Untethered – Or how Expat Life is like Camping

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This photo first appeared on the post Johannesburg’s Top Hikes.  Credit Becci Monge.

Expats often talk about feeling like they are in limbo.  Much of the limbo feeling is to do with the uncertainty that accompanies an impending international relocation.   When it’s time to move on, the juggling act of trying to seamlessly line up new jobs, schools and housing with your shipment timed to arrive as you get the keys to your new pad is a mammoth task.  It’s how I imagine living on quicksand might feel, all the goal posts shifting at the same time but in different directions, leaving you with a queasy sinking feeling.

Alongside limbo, I find that there is another feeling that can blindside you when you are in the throes of moving. It’s both liberating and terrifying. It’s a strange feeling of being completely detached and disconnected from the day-to-day life that you have been so busy building, a feeling of being cut loose and utterly untethered.

What do I mean by untethered and what on earth has it got to do with camping?

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Where are all the Old People?

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Living abroad, certain differences between your home country (or wherever you’ve just moved from) and the country you have moved to are startling.  They are eye-popping and jaw-dropping, immediately leaping out at you in the first days and weeks.  Other differences are more subtle and take far longer to register.

I slowly noticed that one of the differences between South Africa and everywhere else I’ve ever lived is that you rarely see old people in public spaces.  I don’t mean old-ER people, like the glam grannies I see hanging out at play areas or in coffee shops with their grandchildren while mum and dad are still at work.  Neither do I mean the sprightly pensioners who eagerly help out with after school activities.  I mean the truly elderly, the ancient, the frailest citizens.

South Africa, I really hope you don’t mind me asking this question.  It has been simmering away and niggling at me for months, it is very much an observation and absolutely not a criticism.  South Africa, where are your wrinkled and your wise?

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Visiting or Moving to South Africa? Here’s how you can get Culture Smart!

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Culture Smart! has updated their guide to South Africa and as part of their first ever blog tour, promoting updated and brand new titles, I was invited to take a sneak preview.

What is Culture Smart!?

The concept of the Culture Smart! book series is similar to traditional travel guides in that they cover the basics of geography, history, language, climate and so forth. However, rather than accommodation, restaurant and sightseeing listings, Culture Smart! focusses on culture, customs and traditions.  This is for the traveller who wants to travel easily without offending local sensibilities.

 

What can I expect from Culture Smart! South Africa?

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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 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?

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

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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:

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The South African Hadeda Alarm Clock

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.

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

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.

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