Safari as Food

I recently came across this picture in a Johannesburg supermarket (thanks Bing!):

So I thought I should match each of those pate cans with pictures I took of the actual animals you’ll be eating:


 You’ll have to imagine the chicken.

Christmas in Joburg and Where to Find a Tree

I’m a bit slow getting geared up for Christmas this year. It’s hard to think about the festive season when you are woken up by birdsong every morning, another day of 80 degrees of sunshine stretching ahead of you. There is just not much of a Christmas atmosphere in Johannesburg, which people have fled in droves to spend their summer breaks somewhere else, partying on a nice beach, most likely. We ourselves have just come back from a fabulous week in Mauritius, which is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. So for once I’m not feeling very stressed about my Christmas to-do list, even though daunting questions beckon, like how can you get all those presents without Amazon, will your Christmas lights work with 220 volts, and where on Earth do you find a Christmas tree in Johannesburg?

Maybe I’ve embraced The African Way more than I realize. I’ve cursed the exhausting and frustrating “Welcome to Africa” side of it, which those of you reading this blog will have heard plenty about. But there is also a very relaxing ...  Continue Reading

From Furniture Store to Street Market and the Art of Haggling

When our container shipment arrived in March, it brought instant bliss to the kids, who loved having all their long-missing possessions dumped in huge piles in their rooms, and instant stress to me, looking at a mountain of stuff that needed to be assigned to new locations in a house that is completely different from the previous one. Such is the life of a family on the move. Yet it always amazes me how quickly you become settled. Six months later, all this frustration is forgotten. The stuff is all organized (lots of it banned to the remotest cupboard corners, making you wonder why you own it in the first place), the pictures are hung (although that’s almost another blog topic in itself – hammering a nail into this brick here is nothing like hammering a nail into American dry wall; we ended up having to drill the holes, generating clouds of dust, then placing the nails in the holes; a lengthy project as it involves power tools and is therefore the domain of Noisette, who has no time for it during the week and no stomach for it during weekends). Our life is now back to normal – deciding on a dinner  menu, organizing play dates, watching sporting events, going to the movies. But the one corner of the house that has continued to bug me, day in day out,  is our entrance way. South African houses – forgive me if I generalize – are completely devoid of linen or coat closets. Our bedrooms have closets, but after years of training your kids to take off their shoes upon entering the house, you cannot get them to carry them up to their rooms. It simply won’t work. Therefore, I had to live with a huge pile of shoes, right next to our front door, for the last six months.  Almost immediately I set out to find a solution, some sort of coat rack/cubby combination I so love in the Pottery Barn catalogs, but alas, there is neither a Pottery Barn nor an IKEA in South Africa. I scoured many furniture stores in the northern suburbs of Joburg, from prohibitively expensive to affordable, without much luck. I did see some beautiful furniture, don’t get me wrong, just nothing in terms of shoe organization that would also look attractive in our foyer. From Wetherlys  (not my taste) to Furniture Warehouse (basic), Sutherlands (nice selection, both indoor and patio), @home  (terrific modern design but expensive), Coricraft, Weilandts (beautiful and eclectic wooden furniture), Patio Warehouse (biggest outdoor selection we could find), Boardmans (in my mind the most practical and affordable selection), Mr. Price Home (best value but also limited selection, reminds me of Target), even Gumtree (the South African equivalent of Craigslist), I had no luck. I found affordable curtains at Mr. Price Home, nice barstools (the kind that moves up and down, thrilling the kids to no end) at Boardmans, very nice fake wicker outdoor furniture at Patio Warehouse, but still no shoe solution.
Bryanston Street Market

The breakthrough, as is so often the case, came when I had stopped looking, in the unlikeliest of places. I was driving down William Nicol, looking for the African craft street market on the way to Sandton (at the corner of William Nicol and Main, where you take a slight left towards Sandton and a ...  Continue Reading

Searching for Applesauce in Johannesburg

I’d like to shed a few more thoughts on local food, or, rather, the process of acquiring it. It’s the weirdest things I have trouble finding here in South Africa. I wouldn’t have been offended if there was no Nutella, or lemongrass, or Tahini, or any kind of ethnic food. Yet those things are surprisingly easy to find in most supermarkets, while other items I consider staples have been on my iPhone Grocery IQ app for months, without any luck.

Applesauce is one of those items. How can an entire country not know about applesauce? A country practically founded by farmers (boers) no less? When I finally hunted down a jar of applesauce, it was no bigger than a small can of tomato paste, and the applesauce was indeed a sauce, very soupy. ...  Continue Reading

African Crafts

It is Sunday and I’m heading to the Rosebank Rooftop Market. It is a flea market par excellence where you’ll find the gaudy and useless, but also a huge collection of African crafts. Stalls upon stalls of wares, some out in the open and some inside, all of it, as the name suggests, crammed onto the roof of Rosebank Mall. They simply sell everything: Wooden masks, drums, spears, paintings, clothing, incense, soap, spices, figurines made from beads, stone carvings, woven grass baskets, cheese, painted ostrich eggs, and, of course, vuvuzelas. Last time we were there I got suckered into acquiring an ironing board cover “your maid will love” by a fast talking salesman.  

It’s a great Sunday outing for the whole family where you’ll enjoy the hustle and bustle of a vibrant market and good food. You might even catch a dancing performance as seen below.

  And by the way, my domestic, who I didn’t hire until after I originally wrote this post, does indeed love the ironing board cover. This article is part of Joburg Expat’s What To Do in Joburg series.

Frustration Revisited

*** Note: I have since been able to find both Swim-Ear and electric toothbrushes, even rubbing alcohol which is called surgical spirits, at a large pharmacy chain called Dis-Chem. ***

Things had been looking up quite a bit, over 2 weeks into our life here, but now I feel like venting again. (Read ...  Continue Reading

The Second Shopping Trip

School Uniforms:

Today was a Saturday, which meant that we’d have our own car (or actually, a rental car, a little old Toyota, because the company car hasn’t materialized yet either) which we would have to cram into for a trip to Fourways Shopping Centre and the school uniform store. The name of ...  Continue Reading

The First Shopping Trip

Imagine being in a store you’ve never been to before (Woolworth’s, also called Woolly by the locals, with probably your best quality groceries in Johannesburg, but more on that later), with about 1 hour’s time and a 2-page shopping list to start a new ...  Continue Reading