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.

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Why Expats Drink Gin

Gin and tonic is an iconic and yet slightly negative symbol of expat life.  The drink contributes to the image of the idle, drunk, spoilt expat living a life of luxury in far flung tropical locations. But do you know the real reason expats first started drinking gin and tonic?  You might be surprised.

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Let’s wind back a few centuries……

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Johannesburg’s CBD – Crime, Burglary and Decay or Culture, Business and Delight?

Johannesburg’s Central Business District (CBD) was once the heart of gold rush pioneer town Johannesburg.  This is where  all the biggest, best and most beautiful buildings were built.  Many years later, after first the rise and then fall of apartheid this area deteriorated significantly.  Residents and businesses moved out in droves as buildings were hijacked quickly becoming overcrowded with squatters.  The area became a dangerous and crime ridden no-go zone in the 1990’s.

 

But what’s it like today?  I joined an inner city walking tour to find out more. 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

Things are getting Spooky in Johannesburg

Maybe it’s because Halloween is approaching, but I’m finding Johannesburg a bit spookier than usual at the moment.

Spooky:

First of all we encountered this toxic creature basking in the sunlight.  It is a Koppie Foam Grasshopper, a type of bush locust.  I reckon its body was about 10cm long.  This nightmarish apparition feasts on the poisonous milkweed plant and stores the poison.  If threatened it secretes a noxious foam, which is harmful to pets (and I guess to humans) if ingested.  Shudder.

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A toxic Koppie Foam Grasshopper

Spookier:

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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

24 Hours in Hermanus – You’ll Have a Whale of a Time

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There is a vast swathe of the jagged southern coastline of South Africa that is prime whale watching territory. The small coastal town of Hermanus has the advantage that it perches on low cliffs fringing deep Walker Bay, offering excellent land based whale watching. The town’s fortuitous position means it has been rated as one of the top 12 spots on the entire planet for spotting the gentle giants of the ocean.  If you go during whale season, you are virtually guaranteed to see whales (yes, that’s whales plural) without even having to set foot on a boat.

We hoped we could experience the highlights of Hermanus and surrounds in 24 hours, here’s how we did… Continue reading