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

Ponte Tower – A Tale of Glamour, Garbage and Gritty Regeneration

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Ponte Tower

Johannesburg’s Ponte Tower is infamous, notorious and really really interesting.  It embodies the former decadence, ensuing decay and current regeneration of the City of Gold.  It’s a brutalist, concrete hollow cylinder of a building in the city’s Central Business District (CBD).  The tallest residential building in Africa, it rises 55 stories tall and along with the Telkom tower is an instantly recognisable feature of Joburg CBD’s skyline.

Glamour: Ponte started life in the mid 1970’s as luxury real estate dubbed the ‘Vegas of Africa’, where the plushest apartments spanned three floors and had built in jacuzzis.  To see a smattering of photos from those bygone I only found this one article: Buildings are Geological Agents. There are only a couple of images and you have to scroll most of the way down through the post.

Garbage: When decay set in and the original hipster residents moved out, the empty buildings were broken into and hijacked. Ponte became a complete no-go zone.  It was an overcrowded den of iniquity with a direly severe rubbish problem in the 90’s.   There was no running water, no electricity and when the rubbish collections stopped, residents would lob their waste into the central void.  Unfortunately, there it stayed until it rose a festering 14 stories high (or 2 or 3 or 5 – I’ve read different things and I’m not sure which is factually correct, but 14 is the number given by our guide on the day).  Ponte was a slum in the sky.

Gritty Regeneration: In recent years, Ponte has changed again.  The illegal tenants evicted, the rubbish has gone and the building has been refurbished to a good standard and is now home to a mixture of families, students, working and middle class residents.  It is possible to tour both the inside (marvelling at the views from the top) and the eerie core with a circle of sky high above.   Continue reading

Discover Johannesburg’s Top Hikes

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Hedianga Hike 15km – “We love hiking with dogs.”                                                                                                                                 Photo Credit: Becci Monge

For a city as gritty as Johannesburg, you might be surprised to find out just how many fab hiking spots there are in and around it.  My friend, American expat Becci Monge has kindly written a guest post with her top local hiking picks.

Becci got hooked on hiking last year when she decided (and by the way successfully succeeded – enormous kudos to you Becci and the rest of the Jo’burg based She-Trek team) to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. In preparation for Kili, the She-Trekkers explored (and continue to explore) the best hiking spots on offer in our local area.

Over to Becci: Continue reading

Epic Namibia – Go. See. Do. Be.

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Namib Rand Nature Reserve and Nice Sticky Finger Print on the Lens.

Epic is the only word to describe the vast, untouched and immensely photogenic Namibian landscape.   The open space and the scale of the diverse scenery is mind boggling .

Would I want to live somewhere so remote? Not on your Nellie. Would I visit again? In a heartbeat.

There is more, so much more to write about Namibia, but here’s a quick summary of our highlights:

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Hair Raising and Hair Razing Experiences Abroad

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You know it’s a disaster when you’d rather wear a paper bag over your head.

Getting a hair cut should be a fairly simple procedure and yet I have found it to be one of the lesser known, but very real challenges of expat life.  Plenty of expat blogs cover all the obvious, big ticket hurdles to being a successful and happy expat: emotional resilliance, repatriation, culture shock, depression, leaving well etc.  But there are plenty of lesser known hurdles we face as we ricochet around the globe and getting a decent haircut is firmly on that list.

Whether I’ve asked  for ‘a trim’ or ‘the same but shorter’ or shown a picture from a magazine or a photograph of my own hair I seem to have had more than my fair share of awful expat haircuts than I care to mention.  Here are a few of my lowlights…. Continue reading

Scorpion on the Line

 

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Did you ever hear the story about Thomas the Tank Engine and the scorpion?  It’s got a sting in the tail.

This is a passenger announcement.  Regular blog services are running late.  Normal service has been severely disrupted by The Christmas Holidays…and a scorpion on the line.

Regular service will resume shortly.

In the meantime, just incase you missed them the first time around, the most popular 5 posts on Expatorama in 2016 were:

  1.  Why Expats are Like Dung Beetles
  2.  The Escape Room Phenomenon hits South Africa
  3.  10 Things I’ve learned from running and Expat Facebook Group
  4.  Ladies who Lunch
  5.  Which School? An Expat Parenting Dilemma

 

The scorpion has now thankfully left the building and I’m busy working on some brand new posts for 2017.

We Four Expats Travel Afar

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Happy Christmas – Here’s a little Expat Christmas Ditty to the tune of We Three Kings….  

 

We four Expats travel afar

Metro, funicular, airplane, car

Veldt and fountain, fynbos and mountain

Always seeking the next bright star

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Namibia – Know Before You Go

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Almost ready for the off.  What else do we need to know?

We’re heading to Namibia quite soon (hoo-flipping-ray).  We can’t wait to climb the dunes, gaze at the stars or see the wildlife.  Everybody we know who’s been has given it 5* triple plus rave reviews.   Some of them have also given us some useful travel advice. These are the 5 brilliant know-before-you-go tips that they have shared with us so far.   Continue reading

Why Expat Partners are Like Dung Beetles

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There’s always a bit of a brouhaha when it comes to labelling or describing expat partners. A few of the titles used include Expat Spouse, Expat Wife, Trailing Spouse, Trailblazing Spouse, Lady of Leisure, Lady that Lunches, Guy that Golfs, Excess Baggage or as my husband endearingly calls me Expensive Habit. None of the terms is perfect and some are deeply loathed by the expat community.

So, I’ve come up with yet another alternative for you.  It’s an analogy that first occurred to me when I wrote about the industrious dung beetle after we saw hundreds of them on safari.  They are completely fascinating little creatures and the comparison between expat partners and dung beetles has been scratching about in the back of my mind ever since.  Yes, I am comparing the Trailing Spouse to the Dung Beetle.

Confused?  Here are 6 ways that expat partners are like dung beetles:

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The Princess and The Fish

 

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Photo Taken circa January 2006 – on the coast close to Lagos, Nigeria

 

The Princess and The Fish is what I’ve always called this photograph.  I took it almost 11 years ago on a slim spit of beach wedged between the quiet creek and the wide Atlantic Ocean just a short boat ride along the coast from Lagos, Nigeria one lazy Sunday afternoon.

This girl was seemingly the leader of her ‘gang’ of beach roaming children.  She was older than the others and was insistent that I photographed her and her friends.  As I snapped the first picture, the one of her alone, she unexpectedly blew into the fishes’ mouth to make it puff up.  She was pleased to show me her party trick and laughed gleefully at my surprise.

Continue reading