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:

“I think many expats share an overwhelming desire to give back to their host country.  I know I did upon arriving in Johannesburg nearly three years ago.  I believe we have a responsibility to give back to the country that is hosting us and, if possible, to leave it better than how we found it.  In Johannesburg, the opportunity to give back is easy because the need is so incredibly overwhelming.  The challenge is to figure out where to give your time and talents and how to maximise your impact in the short amount of time you have in this home away from home.

Upon arriving I dove into it!  I was cleaning out my closets weekly, giving away toys my kids may (or may not) have been tired of playing with and donating them to any cause that tugged at my heartstrings.  And let’s be honest, they all did. I quickly signed up to volunteer at a local preschool in the township of Kya Sands and began doing puzzles weekly with the children.  On paper, I was an expat rock star, but in reality I was failing the children I was supposed to be helping and myself.  Volunteering eventually became a box to check weekly versus a passion, and while I was physically with the kids each week I wasn’t emotionally present.  While some volunteers are completely altruistic, I am not. I wanted to find a cause and project that impacted me as much as I impacted it.

I finished out the year at my preschool, and as the kids graduated, so did I.  I told myself to take my time to find a cause that I was truly passionate about so that volunteering wouldn’t feel like an obligation, but a privilege.  Shortly thereafter I was introduced to Lawyers against Abuse (LvA), a non-profit organisation that provides free legal services and trauma counselling to victims of gender-based violence (GBV).

If you’ve lived in South Africa for any amount of time, you know that GBV is endemic, but you might not fully comprehend the magnitude of this crisis.  Continue reading

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

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

Feeding the Five Thousand

South Africa is a meat loving nation.  The braai (barbecue) is practically a national pass time, heck, it’s nigh on a national sport.  Just to give this claim some context, you need to see this mother-of-all-meat competitions running at one of our local shopping centres..

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Discover Sci Bono

Sci Bono Discovery Centre is situated in an old power station in Johannesburg’s Newtown. We’ve taken our kids a few times and they love it.  We hosted a birthday party there this morning, which included a guided tour of the best bits and an awesome exploding science show.  Quite a few of our guests had never been, which made me realise that plenty of Jo’burgers have never checked this place out.

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Exploding Science in Sci Bono’s Party Room

This is why they should…

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These Easter Eggs are a No-Glow

We haven’t had any blackouts here in our neck of Johannesburg for a while (fingers crossed, touch wood, famous last words), nevertheless South Africa is now fully prepared for Easter next week should the power go off.

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Load Shedding Easter Eggs are glow in the dark eggs.  Small torches are included in the box to help you hunt for the eggs in the dark.  It sounds like a fun idea.

However, entertaining as they are, these load shedding eggs have a fatal flaw, a catastrophic flaw in fact.

Continue reading