Out of Africa

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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.  

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Expat A-Z Part II – From New to Zoo

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Welcome to Expat Life – It can feel like a bit of a zoo.

Continuing from part I of the A-Z of expat life, which covered ‘Armpit of the Earth’ to ‘Moving’ here is part II, from ‘New’ to ‘Zoo’.

N is for New.  New experiences, homes, languages, countries and cultures.  Embrace the newness.  N is also for Next Life, as in those wistful words frequently uttered by my husband and many other expat working spouses; ‘In my next life I’m coming back as an expat wife.’  A charmed life it can be, but being a ‘Lady who Lunches’ is not always quite as easy and glamorous as you may think.

O is for One in a million expat partnersThese are the patient, resilient, uncomplaining (okay, that’s a lie, they complain sometimes, sometimes they complain a lot) men and women who follow their other halves half way across the globe for a different or better life.

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Cheers to all the One in a Million Expat Partners

P is for Packers.  They descend on your home like a swarm of ants armed with bubble wrap, packing boxes and tape.  You thought you were ready, you thought you had it all under control until the chaos of the the packers is unleashed.  They scatter to the far corners of your home and garden.  You have to keep an eye on them.  If you didn’t lock and barricade the door to the room with your suitcases that are not to be packed, they’ll be the first thing out the door and wedged at the back of your container.  Kept a bit of food in reserve for a final supper?  Careful, it could easily end up packed and festering in a container for weeks.  Left a small i-pod, cash or sunglasses lying around?  These could end up being packed in someones’ pocket and never seen again…..and the ripping sound of packing tape being stickily unwound will haunt you forever more.   P is also for Personal Grooming, another of the lesser known challenges of expat life.  My particular bugbear under the Personal Grooming category is getting a haircut.  It can be a bit of a hair raising or should that be hair razing experience. Continue reading

When did economy air travel become a form of social and spatial torture?

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Have you travelled Cattle Class?

Once upon a time air travel was glamorous and even now, at the front or top of the plane you have private cubicles resembling bijou studio flats in London. There you will be offered a wine list, linen napkins, flat screen TVs, a bar, perhaps a massage and maybe even a dry-cleaning service.

However, at the back of the plane, affectionately known as Cattle Class, travel becomes more and more like the game of sardines.  You have the pleasure of being uncomfortably squished in a tin can for hours, with total strangers and all their bodily habits.  You will have every opportunity to get acquainted with Knee Bashers, Chair Kickers, Arm rest Hogs and Aisle Loiterers.

I know that airlines are businesses and they need to manage costs, turn profits and part of that involves cramming as many of us into the smallest space possible, but have you seen the latest hideous new patent pending for a more intimate and space saving seating arrangement?

You can see it HERE.

Just in case you can’t see it properly I’ve added my own version of this delightful proposal below using Lego Duplo people. Buzz Lightyear might look like he’s smiling on the outside. On the inside he’s crying because he’s lost his jet pack and instead of holding hands with cowgirl Jessie he’s stuck playing involuntary footsie with a stern policeman and a burly fireman.

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If this seating plan were to go ahead, future economy travel would treat you (i.e. force you) to rub shoulders, shins and hey, why not even hold hands, with complete strangers. And just think, if you are one of the lucky rear facing passengers take off and landing will feel even more like a roller coaster.  Pass the sick-bag.

An alternative ‘genius’ suggestion I came across while writing this little piece, involves adjustable seating. More leg room for taller passengers and less room for shorter ones. I can only imagine that when the passenger in front of the shorter passenger decides to recline their seat that the shorter passenger will end up with their nose pressed against their tv screen and their meal tucked under their chin.

Getting to the bathroom could be interesting with either of the above proposals.

I’m wondering how long it is until someone suggests standing room only as a serious option. That way, airlines could fit double the passengers in Economy and add en-suite showers for their premium customers.

I realise that cargo is more profitable and less demanding than live passenger cargo – “Could I get an extra pillow?” “My headset’s not working.” “I think my child is going to be sick.”  I’m curious though, are there any human rights directives that apply to a minimal personal space quota on an airplane?

…and if there are, how minimal is that space?

I quite easily found information about transporting livestock (live cows, pig, chickens etc), and their welfare in transit, but couldn’t find any similar enlightenment regarding human airline passengers.

I’m sure there must be a rule or law somewhere, feel free to point me in the right direction.

In the meantime in the ongoing battle for personal inflight space, anti-seat-reclining devices known as knee defenders have been causing controversy (and an actual plane diversion) up in the skies.

Do you have any ‘Invasion of Personal Space on a Plane’ stories you’d like to share?

Africa After All 3. Hands Free

In urban areas of Johannesburg, pushchairs (strollers or buggies) are often impractical.  They probably would not be welcome on precarious mini-bus taxi rides, neither are they suited to some of the non-existent pavements or uneven roadside verges.  I also imagine that for many, the cost of pushchairs is prohibitive (if you had to choose between buying a pushchair or putting dinner on the table, which would it be?).  Then you would have the issue of storage.  Accommodation for many is compact and crowded.  All this means that seeing ladies with babies or toddlers tied to their backs is a very regular, normal occurrence. They also manage to make it look rather easy.

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