Zimbabwe: We celebrate with you but now we hold our breath….

With so much happening in the world this year, it takes something really special to break through the Trump/Brexit/EU/Germany/Syria/North Korea bubble. But something did and it dominated the news here in the UK for days this week: Zimbabwe.

We in the UK are probably seeing more of it than elsewhere because Zim is a Commonwealth country and one we have always had an interest in. But also I think it was so high up the news agenda simply because, for once, it was good news. Good news that was reflected in the cheering and dancing and smiles and partying of what looked like the entire nation. It was hard not to cheer and dance along with them, and who didn’t wish they could have been on the streets of Harare last night (21st November) for what looked like the party of the century?

But as the dancing slows and the clean-up begins, as people start to go back to work, get on with the normal day-to-day life of living in a country that has been bankrupted by corruption, the big question on everyones minds is: what happens now?

I of course have a special interest in Zimbabwe because as well as meeting lots of Zimbabweans living in South Africa, I have relatives living there – who I was lucky enough to visit earlier this year. It was a very special visit, different from all our other adventures in Southern Africa, and one I will always remember. Because I was staying with my relatives I was able to really experience life as a local (locals who are better off than most in that country but nevertheless living with the same shortages as everyone, the same questionable future, the same problems getting money from the bank or finding work). It was only a short stay but I really felt like I was able to get under the skin of the country and the one thing I understood, loud and clear, was how desperately the people of Zimbabwe, whatever their background, wanted change.

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Here I am trying not to get crushed in Zimbabwe earlier this year

And now it seems change is coming. I am sure that the euphoria of the last few days will soon give way to something more reflective, as people start to wonder who will replace Mugabe in both the short and the longer term. Will something better come in his place? Will the elections next year be free and fair? Will the much-needed investment in the country come?

All they – and I – can hope is that at last the time has come for the people of Zimbabwe to be able to hope again. Hope for a better future. Hope that democracy can be replaced. That the land can flourish again. Tourism can return. It’s a big hope in this day and age where everywhere we look things fall apart. But right now we all need some hope.

Zimbabwe, for the sake of us all: rise again.

Happy New Year and a Monkey in a Toilet

I realise things have been a bit quiet around here….but what with Christmas, travelling and now trying to catch up on all the work that has been sadly neglected for the past few weeks I have been pretty busy. I hope to get back to the blog asap and have some nice interviews and ideas brewing but in the meantime I wanted to do two things. First wish you a

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And secondly just share a little taster of our travels over the holiday period – one of those unexpected moments that will hopefully make you smile as much as it did me:

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Yes – that is a monkey with his head stuck in a toilet!

I hope you all enjoyed your breaks (if you got one….) and see you soon x

 

Stories from Blogging Africa #3

We’re back!

After a wintersummer (it’s winter here in the southern hemisphere but Frances, my Africa linky partner, is up in Kenya so summer for her) of fun and indulgence it’s time to roll up our sleeves, spit on our hands and get back to work. And this means another Stories from Blogging Africa link-up!

In case you’ve missed our first two linkys, this is a chance for anyone, anywhere in Africa who blogs to share their work. We don’t care what your blog is about, whether it’s travel or literature or expat life or politics or even sport – all we ask is that you either in Africa or write about Africa. In fact, the more diverse the better – see this as a great way to discover things about this great continent that are as yet totally unknown to you.

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What can be more African than an African elephant?

If you want to know what a link-up is and how it works first of all take a look at our earlier linkys – HERE and HERE. You will be taken to a page where you can click on a variety of blogs. Have a read and please, please if possible leave a comment, give it a like, let people know you have visited. This only works if people visit each others blogs.

So if you want to join in all you have to do is write a new blog post or pick one that is already published, grab the badge below and add it to your post with a link to this site , click on the frog link below and then simply follow the instructions to add your post. Happy posting – I look forward to reading your Stories from Blogging Africa and, please, don’t forget to check out the other posts in the link-up.

Are you a blogger in Africa?

Calling all bloggers in Africa! Or even bloggers who aren’t in Africa but write about Africa!

The next Stories from Blogging Africa link-up will be out this WEDNESDAY. Yes, you heard that right, this WEDNESDAY. August 24th. Only three days away.

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Soweto market

If you haven’t participated before, this is a very simple link-up for anyone who blogs in or about Africa. All you have to do is have a post ready to go on Wednesday, add it to the page, check out the other posts (and hopefully like/comment) and voila! You’re done. See, couldn’t be simpler.

But in case you are still confused, here are the links to the two previous link-ups we’ve already done – this one from May and then this one from June.

And yes, we did miss July but it was the long holidays, we were travelling, life got in the way…..

Please comment below if you have any questions but otherwise, I hope to see you on Wednesday! Happy blogging folks.

A Day in My Expat Life: Zambia

Today’s Day in My Expat Life comes to you from sunny Zambia. I am still on holiday in the UK and really starting to miss the sights and sounds of Africa so have enjoyed looking through these photos.

In this entry to my series, Annie Wright of A Wright Adventure (also on Facebook and instragram at awrightadventure) takes us through a day with her three beautiful boys, from sun up to sun down. I can hear those cicadas and smell that dusty road from here!

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6:30 : Sun rise walk / run to drop big boys of at school bus.

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7:00 : Breakfast with my baby blue. Although most of his seems to go on the floor.

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8:00 : Baby blue gets as many toys out as possible!

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10:00 : Outside play with Baby blue. Picking our strawberries.

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12:30 : Pick up middle man from nursery. Red dirt roads and Blue skys.

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14:00 : Lego boy comes home on the bus and bounces with Baby Blue.

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17:45 : Beautiful sun set but it means it is time for insect replant.

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18:00 : Homework time.

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19:15: Lego boy reads me a bed time story.

If you want to read more Day in My Expat Life entries then please click here – and let me know if you would like to feature in this series!

Stories from Blogging Africa #2

Welcome to the second Blogging Africa link-up – this time hosted by my friend Frances over at her blog Africa Expat’s Wives Club. We were so pleased to have so many great posts on the last link-up and hope we can repeat this success this time.
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Beautiful African jacarandas in Pretoria

If you are blogging from this continent and would like to join the ‘party‘, then please click on  http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=2699 .  All you need to do is click on the blue froggy to add a link your post (with a photo). Then grab the image code to place the Stories from Blogging Africa image link on the relevant post on your blog.
As you know, the idea is that we share the love by reading each other’s stories and leaving nice comments. This way we share/boost each other’s traffic and raise awareness of one another’s fab websites!
Please do let me know if you need anymore info, if not, see you there!

Stories from blogging Africa link-up #1

Welcome to the first ever Stories from Blogging Africa link-up!

Started by two expat bloggers – me, here in Pretoria South Africa and Frances of the Africa Expats Wives Club in Nairobi, Kenya – we thought this would be a great way to meet other bloggers on the continent and find out a bit more about what life is like in other African countries.

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The beauty of Africa

For those new to link-up’s, this is a place to post links to posts written by you on your own blog all with a common theme (in this case Africa). You can then visit as many other blogs as possible to see what others have written about. This is a great way to hopefully get to know some new bloggers and find out about life elsewhere on this amazingly diverse continent.

We are keeping this link-up as flexible as possible to start with and the only rules are that your posts should not be offensive nor should they be pure advertising. We will remove any that do not follow these two guidelines.

Otherwise all we want from you is an African related post, whether it be about your life, about politics, or wildlife or travel; whether it be in story-form or a photographic post – so long as it conveys something about the continent. Although you are not obliged to read any other posts, it will be a very boring link-up if everyone just posts and runs so our suggestion is to at least visit the two host’s posts and two or three others.

Please grab the badge below to add to the bottom of you post and link it back to this page and then add your post by clicking on the froggy link at the bottom. Let me know in the comments section if you are experiencing any problems – this is the first time we have done this so I apologise now for any technical hiccups! Otherwise I look forward to reading your stories 🙂

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Bloggers in Africa – we want you!

Are you a blogger? Do you live in Africa? Then please join a brand-new link-up starting later this month.

From Angola to Zimbabwe, Algeria to Zambia we want you writers and photographers from all over the continent to share a bit of your life with us. The idea for a link-up specifically for bloggers in Africa started when I began corresponding with Frances who runs the wonderful Africa Expat Wives Club – which, for those of you who don’t already know isn’t a club at all but a very insightful blog about life in Kenya. Looking for a way to better connect with other writers on the continent I suggested a blog link-up and the idea rolled from there.

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This is my African world – but what’s yours?

The idea will be to link up on a monthly basis with ANY Africa-related post, whether it be funny, serious, political, photographic…even a poem or short story is welcome, in fact the only rules really are that the post mustn’t be offensive and we don’t accept posts that are pure advertising. A new post would be great, but if you don’t have something relevant written recently then an old post is good too.

The first link-up will be on Wednesday May 25th and we hope to continue monthly from there, alternating between this blog and the Africa Expat’s Wives Club. If you want to join in then all you need to do is leave your contact below – either email or twitter name, or email me directly at clara@expatpartnersurvival.com and we will remind you closer to the date!

A sojourn in Mauritius

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The spectacular mountains of volcanic Mauritius

Eagle-eyed readers of this blog will have noticed a bit of tumble-weed blowing through its environs recently. No I haven’t given up altogether (although exciting ventures elsewhere have been keeping me busy) but one of the reasons things have been so quiet is that we have been on holiday.

On holiday, I hear you cry. Isn’t life as an expat in South Africa one long holiday? Well yes you have a point, we do get to travel a lot while we live here – and hell, if you lived in the most beautiful country in the world (trademark) wouldn’t you do your best to see as much of it as possible?

However, travelling and holidaying are two different concepts and what we really needed was a proper break. A time to be able to do nothing, to not move an inch from the sunbed should we chose, to totally re-charge our batteries. Unfortunately we do of course have two very active pre-teens so this total relaxation was never going to happen. But all the same, we wanted to get away somewhere really beautiful and life-enhancing for a fantastic fun-filled family vacation and Mauritius fits the bill completely. It’s also only 4.5 hours flight from Johannesburg, which of course helps!

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There’s nothing like a sun-drenched beach to lighten your mood.

Mauritius is one of those countries that most people simply associate with holidays and little else – a bit like one of the many Caribbean islands dominated by resorts geared up to doing nothing more than sipping rum and dipping the occastional toe in a pool. However, just like many of those Caribbean islands, dig a little deeper and there is actually a fascinating history to this island involving pirates, runaway slaves, a mish-mash of cultures which altogether add up to a very unique identity, a famous now-extinct bird (the dodo) and a man called Peter Pepper (yes, really!). But we weren’t really here for the history and culture, fascinating as it was – we were here for the sea, sun, sand and (remember, kids involved) snorkelling!

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Under the sea…is where we want to be….

It is hard to chose a resort on an island like Mauritius because there are so many of them and most of them looked fantastic. I know people who have gone rogue and stayed in self-catering houses on the island and this also looks like a lovely option for some real rest and relaxation. However for this, our official “breather break” from South Africa, we wanted to stay somewhere where we really didn’t have to lift a finger. In the end we settled on the Ravenala Attitude, part of the Attitude chain and a newly refurbished hotel.

The Ravenala is not paying me for this review (unless they wish to do so retrospectively….contact me tab above….) so I can say anything I like but in all honesty it was a fabulous resort. There were issues and you can read my review on TripAdvisor, but the pluses far out-weighed the minuses and I would both recommend it and return to it. In particular, the staff were outstanding and made us all (especially the children) feel as welcome as it is possible to feel. Clientele were a little mixed – we were out of season so there weren’t many families, with honeymooning couples taking up most of the room on the sun-loungers. But this mattered not a jot, we were still treated like royalty by waiters, bar-staff, room cleaners, the dive crew and sports guys as well as pretty well everyone else we met.

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Sun-loungers waiting for the childless honeymooners to arrive…

The main reason we picked Ravenala was because it offered us as a family what we wanted – a family suite so we didn’t have to book two rooms (which would have racked the cost up considerably), lots of activities, and good choices of restaurants. As well as snorkelling, we spent the week on the sea on various vessels including a glass-bottom boat, kayaks, pedaloes, stand-up paddle boards, water-skies and lasers (small sailing boats which capsize easily….). On the land we played badminton, beach tennis, petanque and table-tennis (ish). When we fancied a dip we had both the ocean and several large pools to chose from. And of course there was plenty of choice when it came to needing a drink to quench that thirst – although this being a sugar island, that choice mostly revolved around rum for the grown-ups.

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Rum shack!

Our favourite activity though was under the sea. I learnt to dive more than 15 years ago and reached over 100 dives before our five year break in the UK (where diving was off the menu thanks to a non-tropical climate). Having completed a refresher course here in Pretoria a couple of weeks before our holiday, dusted down our wetsuits and polished our masks we were ready to go. The hotel has a new dive centre attached so it was super easy to book a package of six dives shared between me and my husband, plus a couple of try-dives in the pool for the kids. Which turned out to be a great success because our 10-year-old daughter went on to do not only one but two dives in the sea and loved it!

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Daughter number one on her first ever open water dive.

The reason this was such a huge success for us was because, despite living on a Caribbean island as a child, she has never liked beaches or salt water which has been a bit of a struggle for the rest of our sea-loving family (my younger daughter, at eight, is still too young for a sea dive but snorkels like a pro and enjoyed her dive in the pool).

Diving, for anyone who hasn’t tried it, seems like a faff while you are above water but as soon as you get below the surface can be one of the most relaxing things you can do. I liken it to a session of yoga or meditiation – you drift around looking at beautiful things with just your thoughts for company (you do of course dive in a group or with a buddy but as you can’t talk it can feel very peaceful). On some dives the excitement does rack up with sightings of sharks, large rays or other “big things” but the coral reef diving we did around Mauritius wasn’t that sort of dive. Lots of fish life and plenty to look at but it was never going to be one of those “Top Ten” dives. Just very relaxing, very beautiful and very de-stressing.

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Wreck dive

Sadly all good things come to an end and after a week of indulgence we settled in for one last evening on the beach, rum cocktails in hand. And luckily for us, the island decided we deserved a fabulous sunset on our final day – watching this spectacular show was a wonderful way to end our week away and will stay in our memories for years to come.

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So now we’re back in South Africa and I am trying to catch up with everything, I hope to be able to get back to some sort of blogging routine soon. Which, if everything goes to plan, will include a new link-up for expat bloggers in Africa – so watch this space!

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We should have been in a hot air balloon…..

This post was meant to be about our hot air balloon flight. The one I booked months and months ago for my husband’s “big” birthday. The one we had been looking forward to since arriving in South Africa in early August.

It was meant to be but it won’t be – because we didn’t go. So instead this post will be about how we learnt about Mrs Ples, Little Foot and their friends, ate a LOT of meat, and didn’t go in a hot air balloon ride.

A LOT of meat...

A LOT of meat…

The weekend started in the usual fashion with long drawn out coffee drinking for the adults and Minecrafting for the kids. In other words, we didn’t have the usual scramble to get ready for the 6.45am school bus. Ah, don’t you love weekends? However, as nice as this was, the weather was putting a slight dampner on things – having had nothing but bright sparkly sun and clear blue skies from the moment we landed at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg just over a month ago, the weather gods had obviously decided we’d had enough perfect weather for now and sent some rain our way. And I don’t just mean “some” rain – I mean a HECK of a lot of rain. Non-stop downpour. Raining cats and dogs. You get the picture. As well as a huge thunder and lightning storm on Thursday night just to emphasise that they really did mean business.

However, I had been reassured by the Air Balloon company that everything would be calm and sunny again by (very) early Sunday morning and we would be able to fly. I figured they knew what they were talking about, they do this sort of thing every day, so we were still feeling fairly relaxed at this point.

After the coffee and the Minecrafting, we did a bit of packing and were finally on our way just before lunchtime – stopping by my husband’s office on the way out of town to pick up an umbrella (remember: our shipment of heavy baggage still hadn’t arrived at this point, so we didn’t have any of our own in the house).

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Our destination that morning was the Cradle of Humankind, a paleanothological goldmine of fossils and ancient finds that makes the area one of the most important in the entire world when it comes to working out how we evolved and whether there actually is a “missing link” between us and our possible-ancestors the Apes. [edited to say: since writing this paragraph, there has been worldwide news about the latest finds in the Cradle of Humankind, which is all very exciting!]. We headed first to the museum where, after a lunch looking out over the fairly non-descriptive “veld”  that dominates the area (think long, yellow grass) , we headed down a steep stairs and took a boat into the “mists of time”.

The grassy veld - walking over history in the Cradle of Humankind

The grassy veld – walking over history in the Cradle of Humankind

Okay, Disneyworld it was not but it was fun and the museum itself was full of interesting and interactive displays. Plus, we got to learn about how we are apparently all descended from the one type of humanoid ape that survived. Apparently there were others like us who didn’t make it. It’s really fascinating, especially when you are learning all about in the place where it all began. But eventully after the museum we headed off to a very nice hotel called Misty Hills, where we had a thatched roofed bathroom INSIDE our rooms! I kid you not.

Had the weather been good, the hotel would have been lovely – pools, play areas, lots of hanging plants, swinging seats and hidden little nooks. Not to mention hot chocoalate and marshmallows at check-in! However, the weather still WASN’T good and we ended up driving the 100 metres or so to the restaurant that evening because otherwise we would have turned up soaked to the skin. Even with the umbrella…

Anyway, the restaurant was worth the drive. It was a very special restaurant called Carnivore. You may have heard of it’s Kenyan sister, the original Carnivore – where a friend of mine tells me there was elephant on the menu! Well, there certainly was no elephant on this Carnivore’s menu, but there was zebra, giraffe, lots of antelopy things (kudu, springbok, gemsbok etc) and a lot of more normal meat like lamb, pork and beef. All brought to you on long skewers by waiters circling the restaurant, doling out their fare to every table with a flag still raised.

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The meat was all cooked on a central fire, delicious smells emanating…

My husband is a huge meat fan and was in his element. The rest of us did our best to keep up – some of the meat really was fabulous (my top three: lamb, gemsbok, spingbok samosa); some was more of a novelty (incuding the giraffe and zebra. I could only bring myself to try a tiny bit of the giraffe. I really like giraffes!).

Vegetarians, look away now...

Vegetarians, look away now…

Finally after a meal as well as all the mean also included some delicious freshly baked bread, a variety of small salads, baked potatoes, the Southern African speciality “pap” (a sort of maize porridge), a pudding apiece and a special Carnivore cocktail called Dawa, we admitted defeat and lowered our flag. I think we were finally all-meated out!

We made our way back to the room and knowing we had a very early start, headed to bed. Luckily the children were tired form the long day and all the meat-eating, so we were all soon asleep…..

…only to be woken what seemed like no time later by our alarms. Half past four am, we were up and half way into our clothes when I thought I had better check my phone. It seemed to have stopped raining but it was still too dark to see what the weather was actually doing outside. Good thing I did. Yes, you’ve guessed it, the balloon ride was cancelled! To say I was disappointed would be a massive understatement. I booked this special trip months ago, and the weather had been so perfect up until this weekend! We undressed, got back into bed and went back to sleep.

It turned out that the problem wasn’t so much the rain as the “moisture in the air”. In other words, it was foggy. I just wish they had thought to cancel the night before – they must have known it was unlikely to go ahead!

So the next morning instead of heading off to the balloon we headed off to a massive breakfast to compensate for our disppointment. And yes, we should have still been too full from the night before to eat much – but the food was very good!

The weekend ended with a visit to the Sterkfontein Caves, which was a fun and informative trip down underground where the children learned more about how and why fossilised remains are found in the caves, how stalagmites are formed and why it’s not wise to go cave-diving unless you REALLY know what you are doing! We really enjoyed the tour, the guide was friendly and funny and the children enjoyed crawling through some of the small tunnels. But it still wasn’t hot air ballooning.

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So since returning to Pretoria, we have rebooked the balloon for early October We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the weather will behave this time and we’ll finally be able to go up, up and away….in our beautiful balloon. And if it doesn’t work out this time I know we’ve really done something to madden the weather gods. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

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