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…. 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

10 Reasons to have a Dog in Johannesburg

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Two little Doggy Dogs, standing on a wall.  How did they get up there?  How did they not fall?  One named Peter, one named….You know what, I have no idea what they’re called.  Not our dogs, but I couldn’t resist taking a photo.

 

Shortly after arriving in Johannesburg, South Africa, we adopted a little rescue dog.  It turns out that despite my initial concerns and reservations, I’m actually quite pleased that we did.

To be fair, most of the reasons I give for getting a dog apply to wherever you are in the world, but prior to arriving in Johannesburg adding a dog into the mix had never been a serious consideration. Reasons 4 and 5 are particularly pertinent to people who have just moved (like expats) and probably reason 6 also.  Reasons 9 and 10 are two specific reasons that meant that getting a dog in Jo’burg was particularly appealing.

 

  1. You love dogs.

 

  1. You really love dogs.

 

  1. Your family really loves dogs and although you are wobbling on the fence about getting one, the perfect little dog, sniffs you out and chooses you.

 

  1. Friend Maker: If you’re just moved to a new place (a common occurrence for serial expats) you generally start with a sum total of zero friends. There are plenty of ways to make friends and a dog is one of them. Unlike humans, who often do no more that grunt a greeting to strangers in the street and keep walking, dogs are far more sociable. While dogs are busy sniffing each others bottoms, you can either avoid eye contact with the other dog owner or make polite conversation, which COULD be the start of a beautiful new friendship.

 

  1. Depression Defender: Expats are particularly susceptible to depression, with frequent change of location, language, friends, employment status and all the other quirks of regular foreign assignments, your world can feel like quicksand under your feet.  I’m not suggesting that having a dog cures depression, but it’s a proven fact that pets can help ease these feelings by keeping you company. Having a bad day? Brush your dog, pet your dog or take it out for a walk. The affection you receive in return is completely disproportionate to the effort you put in.

 

  1. Exercise Enforcer: Dogs need regular exercise or THEY get depressed. Even if you’re not a big fan of going to the gym, taking regular walks is great exercise and helps keep you and your dog healthy and happy.  Jo’burg is a car centric city, so you probably don’t get as much day to day exercise just getting from A-B as you would in many other cities – add all that lovely calorific south african wine into the equation and you’re in big trouble if you don’t get out and about.

 

  1. Scape Goat: Somebody’s been eating the cheese? Somebody makes a rude noise at the table? Blame it on the dog.

 

  1. Waste Disposal: Most dogs are happy to tidy up any leftovers, vacuuming up crumbs and spilt milk. This is particularly helpful when the bin men go on strike, which they have done recently. Every little helps to keep your rubbish bag just that little bit emptier.
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This is the Cheese Thief.  She hardly looks capable of cheese (and sausage and pizza and any other tasty foodstuff) thievery, but she is, don’t let those big brown eyes fool you.

Just in the last few weeks I have been delighted that we took the plunge and got a dog for entirely selfish reasons that have nothing to do with loving or liking dogs.  Ultimately, reasons 9 and 10 are THE reasons I’m most thankful that we have a dog in Jo’burg.

Continue reading

Which School? An Expat Parenting Dilemma

Parents everywhere want the best education for their children.  However, when you move to a different country every few years, the decisions, trade-offs and problems multiply.IMG_3435

American School? British School? French School? German School? Local School? Home School? Boarding School? Anywhere-that-has-a-place-for-my-child-School? Which school is the right school?

This is a conundrum faced by many expat parents.

There are a whole host of factors to consider and I’m sure I’ll have more to share on this subject in future, but in the first instance I’m including a nifty little table I’ve put together to assist you in working out which grade/class/year equivalent your child may fit into moving from one system to another.  It’s something I would have found useful to have over the the last few years, so I figured it might help a few other people too. Continue reading

I am a Secret Agent

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Pickle:                                            “Are you a secret Agent Mummy?”

Me with a mouthful of food:        “Mmmmmmm.”

Pickle:                                            “THAT’S A YES ISN’T IT. I KNEW IT.  YES.  Mum’s a

secret agent.”

I didn’t disagree with him.

I thought about his question a little more and decided that it was quite a logical conclusion for him to come to.

Continue reading

Homesick Hilda, Part-Time Pauline and Nervous Nellie – The Doomed Expat Spouses

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The Doomed Expat Spouse

Previously I wrote about expat wives (spouses) and how crucial their state of happiness is the success of an expat posting.    However, expat life is not for everybody and today I’m going to introduce you to three stereotyped expat spouses who are almost certainly doomed to be unhappy.

Meet Homesick Hilda, Part-Time Pauline and Nervous Nellie: Continue reading

Jacarandas and Expats – 5 Similarities

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Pretoria is the Jacaranda City, but there are plenty to see in Johannesburg too.

Jacaranda season is upon us again here in South Africa (the trees bloom any time from September through to November – it varies slightly from year to year).  These stunning trees blossom a stunning shade of purple bringing a smile to many.

It struck me that the jacaranda trees and expats have a few things in common.  Here are 5 ways that jacarandas and expats are alike.

 

1. Neither jacarandas nor expats are indigenous to South Africa.

Jacarandas originate from Central and South America and are also found naturally in Cuba, The Bahamas and Jamaica. Because of their gorgeous burst of purple blue blossom they have been transposed to many parts of Asia and also Zimbabwe and … South Africa.

  Continue reading

When did economy air travel become a form of social and spatial torture?

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Have you travelled Cattle Class?

Once upon a time air travel was glamorous and even now, at the front or top of the plane you have private cubicles resembling bijou studio flats in London. There you will be offered a wine list, linen napkins, flat screen TVs, a bar, perhaps a massage and maybe even a dry-cleaning service.

However, at the back of the plane, affectionately known as Cattle Class, travel becomes more and more like the game of sardines.  You have the pleasure of being uncomfortably squished in a tin can for hours, with total strangers and all their bodily habits.  You will have every opportunity to get acquainted with Knee Bashers, Chair Kickers, Arm rest Hogs and Aisle Loiterers.

I know that airlines are businesses and they need to manage costs, turn profits and part of that involves cramming as many of us into the smallest space possible, but have you seen the latest hideous new patent pending for a more intimate and space saving seating arrangement?

You can see it HERE.

Just in case you can’t see it properly I’ve added my own version of this delightful proposal below using Lego Duplo people. Buzz Lightyear might look like he’s smiling on the outside. On the inside he’s crying because he’s lost his jet pack and instead of holding hands with cowgirl Jessie he’s stuck playing involuntary footsie with a stern policeman and a burly fireman.

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If this seating plan were to go ahead, future economy travel would treat you (i.e. force you) to rub shoulders, shins and hey, why not even hold hands, with complete strangers. And just think, if you are one of the lucky rear facing passengers take off and landing will feel even more like a roller coaster.  Pass the sick-bag.

An alternative ‘genius’ suggestion I came across while writing this little piece, involves adjustable seating. More leg room for taller passengers and less room for shorter ones. I can only imagine that when the passenger in front of the shorter passenger decides to recline their seat that the shorter passenger will end up with their nose pressed against their tv screen and their meal tucked under their chin.

Getting to the bathroom could be interesting with either of the above proposals.

I’m wondering how long it is until someone suggests standing room only as a serious option. That way, airlines could fit double the passengers in Economy and add en-suite showers for their premium customers.

I realise that cargo is more profitable and less demanding than live passenger cargo – “Could I get an extra pillow?” “My headset’s not working.” “I think my child is going to be sick.”  I’m curious though, are there any human rights directives that apply to a minimal personal space quota on an airplane?

…and if there are, how minimal is that space?

I quite easily found information about transporting livestock (live cows, pig, chickens etc), and their welfare in transit, but couldn’t find any similar enlightenment regarding human airline passengers.

I’m sure there must be a rule or law somewhere, feel free to point me in the right direction.

In the meantime in the ongoing battle for personal inflight space, anti-seat-reclining devices known as knee defenders have been causing controversy (and an actual plane diversion) up in the skies.

Do you have any ‘Invasion of Personal Space on a Plane’ stories you’d like to share?