Periodically, “awards” (otherwise known as chain letters) circulate through the blogosphere. One blogger nominates another for, say, “The Most Fabulous Blogger” award. That blogger writes a post accepting the award, says a few witty things about how honored she is to be considered fabulous, then nominates a number of other bloggers for the same award. The nominees are “encouraged” to respond, usually with threats of low traffic and bad juju for those who abstain (all in good fun, of course).

I’ve been nominated for such awards a couple of times, but never formally accepted my nominations. I certainly appreciated the recognition, but felt that my acceptance posts would be boring and incomprehensible to my non-blogging readers.

I was nominated for this award last year. It took several Google searches to figure out what “memetastic” means.

But now there is an award going around that I actually like, called “7 Links”. Bloggers sift through their archives and choose their favorite posts in seven categories, then nominate other bloggers to do the same. I love finding out what other bloggers consider to be their own best posts, and have been chomping at the bit to go through the 2Summers archive and select my own 7 Links.

I waited patiently for a nomination, but for a long time none came. (Probably due to the bad karma I received by not responding to my previous award nominations.) Through subtle persuasion, I finally finagled a 7 Links nomination from my friend Clare at Earth Travel Unlimited. (Read Clare’s 7 Links post.) Thanks Clare! Here goes.

Most Beautiful Post

I’ve had the privilege of blogging about many beautiful things. But for my most beautiful post, I choose The Mean Streets of Hillbrow. Many South Africans think Hillbrow — once a middle-class cultural center, now an urban slum — is too dangerous and trashed to even consider visiting. But when I went there a few months ago on my first Joburg Photowalk, I discovered a unique beauty that I hadn’t found anywhere else in Africa. The buildings are beautiful (although most are in disrepair). The colorful food and goods for sale on every corner are beautiful. The graffiti is beautiful. The people are beautiful — just look at the pictures.

Hillbrow kids.

My perspective is different from that of most locals because I didn’t live here during Hillbrow’s “heyday”. But I hope my post helps to show people that Hillbrow possesses a different kind of beauty today than it did 25 years ago. It’s part of Joburg’s heritage and shouldn’t be forgotten or ignored.

My Most Popular Post

Daytripping Around the Cape, which was Freshly Pressed by WordPress, has received more hits by far than any other 2Summers post. It’s about a day trip that my mother and I took around the Cape Peninsula during a visit to Cape Town last summer. I love the fact that my mom stars in this post, which has been read by thousands of people around the world.

Clifton Beach, on the outskirts of Cape Town.

It’s clear why this post is my most popular. The Cape is a magical place and I was able to capture some of that magic in my photos and words. I’m grateful that so many people have enjoyed reading about this special day that I spent with my mom.

My Most Controversial Post

I wrote Monkey Paws, Anyone? about my tour of the Faraday Muti Market — a place in downtown Joburg where traditional herbalists sell powders, pastes, and other concoctions made from plants and animal parts. I knew this post would elicit strong opinions about traditional medicine, muti killings, and illegal animal trade, so I put a lot of thought into what I wrote.

A customer at the Faraday Muti Market.

I think I presented a fairly balanced account of what I saw at the market. I also believe it is unfair to outright reject what goes on at the market without taking the time to go there and see it for yourself. But I did receive some angry comments on both sides of the issue. My favorite comment was: “2summers your equivocal attitude to these barbaric practices shows you in a very poor light. I beg you to reconsider.” Love it.

My Most Helpful Post

This is difficult. I feel that all my Jozi posts are helpful in that they show people what a fascinating place this much-maligned city really is. But it would be hard to choose just one. Instead, I’ve selected What’s a Litchi and How Do I Eat One?

I ate a litchi, and so can you. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)

If you’ve never lived in (or near) a tropical place, you probably have no idea how to eat a fresh litchi. Read this post and you will.

A Surprisingly Successful Post

Several months ago, I heard about a new Sunday market downtown called Market on Main. Joe and I went to the market on a gorgeous summer afternoon and I wrote a post about it called Sunday’s Main Event.

The market is a great place to hang out and take pictures — a cluster of renovated industrial buildings surrounding a grassy courtyard, filled with market stalls and trendy people sipping Ethiopian coffee and browsing vintage clothes. I had a ball and I guess my enthusiasm showed in the blog post.

A trendy man and his dog browse vintage clothes at Market on Main.

The post wound up on the Market on Main Facebook page and made the rounds on Twitter. I gained many new local followers from this post, several of whom have now become friends. The post also sparked my interest in the Joburg city centre and introduced me to groups like the Joburg Photowalkers. It was a successful post in more ways than one.

Most Under-rated Post

When I began researching for my 7 Links last night, I discovered that Part 3 of 4: A Swazi Reunion is my least-viewed post of all time. I think it’s one of the best posts I’ve written, but I’m biased — the experience I wrote about holds great emotional significance for Joe and me.  (Interestingly, Part 1 of this series was Freshly Pressed.)

Joe photographs our Swazi reunion.

I don’t know how to summarize this post — you’ll have to read it. But I will tell you that the story includes sickness, poverty, death, courage, rebirth, and an amazing story of survival. You can also see more photos and learn more about the story on Joe’s website.

Post I Am Most Proud Of

An Honest Living, Part 2 is not my most well-written post, nor does it include fantastic photography. But it’s a story about how I tried to make a difference in a person’s life, and that’s something I’m proud of. It’s not a long post so I’ll let you read it rather than trying to explain. You can also read An Honest Living to get the full context.

Simon, the protagonist of An Honest Living.

There is an interesting twist to An Honest Living, Part 2. After I gave Simon the math book that day, I never saw him again. I’m hoping he gave up being a car guard because he found a better job, but I have no idea. Simon, if you’re out there, I hope you’re well and enjoying math lessons with your daughter.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

Time for my 7 Links nominees. Nominees: If you’ve already written a 7 Links post and I somehow missed it, please disregard this nomination. Or just disregard it anyway. I won’t send any bad juju.

Notes From Africa: Lisa writes a fantastic blog about science, pets, travel, culture and blogging. Lisa, I know you have also been hesitant to write “award” posts in the past, but I thought you might enjoy this one.

Joburg Expat: I recently started following Sine’s blog, which is full of entertaining and helpful information about living in Joburg. Like me, Sine is an American expat. Unlike me, she is navigating expat life with four children.

Roets Uprooted: Mia Roets is 2Summers in reverse: a South African expat in America. I’ve laughed endlessly at her quirky observations about life in my native land. Mia is coming home soon, which is both a blessing and a curse. I won’t get to read her posts from America anymore, but I might actually get to meet her in person!

Post-script: “7 Links: A Blog Award That Doesn’t Suck” wins for longest 2Summers post.

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