I launched 2Summers about six months ago and I’m nearing 10,000 hits. (If I’m lucky, I might reach 10,000 after publishing this post.) It’s a small feat, I know, but reaching that milestone is a pretty cool thing for a regular person like me.

More than a fourth of those 10,000 hits happened on one day in November, when a post about my trip to Swaziland was featured in “Freshly Pressed” on the WordPress homepage. I was so overwhelmed when that happened that I never thanked WordPress for choosing me, so I’ll do that now. I also want to thank everyone who read, subscribed to, and commented on my blog that day and in the following days. And lastly, thanks to the old-timers who’ve been reading 2Summers from the beginning.

Blogging has become a major part of my life over the last six months. I don’t write about this much, but I’ve dealt with a lot of uncertainty and fear since I arrived in Joburg and blogging has been a therapeutic way of dealing with that. It helps me to feel like I’m in control of my life and gives me a sense of purpose. So, thanks to all of you for encouraging me to keep going. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)

One of the unexpected benefits of this experience is that I’ve discovered many other great blogs that I now read religiously. (You can check out my favorites under “Blogroll” in the right column of this page.) One of those is South Africa — A Love/Hate Story. The author, Tilly Bud, writes beautiful poems about the mix of happiness, sadness, frustration, and wonder that she felt while living in South Africa in the 1980s and 90s.

In honor of Tilly Bud’s blog, and in celebration of my six-month/10,000-hit milestones, here is a random list of things that I’ve come to love and hate about living here. I’ve accompanied the list with photos that I like but haven’t found a purpose for until now.

We came upon this video shoot on the Melville Koppies one evening. I have no idea what it was for — maybe a South African version of The Hills?

I love living in Melville. It’s a wacky, edgy place, inhabited by a variety of interesting characters. We have an amazing National Heritage Site, the Melville Koppies, right in our backyard. The view of the Joburg skyline from the Koppies takes my breath away every time.

Melville is the kind of place I’ve always yearned to live in. I know that my blog makes it sound cool and quirky and romantic, which it is. But like every other part of Joburg, it can also be a hard place to live. Crime is a very real danger. Security guards carrying sub-machine guns patrol the neighborhood. Our windows have bars and our house is surrounded by a high wall and an electric fence. Despite these deterrents, a couple of months ago two guys managed to jump over the wall, run through the property, and escape over the other side, carrying a bicycle they stole from the house next door. They were never caught.

Even the Koppies aren’t really safe to visit alone. I sometimes take a quick jog through there but I’m always looking over my shoulder. (The Koppies also contain natural dangers. A couple of days ago, Joe and I were up there admiring some cool-looking rocks. “Don’t panic,” Joe said, “But there is a very large scorpion next to your foot.” The scorpion was six inches long and poised to strike. I managed to spring away unscathed but I don’t think I’ll run alone on the Koppies anymore.)

Panda, the dog next door.

Johannesburg is a dog-friendly city — just about every house has at least one. I LOVE dogs. But here, it seems that many people don’t walk their dogs — instead they keep them cooped up, day and night, in fenced-in or walled-in yards. Dogs who don’t get walked, and who are trapped behind walls all day, tend to bark. A lot.

The dog next door, a Scottie named Panda, is a good illustration. He’s adorable and sweet. But as far as I know he has never been walked, and Panda is not happy about this. He barks insanely loudly from dawn until dusk. Then Joe gets mad and starts yelling obscenities over the wall and it becomes an altogether unpleasant situation.

I might start a dog-walking business to remedy this problem.

A typical Joburg street. It’s lined by high walls and trees, like every other Joburg street.

Joburg is chock-full of winding, tree-lined streets. (Joburg is the world’s largest man-made forest.) These residential streets are beautiful and pleasant to drive on. But I’ve been here for almost six months and I still can’t find my way to the grocery store. The streets all look the same. All the houses have walls around them so there are no landmarks. Street names are often missing, or painted on the curb where I don’t see them.

Worst of all is my hemispheric confusion. I recently looked at a map and realized that I thought east was west and north was south. Apparently the position of the sun has been throwing me off and my sense of direction wasn’t very good to begin with.

It’s for this and several other reasons that I still haven’t gotten brave enough to drive alone here. More on that in a future post.

Joe on a recent visit to the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens.

I love Joe. There’s no flip side to this one. And Joe deserves just as much credit for 2Summers as I do.

Without Joe (aside from the fact that I probably wouldn’t be here at all), my photos would suck and my Afrikaans spellings would be wrong. Most importantly, Joe shows me facets of South Africa that I would never be able to discover on my own. He inspires me every day.

Thanks Joe.

A pic I took a few months ago at a park in Pretoria. It wasn’t a very good photo until Joe worked his PhotoShop magic on it.

My favorite hibiscus bush in the neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Joe.

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