The Joburg Expat Climbs Kilimanjaro

*Photo above courtesy of Eva Melusine Thieme.

Some of you will probably feel cheated when you open this, thinking that I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro myself. Sorry to disappoint you. While I am an adventurous person and I think Kilimanjaro is beautiful (I’ve seen it from afar), I’m not particularly interested in climbing it. I’m content with hiking up smaller mountains, as I did in Lesotho.

Heather on hill2

Me on a mountain called Fukufuku in Lesotho. Not Mount Kilimanjaro. (Photo: Michelle Stern)

Anyway, this particular Joburg expat (or Joburg migrant, if you will) did not climb Mount Kilimanjaro. But another Joburg expat — my friend Sine — did.

I first met Sine (professionally known as Eva Melusine Thieme) through her blog, the Joburg Expat. Sine and I moved to South Africa from America at around the same time, and we both started blogs about it. Sine (who is originally from Germany but every bit as American as I am) moved back to the States in December 2012 and renamed her blog “the Ex-Joburg Expat”. I still read it faithfully.

Sine and I only saw each other occasionally when she lived in Joburg. We lived far apart and our lives were drastically different. Sine is a busy mother of four. Her family moved here for her husband’s work assignment and they lived in the far northern suburb of Dainfern. My story is obviously different. And yet I’ve always felt a kinship with Sine. My life could easily have turned out much like hers, or visa versa. And Sine and I are more alike than it seems. Both of us moved to Africa from America and discovered ourselves as writers.

Which brings me back to the topic of this post. A few months before moving back to America from Joburg, Sine climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with her son Max. And she wrote a book about it.

Sine cover

I love the cover of Sine’s book. It kind of reminds me of my new blog header.

I’ve never done a book review before but I was excited to review Kilimanjaro Diaries. Sine is a fantastic writer (a compliment I don’t bestow lightly) and I think it’s great that she used her blog as a jumping-off point to write a full-length, memoir-style book. This is something that I’m planning to do myself, hopefully sooner rather than later, so Sine is an inspiration.

Even though I have no plans to climb Kilimanjaro, I really enjoyed reading Kilimanjaro Diaries. I read many of Sine’s blog posts about her Kili climb back when it actually happened in 2012, and it was great to see how she expanded those posts into a book. I especially loved the early chapters, when Sine describes her preparations (or non-preparations, in some cases) for the climb, and the late chapters when she tells the story of her summit attempt. I don’t want to give away the ending but I’ll just say that I cried.

I also love Sine’s no-nonsense style of writing. She doesn’t mince words and she’s not concerned about political correctness. She’s not afraid to call herself a housewife, for example, and she’s not afraid to discuss the existence of “toilet apartheid” on Kilimanjaro. (Apparently Kili has separate toilets for the tourists and the porters. Sine has a fascination with toilets, as you’ll learn if you read Kilimanjaro Diaries.) Sine simply tells the story in an interesting, engaging, funny way.

If I had to offer a critique, it would be that I wanted to get to know some of the other characters in the story better. More about Max, more about the other climbers in Sine’s group (some of whom seemed quite quirky), and more about the team that led the climb. I especially wanted more of Godlisten (Gody), the Tanzanian leader of the expedition, who climbs up and down Kilimanjaro countless times each year. Where did he come from, how did he become a Kili guide, and what does he do when he’s not on the mountain? I felt like Gody’s character was somewhat idealized. I was left curious about who he really is.

Oh, and I really want to know how much this trip cost.

Sine harbors no illusions about what it means to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The mountain is crowded, scattered with litter (and..ahem…human excrement), and suffering from the effects of climate change. Sine also freely admits that although climbing Kili is a huge physical and psychological challenge, it’s a pampered experience that only the wealthiest segment of society (guides and porters excluded) has the wherewithal to do.

But that reality doesn’t alter the fact that climbing Kili changed Sine’s life. That dichotomy is what makes the book worth reading.

I agree that climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a tremendous achievement and I respect Sine immensely for doing it. However, Sine achieved something much more tremendous than summiting the tallest mountain in Africa, at least in my view. Amidst being a mother to four children, moving her entire family from one continent to another, writing a popular blog, and countless other tasks that I can’t even fathom, Sine WROTE AND SELF-PUBLISHED A BOOK in the span of 15 months. I am in the midst of learning, though personal experience, that writing a book is insanely hard. I’m in awe.

Lastly, I’d like to share my favorite two sentences from Kilimanjaro Diaries, which happen to be the last two sentences of the book.

I started out the week signing my name into the logbook at the end of each day with “housewife” as my profession. I ended the week with “writer”.

Mad props, Sine.

Kilimanjaro Diaries is available on Amazon and iBooks. For more information, visit Sine’s author site.

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28 Comments

  • Reply Sine April 25, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Wow.

    In the words of from “Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse” (I think), that’s about all I can say right now. Wow:-)

    And Thank You!

    More later…

    • Reply 2summers April 25, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      Or in the similar words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

      • Reply Sine April 25, 2014 at 3:56 pm

        Spot on! I just re-watched that movie with my son a few days ago. Classic. BTW, didn’t know if I replied to your blog email that it would show up as a comment. Oh well:-) Very well written, as always, but of course I’m biased regarding the topic.

        • Reply 2summers April 25, 2014 at 3:58 pm

          I didn’t know that either!

  • Reply 2summers April 25, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    I can’t believe I’ve been on WordPress all these years and never realized that.

  • Reply 2summers April 25, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    I can’t believe I’ve been on WordPress all these years and never realized that.

  • Reply lubega1 April 25, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    Good on her.Welldonexx

    • Reply 2summers April 28, 2014 at 8:05 am

      Thanks for the comment, Lubega!

  • Reply lubega1 April 25, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    Good on her.Welldonexx

    • Reply 2summers April 28, 2014 at 8:05 am

      Thanks for the comment, Lubega!

  • Reply tenneymason April 26, 2014 at 1:20 am

    Love this post

  • Reply tenneymason April 26, 2014 at 1:20 am

    Love this post

  • Reply Sunshinebright April 28, 2014 at 3:40 am

    Yes, I’ve got something to say: I don’t have a kindle. Your review of Eva’s book had me wanting to read it. “Sob”

    • Reply 2summers April 28, 2014 at 7:59 am

      Oh no! I’m sorry. I guess this is the one draw-back to the new self-publishing trend. Online books are great for writers who can’t afford to take the route of publishing through a major publishing house. But those without access to ebooks miss out.

    • Reply Sine April 29, 2014 at 12:44 am

      Sunshinebright – I guess the good news is, a paperback version is almost finished. I say almost, but I’ve said that for a few weeks now. The devil is in the details. Another reason why e-books are easier – no need to worry about exactly which way each page will look, as there are no pages. I am right now cursing Word to the high heavens and regretting ever having used it in the first place, but now I’m too far in to redo the whole thing with Publisher. Anyway, if you want, I’ll let you know when it’s available for sale. The only issue might be to then get it in South Africa. I do think Amazon ships there, but it will be more expensive than with the U.S.

      The other route: You say you don’t have a Kindle. But I’m sure you have a computer or an iPad or some such thing? There is a Kindle for PC program you can use to read ebooks right on your computer, and there is an app for iPhone and iPad. It’s also available for Sony e-readers and as an actual Apple iBook, and for the Barnes & Noble Nook.

      I hope one of those options works for you!

      • Reply Sunshinebright April 29, 2014 at 3:55 am

        Oh, thanks for all this info. Will do a search to find the download for Kindle for PC. Also, please advise when paperback is available. Many thanks, again!

        • Reply Sine April 29, 2014 at 8:54 pm

          Will do, thanks for your interest!

  • Reply Sunshinebright April 28, 2014 at 3:40 am

    Yes, I’ve got something to say: I don’t have a kindle. Your review of Eva’s book had me wanting to read it. “Sob”

    • Reply Sine April 29, 2014 at 12:44 am

      Sunshinebright – I guess the good news is, a paperback version is almost finished. I say almost, but I’ve said that for a few weeks now. The devil is in the details. Another reason why e-books are easier – no need to worry about exactly which way each page will look, as there are no pages. I am right now cursing Word to the high heavens and regretting ever having used it in the first place, but now I’m too far in to redo the whole thing with Publisher. Anyway, if you want, I’ll let you know when it’s available for sale. The only issue might be to then get it in South Africa. I do think Amazon ships there, but it will be more expensive than with the U.S.

      The other route: You say you don’t have a Kindle. But I’m sure you have a computer or an iPad or some such thing? There is a Kindle for PC program you can use to read ebooks right on your computer, and there is an app for iPhone and iPad. It’s also available for Sony e-readers and as an actual Apple iBook, and for the Barnes & Noble Nook.

      I hope one of those options works for you!

      • Reply Sunshinebright April 29, 2014 at 3:55 am

        Oh, thanks for all this info. Will do a search to find the download for Kindle for PC. Also, please advise when paperback is available. Many thanks, again!

        • Reply Sine April 29, 2014 at 8:54 pm

          Will do, thanks for your interest!

  • Reply Book Publishing Milestone: Paperback Out the Door! | Rhymes with Melusine June 2, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    […] Even though I have no plans to climb Kilimanjaro, I really enjoyed reading Kilimanjaro Diaries. I read many of Sine’s blog posts about her Kili climb back when it actually happened in 2012, and it was great to see how she expanded those posts into a book. I especially loved the early chapters, when Sine describes her preparations (or non-preparations, in some cases) for the climb, and the late chapters when she tells the story of her summit attempt. I don’t want to give away the ending but I’ll just say that I cried… [Excerpt from 2Summers.net. Read more here.] […]

  • Reply Book Publishing Milestone: Paperback Out the Door! | Rhymes with Melusine June 2, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    […] Even though I have no plans to climb Kilimanjaro, I really enjoyed reading Kilimanjaro Diaries. I read many of Sine’s blog posts about her Kili climb back when it actually happened in 2012, and it was great to see how she expanded those posts into a book. I especially loved the early chapters, when Sine describes her preparations (or non-preparations, in some cases) for the climb, and the late chapters when she tells the story of her summit attempt. I don’t want to give away the ending but I’ll just say that I cried… [Excerpt from 2Summers.net. Read more here.] […]

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