The holiday is over and it’s back to reality. New posts are already in the works. In the meantime, just incase you missed them the first time around or just really really want to read them again, here’s a quick round-up of Expatorama’s top posts from 2017.
Ponte Tower – A Tale of Glamour, Garbage and Gritty Regeneration. I read about Ponte Tower before moving to South Africa and was intrigued – an unusual hollow cylindrical building with a checkered history. I didn’t realise you could visit the tower until early last year. The tour is fascinating and I highly recommend it if you’re in town (i.e. Johannesburg).
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…
Check out this bad boy heading off to chomp on his fish. He (or could it a be a she?) lives just down at the end of our road in a small nature reserve where I walk our dog. Easily two metres or more from top to tail, he could easily be mistaken for some kind of small crocodile.
What the most ‘exciting’ wildlife encounter you’ve had in your neighbourhood?
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:
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.
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 →
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.
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 →
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 →