The Joys of South African Bureaucracy

I’ve recently been suffering from Africa withdrawal.

As a cure for my blues, I thought I’d reflect on a particularly annoying reminder of South African bureaucracy that keeps coming up time and again, by way of my email inbox:

The SABC has not yet received your television licence payment for the current licence year. Your licence year runs from ... 

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Goodbye Africa

This is it.

The end of the road. And what a glorious road it’s been.

Last week we left the African continent and are now settling into our lives back home (except – where is home?).

We ended it like we began – keeping busy. A last road trip here. A final safari there. A flurry of goodbye parties ... 

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No Regrets

Not only is the year 2012 coming to an end today. Today also marks the end of our family’s life in South Africa. As you’re reading this, we are somewhere en route between Joburg and Tennessee, making a last splash in an undisclosed Middle Eastern location – okay, Dubai, if you must know – before reality sets in again.
Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, August 2012
So forgive me if I feel the need to make some sweeping observations not only about this past year but our entire African adventure. I have no regrets. When we came to Johannesburg in early 2010, we had the benefit of having a prior expat assignment under our belts. That made a huge difference – not so much in terms of navigating a new country but in terms of our attitude towards it and life in general. What I mean is we knew to leave out nothing from the start. I was greatly helped in this by my farsighted husband Noisette, I admit, because I am by nature a couch potato. If there is a computer on my lap, that is. I remember that as an expat novice in Singapore some fifteen years ago I focused all my energies on forging a routine and willing my surroundings to function as I wished. Because that’s what new mothers do. Routine is king and you enslave yourself to it. But the truth is that afterwards you don’t remember the routine. You remember the time you sped over Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river in a water taxi, even though you threw up afterwards from breathing all the diesel fumes. Or you might have thrown up because you were pregnant. You remember the giant waves lapping into your undersized motorboat taking you to some godforsaken island off the Malaysia coast. You remember the time you stood on the highest mountain in New Zealand clutching your two-year old on skis, afraid that he’d be blown right out to sea by that howling wind. You remember feeling transported back in time when touring Pulau Ubin off the shores of Singapore, pedaling your bike with a napping toddler behind you through sleepy Kampongs. Those are the things your remember, and you regret not having done more of them. Because what else will you have one day to look back on than a bunch of memories? So here in South Africa we dove right in from Day One. We went on our first safari with the house still a mess of boxes fresh from the container. We rode in a hot air balloon, in a helicopter, on elephants, on dune buggies, and on camels. Put endless hours in noisy and bouncy safari vehicles under our belts for the privilege to watch lions, giraffes, buffalos, elephants, impala, waterbuck, rhinos, hippos, zebras, wildebeests, and even a leopard. Toured Soweto. Went into the notorious no-go zone of Alexandra, many times. Drove women and their firewood through Diepsloot. Visited Cape Town. And Durban. And Umhlanga Rocks. Had the most glorious food and wine in Franschhoek. Explored Mozambique, Mauritius,Zanzibar, Victoria Falls, Botswana. Watched our eldest fling himself from the Bloukrans bridge on a bungy cord and from an airplane with a parachute. Saw African penguins in the wild. Swam in the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Okavango. Paddled down the Zambezi. Went into a cage in the freezing Atlantic to come face to face with Great White Sharks. Were kissed by elephants. Dangled from ziplines over the Tsitsikamma forest.

 ... 

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The Last Time

I’ve been driving around my beloved Joburg almost in a daze this past week, running last minute errands. Everywhere I turn I seem to come across a sight which has me catching my breath.

Like the view of the Magaliesberg in the distance, especially after a rain clearing all the dust, when driving ... 

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Making Memories

Our moving date is inevitably drawing nearer, although I’m doing a pretty good job of banning the reality of it from my mind. Goodbye parties and coffees and brunches have come and gone and still I haven’t uttered a single goodbye to anyone, settling instead on vague I’ll-probably-see-you-next-week’s instead.

I’m terrible at saying goodbye.

What has kept me from getting too depressed is the simple fact that I’ve been incredibly busy.

Those parties and brunches have had to be organized.
Pictures from those parties and brunches have had to be processed.
Course descriptions and grades ... 

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Africa: The Rhythm of Life

I’ve written about my love of Africa before. The natural beauty of the landscapes. The incredibly friendly and cheerful people. The stunning skies, particularly at sunrise and sunset.

But at the top of the list of things to love about Africa has to be its music.

From the time you set foot on African soil until the time you leave, you are surrounded by music.

You might pass a nondescript classroom on a Sunday, dropping your kids off at school for some event, and the most beautiful ... 

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Africa

Back in graduate school, about a lifetime ago, I remember meeting a student by name of Rahul. He was Indian, in name and appearance, but from Africa, as he would quickly point out when asked about his origins. He was something of a free spirit, not fitting into any mold you might try to find for ... 

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Back Home

Just a quick post to tell you that we’re back in Johannesburg, where a day of bright sunshine is just as sure as a power outage while you’re gone. Thank goodness Sibu, our domestic, checked everything while we were gone, or we’d now be dealing with a very smelly freezer oozing all ... 

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