What do I mean by untethered and what on earth has expat life got to do with camping?
Here are just a few of the most unusual and memorable signs we’ve encountered in South Africa. In many ways they reflect our experiences here.
Always Expect the Unexpected
…and in South Africa always expect wildlife, anywhere and everywhere at any time.
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?
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?
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?
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 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.
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
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:
- Why Expats are Like Dung Beetles
- The Escape Room Phenomenon hits South Africa
- 10 Things I’ve learned from running and Expat Facebook Group
- Ladies who Lunch
- 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.
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