The Panorama Route – A Photographer’s Sweetshop

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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

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

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

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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Don’t Worry, Only the Cows Can See You

 

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Loo with an Unexpected View

I think this must be the first ever loo I’ve visited with floor to ceiling windows. It was completely disconcerting.  There’s a nice trough below the window encouraging the resident Nguni Cattle to come close and eyeball you.  With their wide handlebar horns and barrel chests they are a distinctive sight to behold.

It’s enough to give you stage fright.

Loo with a view, poo with a moo, but don’t worry, only the cows can see you.

You too can visit this loo.  Drop by the Blueberry Cafe in South Africa’s Kwa Zulu Natal Midlands.  Their food is tasty, the views delightful and there’s a nice little gift shop to boot.

Have you come across any loos with unusual views?

 

Discover Sci Bono

Sci Bono Discovery Centre is situated in an old power station in Johannesburg’s Newtown. We’ve taken our kids a few times and they love it.  We hosted a birthday party there this morning, which included a guided tour of the best bits and an awesome exploding science show.  Quite a few of our guests had never been, which made me realise that plenty of Jo’burgers have never checked this place out.

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Exploding Science in Sci Bono’s Party Room

This is why they should…

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New Gold Rush in Gauteng!

Gold is the magic that pumped through the earth’s veins giving life to Johannesburg on land that was otherwise not suitable to attract and sustain a large human population. Primarily, it is unsuitable land because there is no natural water source to support the consumption needs of a vast landlocked city and the joke runs that the only reef to be found anywhere near here is the Witwatersrand Gold Reef.

Johannesburg sprang up virtually overnight when the first gold rush started after the discovery of gold in 1886 and is known as the City of Gold.  It now looks like we could see a second gold rush 130 years later….

On Easter Sunday we went to an Easter Egg Hunt at Birnisan Farm to the North of Johannesburg. What we actually found (or rather what Pickle found) was far, far more exciting.

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‘Diamonds’ gathering dust on the windowsill.

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These Easter Eggs are a No-Glow

We haven’t had any blackouts here in our neck of Johannesburg for a while (fingers crossed, touch wood, famous last words), nevertheless South Africa is now fully prepared for Easter next week should the power go off.

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Load Shedding Easter Eggs are glow in the dark eggs.  Small torches are included in the box to help you hunt for the eggs in the dark.  It sounds like a fun idea.

However, entertaining as they are, these load shedding eggs have a fatal flaw, a catastrophic flaw in fact.

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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