It’s Monday, January 11th, 2021. It’s dark and rainy in Joburg and the holidays are officially over. South Africa is suffering through a second wave of covid-19 — worse than the first wave, as many experts predicted, and likely to worsen further as millions of South Africans return to work in the big cities after celebrating the holidays at home. We’re back in Level 3 lockdown, with a strict curfew and alcohol sales banned again.

I woke up feeling anxious and I suspect I’m not alone.

I don’t know about you, but I’m swallowing a bitter dose of reality today. We all said we couldn’t wait for 2020 to be over. But now I’m feeling nostalgic for October and November 2020, when summer came and jacarandas were blooming and I felt like I had been let out of prison — socializing, traveling, doing tours, eating in restaurants.

Simultaneously I’m nostalgic for April and May 2020, when I was barricaded alone at home but at least I had my lockdown journal, with readers counting on me to produce a blog post every day and giving me a clear sense of purpose. Today, that sense of purpose is long gone.

I’m frustrated and scared about what the future holds. This is nothing new. I think most people have gotten used to feeling frustrated and scared over the past ten months. But I no longer have 2020 — that neat little yearlong package that’s been the target of all the world’s scorn since last January — to frame my feelings.

Last week, in an attempt to start the year off right and fend off crippling procrastination and lack of focus, I decided to set a clear(er) work schedule for myself:

  • Monday and Wednesday: Blogging, admin, and other work activities.
  • Tuesday and Thursday: Memoir-writing and Patreon activities.
  • Friday: Flexible, depending on the week.

Then I woke up this morning and freaked out when I realized most of the things I was planning to blog about suddenly seem irrelevant because we’ve got a super-contagious new strain of covid in South Africa and it really doesn’t make sense to do anything but stay at home. What am I going to do with myself all day today and every Monday and Wednesday thereafter?

I meditated, forced myself to breathe, and did an hour-long workout. (By the way, I highly recommend Heather Robertson’s YouTube channel, which contains a seemingly infinite number of workouts and you can exercise for years without ever doing the same one twice.)

At some point I decided to write a post explaining exactly how I feel (see above) and sharing photos of a few fun things I did at the end of 2020 that I didn’t get around to blogging about yet.

Fun Things I Did Around Jozi at the End of 2020

1) Ate My Way Through the Food Gardens of Bedfordview

Just before Christmas, my friend Gail invited me to visit two interesting food gardens in Bedfordview. The first was a community garden built on the site of an old lawn-bowling field at the Italian Club.

I had no idea the Italian Club existed and it’s a discovery in itself. There is a huge Italian restaurant there, Sette Bello, as well as a fantastic Italian deli where I bought delicious imported mozzarella and salami. But the community garden, called the Food Exchange, started a few months ago by urban farming enthusiast Jan Carstensen, was the highlight.

Food exchange at Bedfordview
The Food Exchange.
Janine Carstensen of the Food Exchange
Jan took us on a whirlwind tour of the garden, feeding us as she went.
Peapods from the Food Exchange
These peas were delicious.
Community garden
Sive Faku (left) and his brother Khewzi were working their rented garden plot on the morning we visited.

Jan gave Gail and me a bunch of produce to take home and it was all so fresh and tasty. The Food Exchange doesn’t have a website yet but if you’d like more information or want to visit the garden, contact Jan at 074-235-2898.

Gail and I then drove to Eastgate Mall and visited the Aquaponic Farm District, on the roof of the mall’s sprawling parking garage.

Heather at Ichthys Aquaponic
Standing under a bower of tomatoes at the Aquaponic Farm District. (Photo: Gail Wilson)

Who knew the best tomatoes in Joburg are growing on the roof of one of its largest malls?

Aquaponic garden
A better look at the garden.
Lettuce at Ichthys Aquaponic
Lettuces fed by fish poop.

The Aquaponic Farm District is an initiative by Ichthys Aquaponic. I hope they put one of these at every Joburg mall.

2) Walked Around Kingston Frost Park

Kingston Frost Park is in Brixton, about five minutes from my house, but I had never explored it properly until a few weeks ago. It’s a beautiful public park, lovingly maintained by the surrounding community, with a uniquely Brixton vibe about it. The park isn’t huge, but big enough for a good walk and great views. There’s a nice playground for kids.

Kingston Frost Park and Sentech Tower
Kingston Frost Park with the Sentech Tower looming behind it.
Kingston Frost Park mosaic
Mosaic in Kingston Frost Park
Mosaic in Kingston Frost Park
A mosaic created by the Brixton community.

City parks are technically closed during our current lockdown. But I drive past Kingston Frost often and the community is definitely using it. The park is on the edge of Brixton and Auckland Park, bordered by Putney Road, Barnes Road, Hampton Avenue, and Chiswick Street.

3) Hiked the Hennops Trail

I visited and blogged about the Hennops Trail once before during my #Gauteng52 series. I walked the five-kilometer trail that time. Last month I went back with Thorsten and hiked the 11-kilometer trail, which is infinitely more interesting and beautiful.

View of a nearby nuclear reactor, which I found eerily pretty, from the Hennops Trail.
Thorsten at Hennops
Foresty section of the trail.
Limekiln at Hennops
An old lime kiln we discovered along the trail.
Hennops

Hennops is about an hour from Joburg. If you go, definitely make a day of it and do the 11k trail. Just get there early to beat the heat and note there is a R150/person admission fee. Hennops has a really nice outdoor café now, which I don’t think was there when I went last time.

Ahhhhhh. I suspected writing about all these fresh, green, outdoor spaces would calm my nerves. I was right. I hope you’re feeling a bit calmer too. Now I need to find more green, anxiety-busting activities to write about — a new goal for 2021.

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