Our First Visitors- Part 2: Safari

Going on safari was truly amazing.  We stayed for 3 nights at Nzumba Lodge which is part of the Klaserie Nature Reserve and located in Greater Kruger National Park.  Everything about the accommodation was exceptional.  It is very private, you have to drive for over an hour into the bush to even arrive at the camp, but that just adds to the glamorous feel of the entire experience.

The main lodge is beautiful.

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There is a water hole directly in front of the lodge and we saw 2 of the big five (Elephants and Rhinos) plus other animals without even leaving the property!

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The bedrooms were actually private cottages separate from the main lodge.

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Upon arrival, we were served high tea (which is pretty much a late extra-large lunch) while the manager (Esti) talked to us about how to be safe on the property.  There is an electric wire that runs around the property which serves to deter elephants, however all of the other animals (lions, leopards, etc) can, and do, come onto the premises. It was very scary to think about because we had two small children with us and so we were constantly aware of our surroundings.  If you didn’t feel safe, the guides were more than happy to escort you to your room in the evening when it was dark and not as easy to see.  The thing to take away from the safety lecture is- if you see a lion, do not run. Back away slowly into the nearest room. 🙂

They also lectured us about how elephants are very temperamental. Our guide, Pieter, explained that when we spot elephants we need to check with him before we snap photographs because the slightest thing can set them off and into a charge. As it turns out, that lecture was very important.  About 15 minutes into our first game drive we saw a group of elephants. Our guide followed them down a narrow road and suddenly one of them turned, without any warning, head down, and in a full speed charge.  It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced. Our guide put it in reverse and drove as fast as he could out of danger. At one point the tracker (who sits on the front of vehicle) could have reached out his arm and touched the elephant. Once there was a bit of distance between us and the charging elephant (not enough for me to feel comfortable) our guide started driving the vehicle forwards to have a standoff with the elephant.  Finally the elephant calmed down and we stared at each other for a few minutes and she turned around and walked away.  The guide was shocked that she didn’t give any warning at all.  Elizabeth and I were the most traumatized by the experience and every time we went down a narrow path we were afraid of getting in the way of another angry elephant.  Fortunately, we saw many other elephants without the drama.  When we went on a bush walk a few days later we saw the tracks our vehicle made in the terrain during our get away. 🙂

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The daily schedule on safari is roughly as follows. During our stay we went on two game drives per day. Once around 5 in the morning and another around 5 in the afternoon.  They last a few hours and you get a break during the middle of each drive for coffee and rusks in the morning or snacks and sun downers in the evening.  After the morning drive we were treated to a full cold and hot breakfast (the food is amazing!), then we would shower and relax until high tea, around 3pm (again incredible food).  We had the evening game drive and came back for dinner (YUM!!!) at 8pm.

Nzumba was amazing- they did not feed us in the same location once. The very last night we had a braii in the boma and it was absolutely beautiful.

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Everyone is so accommodating that Pieter even treated us to a dried impala poop spitting contest demonstration when I asked him about it.

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We saw 3 of the big 5: elephants, buffalo, and rhinos. We tracked lions on foot one day but never could find them. The leopard evaded us entirely. We saw lots of other game and Pieter was very knowledgeable about everything. We learned about birds, wilderness survival, bugs, snakes, spiders, and plants in addition to the animals.   The camp is very private so the guides and trackers have to be very knowledgeable in order to locate the animals. It was fascinating to watch.

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Going on safari was one of the best experiences of my life. I would recommend Nzumba lodge in Klaserie to anyone. The service, the food, the entire experience was phenomenal.  Elizabeth is still planning a guest blog post about the experience.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the South African sunrise:

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Love from South Africa! xoxoxo

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Our First Visitors: Part 1- Touring around Pretoria

Pretty much all of South Africa shuts down during December and people go on holiday (I still call it vacation, but when in Rome….).  We were fortunate to have Willa and Elizabeth take the longest flight in the world to come holiday with us!

We spent the first few days of their trip exploring Pretoria. They came right after Mandelas passing, so we took them to the Union Buildings where his body was on display just prior to their arrival, during the period of mourning.

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Afterwards, we went and toured the Voortrekker Monument, which is located on a nature reserve and also houses a historical museum which commemorates the  Afrikaner pioneers (Voortrekkers).   We learned about the complex history between the English and Dutch settlers.  My understanding of the history is that the British didn’t like how the Afrikaner farmers were treating their slaves, and upon the abolition of slavery, many of the Afrikaner pioneers moved into the interior of the country.  They settled on land that had been abandoned during tribal wars, but eventually the tribes came back to claim the land and war broke out between the Voortrekkers and the Zulu tribesmen.  The most famous battle of this conflict is the Battle of Blood River, where the vastly outnumbered Voortrekkers defeated a huge army of Zulu warriors.  Later on there were some issues between the English and Afrikaners surrounding the discovery of gold, and a few more battles before stuff started to settle down. It is interesting to note that some tension even exists today between the English and Afrikaners.

It is always very eye-opening to read the different accounts of the history.  I thought the story had a lot of similarities to the expansion of the United States westward.   The monument itself is beautiful and very intricate.  Interestingly enough, we went there on December 15th but December 16th is the day where the sun shines directly onto a marble shrine within the monument. Just our luck to be off by a day. 🙂

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Stay tuned to hear about our safari which was the absolute highlight of their trip, as well as a day trip to Soweto and Sandton, plus Christmas! 🙂 Elizabeth has even agreed to write a guest post for my blog about their experience!

Also, it is about time I introduced the newest member of our family: This is Olifant, the Papillon puppy. Olifant means elephant in Afrikaans, and we decided to call him Ollie for short.  He is almost 11 weeks old and we’ve had him for about 3 weeks now.  The kids are so happy and really great with him so far.

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Love from South Africa! xoxoxo

 

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Happy New Year! Let’s Talk About Last Year!

It is hard to believe that at the beginning of 2013 our family was residing in Amarillo, Texas with no idea when or where we would go next. How life has changed!

A lot of our friends are travelling to and from to the United States right now for the holidays and it makes us painfully aware how far apart we all are.  We were fortunate to have my mother-in-law and sister-in-law come over for two-and-a-half weeks and we didn’t have to spend Christmas on a new continent without family.

I am planning a post on all of the stuff that we did, including our fantastic safari. However, this posting will share a lot of the happenings prior to Christmas just so I can close out my year and hopefully be a little bit better about blogging 2014.

The school year here runs from January December instead of August June.  We spent the first two weeks of December finishing up stuff for the kids at their respective schools.

Hayden finished grade 00 and is headed into grade 0 in January. His grade 00 teacher was really great and suggested a teacher that Hayden was already familiar with so he would feel comfortable. When he learned who his teacher is going to be, he became very excited and I was pleased with his reaction. 🙂

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To finish up his year, he had soccer awards, gymnastics awards, and an optional choral program (which we ended up missing due to a massive hail storm).

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Natalie was an angel in her schools nativity play. She will continue at the Montessori school in January as well. 

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We planted our garden and things are really starting to grow! We’ve got salad veggies, corn, beans, okra, and squash.  Some of our plants are doing better than others, but we are hoping for a good harvest.

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It was really difficult getting into the Christmas spirit for me this year. It is summer here. It is hot. I had to purchase a fake Christmas tree for the first time ever in my life! There isn’t even the standard shopping mall hustle and bustle. By the time the big day actually arrived, everything went off perfectly and the kids were so happy Christmas morning.

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A really fun thing that we did was seeing Dave Matthews Band perform in Johannesburg. I had no idea he was from South Africa, but apparently he is and has never played a concert here before. It was exciting to be able to go! We also traveled in style, by way of a two-story purple party bus.

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It has also been a very sad time in South Africa with the passing of Nelson Mandela. The country hosted ten days of mourning and allowed people to participate in different aspects of the process.  The first big event occurred at FNB stadium. The weather was terrible that day. A slow persistent rain. The news reports made it seem like it would be impossible to actually attend the event, due to crowds, no access to parking, and security. We decided to host a viewing party and everyone brought lunch and we watched the event on television. We were sad to see all of the empty seats in the arena and realized we could have gone, but had a nice experience watching all of the leaders of the world come together and speak about the legacy of Nelson Mandela.

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We knew that when his body came to Pretoria a few days later we could not skip the opportunity to try to go. A group of us went down to the Union Buildings and were able to participate in the viewing. We stood in line for about 2 hours to go. When we reached the front of the line, we had to put on jackets to cover our shoulders and be totally silent while we walked past him. I still can’t believe we were allowed to even go and view such an amazing man. I am so thankful to South Africa for allowing everyone an opportunity to participate. It was so surreal and I couldn’t help but feeling not important enough to even be there. The respect he commands, even in death, speaks volumes. Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.

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Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!!!

Love from South Africa! xoxoxoxo

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SANSUI Summer Cup

One of the most fun things we’ve done since arriving in Pretoria is go to the SANSUI Summer Cup, which is like the Kentucky Derby for Horse Racing in South Africa.  It was also much cheaper than the actual Kentucky Derby.  We purchased tickets in the Summer Fair section of the arena for around $30 each and quickly realized we were in a premium location.  We were apparently mingling with all sorts of South African celebrities (though we didn’t recognize or know who any of them were) and even got interviewed on Fashion TV.   You couldn’t get that kind of experience for $30 at the Kentucky Derby. 😉 It was my first horse race and I didn’t officially gamble, which turned out to be a good thing because every single one of my pretend picks didn’t do so well.

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Other items of interest we learned that day include:

1) Contrary to rumors, Walt Disney is not cryogenically frozen. Ted Williams, of baseball fame, is cryogenically frozen (just his head).  You can, and probably should, collect donations online if you feel that one day you should be cryogenically frozen.  The going rates for utilization of this technology are between $10,000 and $200,000 depending on how much of your body you’d like preserved.

2) There is a mythical creature that exists in Africa, mainly the Zulu culture, known as the Tokoloshe.  He is a dwarf-like hairy creature that creates mischief and frightens school children. The existence of the Tokoloshe requires that you should place paint cans or bricks under your bed to raise it high off the ground for safety.

I realize at this point some of you are probably raising your eyebrow slightly over our topics of conversation. To detract from that, I’d like to include some pictures from the Thanksgiving we hosted at our house for Brants birthday.

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Love from South Africa! xoxoxoxo

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Challenge Accepted: Diamonds

I was given three challenges related to diamonds on my list of items to complete while in South Africa.  Paige and Donnie wanted me to visit De Beers Diamond Mine and Jonas wanted me to actually mine one diamond.  I am not quite sure I fulfilled these tasks to perfection, but I will say that I believe my experience counts and I can scratch these items off my list.

A group of us drove about 30 minutes from Pretoria to a small town called Cullinan to tour the Cullinan Diamond Mine.  The mine offers surface tours daily and once per week the surface tour is combined with an underground tour and you can see how the entire mine operates. The underground tour takes you to the lowest working level of the mine, which is over 700 meters underground.

Until 2 years ago, the mine was owned by De Beers, but now it is currently owned by Petra Mines.  The mine produced the largest rough diamond (3106 carats) in the world.  They use a block cave mining technique (click for a video explanation) to extract the diamonds. What I got from the tour is that there are two levels is this method, a drilling level and a production level.  The production level is under the drilling level and all the manual work is completed here. The diamonds are found in a material called kimberlite.

When we arrived at the mine, the guides had us change into a jumper, boots, socks, and a hard hat. Then we watched a short video about the mine history before beginning the first part of the surface tour.   At the top we saw the earth material come out of the ground on conveyor belts and washed.  Then we received more equipment (a head lamp, and an emergency breathing system should we encounter any trouble underground).  Then we got on an elevator and went to the production level over 700 meters below the surface of the earth.  We walked through all the tunnels and our guide showed us the schematic of the mine.  We walked until we reached some exposed kimberlite material which he assured us contained raw diamond. We were allowed to feel it and sort through it but nobody found anything (or at least didn’t confess to finding anything).  Then we turned back and headed up to the surface where we saw the large hole created by the mining process.  On the way back up to the top we rode the elevator with a large group of mine workers and I saw one of them point at my diamond ring and elbow his friend. I don’t know why, but I felt embarrassed. I think when faced with how much earth is dug up and moved around for tiny shiny rocks, I couldn’t help but feel like the entire process was kind of ridiculous.  I’m not saying I don’t like jewelry, it’s just that seeing how far down you have to go, all the drilling and blasting, and all the risk involved just puts a new perspective on it for me.

The most unfortunate part about the day (in my opinion) is that everyone in our group only brought our cellphone cameras to take pictures and we were told that we were not allowed to take our cell phones on the tour for safety reasons.  So I only got 3 pictures to commemorate our day. I passed my email out to several other people on our tour in hopes pictures from their regular cameras would materialize, but they unfortunately did not.  A few in our group thought the tour was too long. It took almost 5 hours.  The guide also didn’t talk very loud, so unless you stayed right up on top of him, you couldn’t hear what he was talking about.  Brant thought it felt a lot like visit his job site so he wasn’t as interested in learning about everything.  I enjoyed it though. It was kind of scary being so far below ground. It was warm and water was everywhere. They spray water all the time to keep the mine clean and the dust down.

Here are the photos I took:

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Here are some pictures from the internet to help you get a visual of our experience:

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If you do want to leave the tour with a diamond, there is a gift shop full of them available for purchase.  While I wouldn’t tour the mine again, I would without a doubt go back to the town of Cullinan itself. It is so cute with lots of restaurants and shops.

Love from South Africa! xoxoxoxo

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Sun City Vacation

Today is the first day of December but I want to talk to you about our Halloween. This year we didn’t really celebrate Halloween with our kids which was a first for us!  Apparently, we could have, as many of the American families set up a trunk or treat. We also learned that some of the local families are trying to adopt the holiday (who doesn’t like free candy?). Instead we traveled a little less than 2 hours from Pretoria to a resort called Sun City with 2 other families for a 3 night vacation.

Sun City is situated adjacent to Pilanesberg Game Reserve. There are several options of places to stay while there. Brant and I planned on staying at the Cabanas initially, but ended up booking at the Palace with the rest of our group. It was slightly more expensive yet it turned out to be entirely worth the price. The Palace was beautiful! Most importantly, it had a heated pool and I actually got in the water!

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We immediately visited the pool upon arrival and relaxed while our group got together. The adults made reservations at one of the restaurants in the hotel and hired the on-site nanny and room-service for the kids. After dinner we climbed to the top of one of the palace turrets and we were able to see the entire resort (and Jupiter- thanks Angie for solving the weekend debate).  Afterwards we headed to the casino where the guys and Jen enjoyed playing roulette while Angie and I struggled to figure out how to work the slot machines.

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The next day Brant and Ben took the kids to the Valley of the Waves. It is a huge water park inside the resort with a wave pool, slides and a lazy river. Another couple went on an elephant-back safari and then did archery. Angie and I got pedicures. 🙂  We all met up by the pool and planned an evening at the Entertainment Center, which as several restaurants, a night club, shops, and an arcade.

On our last day some members of our group did a game drive in Pilanesberg while our family stayed at the resort.  We played mini golf with the kids, saw a petting zoo, and went through a giant maze, where at the finish, you can try out an assortment of craft brews and the kids can get ice cream.  Afterwards, Brant took Hayden to the arcade and I took Natalie swimming.

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On the way out the following day we visited the crocodile farm. It was very interesting and one crocodile even had half of her jaw missing because she got in a fight defending her nest.

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There is so much to do at the resort (the website claims over 100 activities) that it is impossible to get it all done in one trip.  It is a good thing that we had so much fun though, because we would love to go back again!

I’ve only previewed some of our pictures in this post. If you’d like to see a more extensive gallery, click here: Sun City Vacation Photos

Love from South Africa! xoxoxoxo

Posted in Expat- General, making friends, Vacation, What to do in Joburg, What to do in Pretoria | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Way We Talk and What We Miss

There are a lot of differences in the way people talk in South Africa vs back in America.

Before we left America, people would speculate on if our kids would pick up the South African accent.  Of course, we’ve only been here for almost 4 months so it is a little early to answer that question definitively, however, I can say that we all have already changed the way we talk.  There have been enough changes that my friend Jen asks me almost weekly what new phrases the kids are saying.

For example, anytime Natalie sees a diaper she calls it a nappy.  Hayden and Natalie now say that they have to go to the toilet instead of saying potty or bathroom. In fact, if we are out and don’t know where a bathroom is we have to ask “Where is the toilet?” which felt really rude to me at first for some reason! Natalie further clarifies the bathroom talk by saying she has to “wee in the toilet” rather than “pee in the potty.”

Both kids have started calling the yard a garden and a trashcan is now a dust bin. One new thing is that Hayden has started using the word “must” frequently.  Here, people will tell you that you “must do something just now” and it is not a bossy expression, it is just how people communicate with each other. Hayden has picked up on this and will often ask, “What must we do now?” or “Where must we go?”

Often, when addressing his teacher, he and his classmates will say “teacher” instead of Miss Smith (not her real name). I read this is a respect-of-title thing, whereas in the states we would always address by the last name (which here is called a surname, and yes Hayden says that too) or even by the first name in a preschool setting.

Probably the biggest one for me is that I no longer throw the word “really” into a conversation. Instead I replace it with the phrase “is it” (technically spelled izit here) or the word shame.

Example: Brant: I am out of beer.  Jennifer: Is it? Oh shame!

Responding with ‘is it’ came so naturally that I actually had to ask a friend what I said before I said ‘is it’ and she is the one that pointed out that we used the word ‘really.’

Another thing that takes getting used to is the frequent flip flop between telling time in military time or on a 12-hour clock.  When you schedule an appointment or hear the time being told it is often described as being “half past 10” or “quarter past 7.”  But telling time can become very strange. My friend Athena posted on Facebook awhile back where she heard the radio announcer say it was “1 past 20 to 10” and wouldn’t it be more efficient to say 9:41? Her post cracked me up because I remember hearing the same thing in the car it and having to look at my clock to see if I understood correctly. Another friend was commenting that he didn’t think many people here understand the concept of noon, which baffled him because they clearly understood the concept of afternoon.

If your South African friends phone number is 1223444566, they would give it to you like this: 1, double 2, 3, triple 4, 5, double 6.  It drives me crazy and I always have to tell people to slow down when they do that to me.  Shame, my friend Jen has jumped on this bandwagon.  😉  Oh and all phone numbers are 10 digits- I guess similar to area codes back in the states but less regional because you have to give it every time.

I think one of the hardest things to get used to is that there isn’t a store here where you can go and buy everything in one trip. Each grocery store has a slightly different selection and it is virtually impossible to complete your shopping at one place.  At first I thought it was because I cook with American recipes and many of the ingredients are different (you won’t find a can of black beans or re-fried beans. Other items are called something different, for example, cilantro is called coriander here). But I’ve spoken to South Africans who agree that you must make multiple stops to mark off all items on the list.  They adjust by going every few day to the shops and getting what they need. Food is less preserved here so it does go bad more quickly.  I am a once-a-week grocery shopper. I absolutely hate going more than that because it takes me at least 3 hours each week to get a weeks worth of food (and I end up going for an item here or there throughout the week anyway), but I get the bulk of it done in one day. Trying to find comparable ingredients is challenging, and the stores are set up a little differently so items are not where I would assume they should be.  When I come across an American brand I recognize I grab 3 or 4 impulsively   I think it just feels like home. My mom has helped with this by sending a few food care packages. ❤

The looks that I get because my shopping cart is full crack me up. People just don’t do that here and so other shoppers will point at my cart and look at me funny.  I’ve also gotten funny looks when I asked for ground turkey (nobody eats turkey and they don’t have ground chicken either), celery salt, and onion powder. The cashiers always want to ask me about America (my accent plus my full cart gives me away). 

I also miss being able to (at any hour of the day or night) go to a single store and purchase milk, a screwdriver, applesauce, potting soil, Tic-Tacs, and an Almond Joy.  Here, stores close pretty early on the weeknights (7 or 8 at the very latest), and on the weekends they close between 2-4pm.

An odd thing that I miss are window screens. Most of the houses do not have heat or air conditioning.  They say if your house faces north you have the best setup because the breeze and sun works with you to keep your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. I think our house technically faces south, which is pretty much the same thing as facing north. We have been pretty comfortable using just fans and open windows/ doors to keep the house cool. However, there are no window screens or sliding screen doors to keep the bugs out. At night I’ve been attacked by a mosquito or two.  We know several people that have problems with flies. As soon as it gets dark and the lights are on inside the bugs begin invading. The design of the windows makes it hard to create some sort of screen. There are apparently these things you can plug into the wall to repel the mosquitoes but I have not purchased one yet.

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A builder came to my house a month or so ago to repair a place on the roof and was complaining to me about how they are having to start nailing down roof tiles because strong winds blow them off. He was mad because they never used to have to do that and only one or two would blow off all year.  I would have never even considered most of them were not secured properly.

The biggest thing I miss is Daylights Savings Time. It is summer here and the sun is up before 5 am and sets by 7. I miss it being light until after 9pm.

Two weeks ago we finished planting our vegetable garden and are already seeing some sprouts. Hooray! We planted lettuce, red chard, tomato, cucumber, peppers, squash, zucchini, corn, and okra.

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School is winding down for the kids. Their last day is December 4th. Hayden begins kindergarten January 15th. He had his gymnastics awards on Friday and he has concert next Thursday evening. Natalie will be in a Nativity play for her school next week as well.

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Last week I played in another tennis tournament and came in second this time. I won a bottle of champagne and it was fun!

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Today I am cooking a Thanksgiving turkey. The grocery stores by us have started stocking frozen turkeys around this time because there are so many Americans. They look curiously at you when you buy one and tell you that they have no idea how to prepare it. We are having a Thanksgiving/ Brants birthday celebration tonight.  It feels different cooking all of this heavy food when it is 90 degrees outside.  Friends are bringing their family favorites to complete the meal.  I’ll be sure to post lots of pictures later so that you can see we are keeping the American traditions alive!

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Love from South Africa! xoxoxoxo

Posted in Adjusting, cooking, Expat- General, Food in South Africa, Frustrations, relocation | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Swimming and Day Trips

The entire house (except for Brant) has been out of commission all weekend due to illness, but thankfully we appear to be recovering.  Laying around sick has given me time to sync my phone and get some older pictures on the computer to share.

I know I mentioned in my last blog about the kids taking swimming lessons, but I have to share this video:

That was his very first time across the entire pool! We were so proud!

I also want to mention a fun family day trip from either Pretoria or Joburg is to the Irene Dairy Farm.  It is a working farm and they sell goods, including certified raw milk, made directly on the farm. They have a great kids play area plus 2 restaurants. We went with a few other families and had brunch and explored. It was great. Here are some pictures:

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Another little kid friendly activity is to take the kids out to Cedar Junction, located in Pretoria.  When we went they were hosting a craft day.  There were not that many people, but the kids were able to play, ride the train, do a craft, and get some lunch. It was fun!

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Love from South Africa!

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Nelson Mandela Square/ Rooftop Market

Back in September we went on a day trip out to Sandton (a very upscale section of Johannesburg) to visit  Mandela Square.  It is about 45 minutes away from Pretoria.  The square has a very nice shopping mall with great dining options. When we were there the center of the square was converted into a fun beach-theme play zone for the kids.  The highlight though is a giant statue of Nelson Mandela which is a great photo opportunity.

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In the play area there was a man creating an amazing Rhino out of sand to bring awareness to the epidemic of Rhinoceros poaching in Africa.  The Rhinos are on the verge of extinction because some people covet their horns, either for trophies or they believe the horns have medicinal properties.  Poachers will cut off the horn and leave the Rhino to die. It is so sad!

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After lunch we ventured over to the Rosebank Rooftop Market, which as it turns out is just the upper level of a parking garage. BUT, it was still fun to see all of the items the vendors had for sale. Brant really liked haggling for things and I came home with a new cute shirt! 🙂

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In other updates, the kids are still taking swimming lessons and enjoying it. The lessons are 20 minutes long and 2 students per instructor during that time. At first I wondered if they could actually learn anything in 20 minutes but Hayden is really figuring it out.

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We did end up splurging and purchased a heater for the pool.  I think it is a fine investment because we will get more use out of the pool and now we have as long as we are here to use it.

Also, we have not had a power outage in a week! Whooo HOO! Hope I didn’t just jinx myself.

Love from South Africa!

Posted in Expat- General, parenting, relocation, What to do in Joburg | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Technology!!!!

Often, I am asked: “What has been the most difficult part of your transition?” and without any hesitation I can honestly answer that it is cell phone service.

Before we arrived we were warned that it was best to bring an unlocked phone from the States over because unlocked phones here can be very expensive. My US cellphone provider was Verizon Wireless and they told me that my current Samsung cellphone was not globally compatible, so basically it couldn’t be unlocked to work over here. With limited options and time, I went to the iStore and purchased my very first iPhone.   I really didn’t like my iPhone at first but I will admit that it is growing on me.  I especially like the new updates because it makes the phone more Android-esque and feels more comfortable for me.  Anyways, this is not a tech-review blog- so I digress….

To get cellular service here you need to have an ID and proof of residence.  Armed with my new iPhone, my relocation consultant took me to help me set up initial cell service in South Africa.  There are several companies to choose from, and my consultant recommended a company called Cell C because they have good service and cheap rates.   Unfortunately for me, the Cell C store did not have the micro-SIM card required for my iPhone and did not want to cut the SIM card to make it fit- so I was sent to a company called MTN a few stores down. They actually did cut my SIM card and all was well. I left with a new number that was easy to memorize and I felt connected to the world again.

I quickly learned that cell phone service here is very different than in the States. You can either get top-up service (where you buy an airtime voucher and load minutes onto your phone) or you can get a plan. I did not qualify for a plan because you have to have a South African bank account that has been active for 3 months so I got top-up service. To me, this has been so frustrating, especially during the house hunting process. I would be on the phone with an agent or a service provider and all of a sudden a voice would come on the line and say “You have 1 minute of time remaining” and then the call would be disconnected.  What was even more frustrating is that with MTN I could not load airtime onto my phone right then and there (apparently there is a way but when I tried it would not recognize my account- which I assume means that it needs a local bank card number).  I could also not load airtime from the internet with MTN, so I would have to stop whatever I was doing and run out to either the grocery store or gas station to purchase more minutes.  I think they really need to give you a 10 minute warning- I mean how helpful is a 1 minute warning?   Additionally, I learned that the plan service is very different than what we would call a plan in America (where you can get basically unlimited talk, text, and data for around $80). Here plans are billed like land-line phone service- still per minute of talk time- they just don’t cut you off when you run out of minutes).  Depending on the company,  service can be very expensive.  On MTN I went through about $40 in 2 days, but I was on the phone a lot looking for a house (I learned I was on a $0.24/ minute top-up plan- and there are cheaper ones ($0.14/ minute) .

Once we got into our house though, I also learned that MTN did not have very good reception and I wasn’t getting any calls. So I decided two Thursdays ago that I was going to port my number to Cell C ($0.09/min) and say goodbye to MTN forever.

I went and got a package to switch my number (again no micro-SIM but I’d made friends with a guy that owns a store that has a SIM cutter and he cut my card for me).  Porting your number is supposed to take 24 hours, but by Saturday morning it still was not working.  I went in  to see what the problem was and they couldn’t figure it out and suggested waiting another 24 hours and it would 100% work by then.  In the meantime my MTN service had stopped working since I ported my number and I had no way to contact anyone (which is kind of scary in a new country- what if I get lost? or in a wreck?). The man at the store let me have one of his personal Cell C SIM cards cut to fit in my phone and use in the interim (people really are nice and helpful here).  Sunday my card still didn’t work (and of course the store was closed) so I spent all day on the phone with customer service trying to figure it out. They said he had to be a bad SIM card and I should do a SIM swap on Monday.  I went back to the store on Monday and the guy puts my card in a different phone and it works fine. We were stumped, but decided to try the SIM swap anyways. Tuesday it still didn’t work in my phone but worked in 2 other phones. They thought maybe my phone was broken (even though it was working with the borrowed cut SIM card). So I had to go to the iPhone store here and they were stumped as well and suggested I go to a store that specifically had the micro-SIM cards for my phone. Finally, that did the trick and balance was restored in my world (although the owner of the borrowed SIM card called my friend Tyann freaking out looking for me but that has been settled amicably as well. Turns out, his colleague told me he would update him that my phone still didn’t work but forgot).

I hadn’t planned on explaining what happened in that much detail, and I can imagine my mother reading this and saying that I am talking in a foreign language.  Interestingly enough, my power is also a top-up service and I am fine with that. There is a meter in the garage and I can see it every day and know when I am running low and I will have time to go to the grocery store or the gas station to buy a voucher to load electricity onto the meter. With the phone, you can check your balance, but it is harder because I don’t check before every call, but I should probably try and check every other day or so to ensure I have plenty. I should also add that we are still very new here and maybe there are ways to get around the issues I was having and I just didn’t know how to/ had trouble finding solutions. I don’t want to bash any particular company because what works for some may not work for others.

Last week, technology stress was further amplified because about 3 streets (including ours) didn’t have power pretty much for 3 days.  It came back on on Friday and fortunately has stayed on over the weekend, but the big hole they were digging to fix whatever the problem was has not been filled in, so I am curious if they will be back on Monday.  Brant and I have been discussing the expense of a heater for the pool vs a small generator.  I’ll let you know what wins out 🙂 Haha

In other news, we decided not to have a birthday party for the kids. Now that it is almost November (and the birthdays were in September), it just feels late. We have several family members that sent money along for the kids to enjoy a birthday gift. We decided to pool all of the money together and get them a trampoline! They love it and THANK YOU to those who helped make this happen for them ❤

I am throwing in some pictures for your viewing pleasure 🙂

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We recently tried Zebra for the first time. A friend went hunting and brought back all the meat. I thought it tasted like a sirloin steak. I also finally put my Hot and Dangerous sticker on my car from my best friends back home! Miss you ladies!!! xoxoxo!061 062

Love from South Africa!

Posted in Adjusting, budgeting, Expat- General, Frustrations, relocation | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment