How one Expat is Walking the Walk rather than Talking the Talk

FullSizeRender

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 South African Hadeda Alarm Clock

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.

Charity Charity, Entrepreneurial Emma and Botox Betty – Expat Stereotypes you might want to Avoid

Avoid these expats
Meet Emma, Charity and Betty.  They look so harmless, don’t they?

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 Charity

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.

 

Continue reading

Planning a trip to Victoria Falls?  Here’s what you need to Know

IMG_7781
Can you see the Smoke that Thunders?  That’s Vic Falls spray, not a low slung cloud.

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.

In my previous post I detailed just a few of the highlights that you can experience during a visit to Vic Falls.  Following on from that, for anybody considering a trip there, here are a few of the nuts and bolts details that might be useful, such as which side of the Falls to visit, what to buy and how to get around.

Continue reading

What Dr Livingstone saw – A trip to Victoria Falls

IMG_3001
Victoria Falls “Flight of the Angels” – Mind blown.

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+.

Continue reading

Are you a badass expat? Take this quick quiz to find out.

badass expat
What’s your badass expat score?

Do you think you’re a hardcore badass full-fat expat?  Let’s find out.

A few days ago I shared a link to a recent Business Insider article entitled The 19 countries with the worst quality of life in the world for expats.’  I soon had friends and readers telling me how many years they’d spent in which country and realised we could turn these rankings into a quick and easy way to work out your ‘Badass Expat’ score.

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.

What’s yours?

 

Worst Country for Expats as ranked by Business Insider

Ranking Points Earned Per Assignment Year Number of Years in Country Totals
China 19 1
Philipines 18 2
Uganda 17 3
South Africa 16 4 4 16
Ukraine 15 5
Ireland 14 6
Qatar 13 7
Peru 12 8
Kazakhstan 11 9
Indonesia 10 10
Kenya 9 11
India 8 12
Tanzania 7 13
Brazil 6 14
Saudi Arabia 5 15
Egypt 4 16
Kuwait 3 17
Mozambique 2 18
Nigeria 1 19 5 95
Badass Expat Score       111

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?

 

The One in a Million Expat Partner

IMG_2952
It takes a one in a million kind of spouse to follow their partner here.

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:

 

Continue reading

Expat Life Through Rose Tinted Glasses

rose tinted wine glasses

Rose tinted glasses soften and morph reality.  When it comes to expat life, from the outside our life may look perfect, but expectation and reality rarely tally.

I didn’t have actual rose tinted glass or lenses to use in my photographs, so in true expat style improvised with rosé filled ones.

Yes, a certain amount of rosé was consumed during the staging of the photos for this post.

Yes, it might have been even more fun to use actual human friends and share the wine, but it was tricky enough seeing tiny Lego people through a wine glass, so there we go.

This is what people back home often think expat life is like all the time.

IMG_2726
Big house, flash car and time and money to fritter. 

Continue reading

The Panorama Route – A Photographer’s Sweetshop

IMG_2542
Stunning views almost everywhere you look – Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route

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

The Iceberg of Cacti

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.

The cactus was far more aggressive and extensive than I had imagined.   Continue reading