Hong Kong Living, A Squash and A Squeeze (minus the livestock)

Hong Kong living can be a squash and a squeeze, skyscrapers make up the skyline filled with small apartments.

Hong Kong is an exciting city.  It’s completely different to anywhere else we’ve lived. There are things that we like, things that we love and things we’re still getting used to.  One of the biggest adjustments when moving from almost anywhere else in the world to Hong Kong  is the bijou nature of the accommodation.  It’s shall we say….efficiently compact.    Continue reading

Out of Africa, Farewell to Johannesburg

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_76

It’s been woefully quiet on the blog front.  Woefully, pitifully quiet.  That’s because during the long summer break, we’ve been in transit.  It was our turn to pack up, ship out and move on.  After five fabulous years, the sun has set on our South African adventure.  It has been a huge wrench to say goodbye.

Since those first stumbling days where one child got a little too up close and personal with a lion cub and the other innocently asked whether Nelson Mandela was the guy on the red and white KFC boxes our kids have learned, experienced and grown (quite literally, height wise they are both catching up with me at an alarming rate) an enormous amount   They’ve encountered  many of the wild residents of African bush, learned about the unfairness of apartheid, ridden an ostrich and can recite the alphabet in Zulu.

Continue reading

Farewell 2017, Hello 2018

People on beach looking at Table mountain from Bloubergstrand

The holiday is over and it’s back to reality.  New posts are already in the works.  In the meantime, just in case 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

I had read about the notorious Ponte Tower before moving to South Africa and was intrigued. It’s 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. in Johannesburg). Find out what awaits you and how you can arrange a visit in the post: Ponte Tower – A Tale of Glamour, Garbage and Gritty Regeneration.

Hairy Moments

The post Hair Raising and Hair Razing Experiences Abroad falls under the category of ‘lesser known challenges of expat life’ that don’t normally get covered on expat blogs.  Getting a haircut may be a lesser known challenge and yet the struggle is real.

Rose Tinted Glasses

Expat Life Through Rose Tinted Glasses was a fun post to write. It involved cracking open a bottle of pink wine and playing with LEGO props. When it comes to expat life, not everything is always as rosy as it seems.

Dung Beetles

The most read post ever is Why Expat Partners are Like Dung Beetles. This is a post basically detailing how completely awesome both expat partners and dung beetles are.

Photo Hot Spot

…and if you’re wondering where the photo at the top of the post was taken, it’s Bloubergstrand, which translates to Blue Mountain Beach. It’s a short drive from Cape Town and gives you a whole different view of Table Mountain. There is a gentle, shallow natural paddling pool protected by rocks, so it’s an ideal spot to take kids.

Backyard Safari

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 neighborhood 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 or garage.  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 meters or more from top to tail, it could easily be mistaken for some kind of small crocodile.

 

What the most ‘exciting’ wildlife encounter you’ve had in your neighbourhood?

How one Expat is Walking the Walk rather than Talking the Talk

FullSizeRender

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:

Continue reading

The South African Hadeda Alarm Clock

The culture here in South Africa is one of ‘early to bed and 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. If you are lucky the alarm will be sustained and provided in surround sound by multiple hadeda birds at the same time. Precious.

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. It’s best listened to at the crack of dawn when you are in deep slumber. Perhaps you could test it out on somebody you don’t like very much.

Good morning and you’re welcome to the hadeda alarm.

 

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.

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

Ponte Tower as seen from below, Johanneburg.

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

hedianga-2

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

Scorpion on the Line

 

scorpion-on-the-line

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.

2016 Top Blog Post Roundup

In the meantime, just in case 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.

So, the scorpion. We bought a desk for the play room and I decided first that we should have a thorough cull. We tidied, cleaned and de-cluttered every inch of the room. When moving a storage unit my daughter discovered the scorpion and jumped on the couch screaming hysterically.

Although it was dead, my son on the other hand was all too keen to prod it with a pencil or maybe even pick it up.

I found a piece of card to scoop it up with and was carefully doing so, when the jolly thing ‘woke up’ and scuttled under the skirting board. Once we had cleaned the room, I sprayed around the skirting boards and a day or two later an army of ants marched out of the skirting board with the prize of a dead scorpion which is when the photo was taken. Then it was finally disposed of.

Thankfully, this has been our only and hopefully last scorpion encounter. After much googling, I think this was a pretty harmless one, but I’m still very relieved nobody was stung.

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 Johannesburg’s CBD like today?  Join an inner city walking tour to find out more. Continue reading