variety of volunteer programs, fundraisers and initiatives.  All in all there are some fantastic expat projects going on. Today’s guest post is written by expat Mona Brantley with input from Annabel Newell. Mona currently heads up the Friends of Diepsloot volunteer team that has invested an enormous amount of time and love in Thokozani Preschool over the last few years to great effect.  Over to Mona…..

Where is your happy place? Have you found a place in your current location that makes you smile, where only good memories are made? For me and many other Joburg expats that happy place literally is Thokozani (a Zulu word for “a place or state of happiness”).

Four years ago, in April of 2012, Laurence Braeckman, a Belgian expat, went into Diespsloot township to look at schools, day cares, and preschools. When she discovered Gogo and Thokozani, she knew she had found her happy place.

Gogo (Zulu for grandmother because no one calls her by her name Miss Lizah) had already been running Thokozani for six years, primarily as a day care and a place of safety for the very young children of Diepsloot.

The facilities then were very basic. They were making food for 200 kids on a two gas hob cooker in a kitchen that doubled as the office. The children sat and ate on the floor. They practiced writing letters on the backs of their classmates. The classrooms were little more than shacks: hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The food, though made with love and care, was not nutritious enough for growing children. While the kids were safe and in a loving environment, so much more could be done, and Laurence and her cohorts set to work. Continue reading

Learn more about The Great Trek at Pretoria’s Voortrekker Monument

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Stunning Marble Frieze inside the Voortrekker Monument

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

Things are getting Spooky in Johannesburg

Maybe it’s because Halloween is approaching, but I’m finding Johannesburg a bit spookier than usual at the moment.

Spooky:

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.

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A toxic Koppie Foam Grasshopper

Spookier:

Continue reading

5 Top Tips to Guide you when Buying Diamond Jewellery

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.

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Actual Road Sign in South Africa en route to Cullinan Diamond Mine!

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