South African wildlife is off the scale, but you don’t even have to go on safari to experience it, there is plenty (sometimes a little too much) right here in our neighbourhood backyard.
I’ve variously written about and/or where possible photographed the spiders, snakes, birds and the scorpion that we’ve encountered around the estate and occasionally in our home. However, I’d never managed to get a really good look at our resident monitor lizard, until now…
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 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.
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 →
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 Diepslootvolunteer 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 →
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 →
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.
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 →
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..
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 Cafein South Africa’s Kwa Zulu Natal Midlands. Their food is tasty, the views delightful and there’s a nice little gift shop to boot.
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.