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2summers

Heather and Jon at the beach on the South Coast

19 December

I woke up feeling sad this morning. This was no real surprise as the last few months have been difficult for me. But I’d been feeling better for the past couple of weeks, so when the sadness returned this morning I felt a little disappointed. At about 8:30, lying in bed with the curtains still closed even though I’d been semi-awake for hours, I looked at the date on my phone. 17 December, it said. Oh right, I thought. It’s almost 19 December, the day Jon died. Jon. Jon died in 2011. His death was horrific and I suffered greatly, as did everyone else who loved him. While not a complete surprise, the death was sudden and I didn’t get to say goodbye. No one did. For the first year I thought about Jon at least 50 times a day. It felt like one of my limbs was missing. I fantacized about all the things I wish I’d said to Jon before he died. I went through months of therapy and 12-step meetings and emotional rehab. I cried in bed, in the shower, in coffeeshops, at concerts and church services. I tried to get angry but felt only sadness. In December […]

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Duck at Marievale Bird Sanctuary

#Gauteng52, Week 50: Marievale Bird Sanctuary

Welcome to Week 50 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Marievale Bird Sanctuary. I don’t have my own set of binoculars yet. But perhaps it’s time to admit I’m a birder. A common moorhen cuts through the water in Marievale Bird Sanctuary. I started getting interested in birds during a recent trip to the Kruger National Park, and even wrote a whole blog post on birds in the Kruger. Then a couple of weeks ago I went to the Marievale Bird Sanctuary, the most popular birding spot in Gauteng. I mainly went because birders have been raving to me about it for years and I thought it would be a nice thing to cover for #Gauteng52. But I must confess I loved it and can’t wait to go back. The South African highveld is not known for its wetlands. But this is mining country, and in the 1930s the mining industry started pumping water from underground and created a manmade watery wonderland. (Please excuse this infantile description of what I’m sure is a highly complex scientific phenomenon. If there […]

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Dumplings served at Chez Fong

A Theatrical Dinner Chez Fong

I recently cracked an invite to dine Chez Fong. Fong, otherwise known as Su-yen, chopping up a storm before the other guests arrive. Fong, aka Su-yen Thornhill, is part South African, part Chinese (via Hong Kong), part chef, part comedian, part yoga guru, and part Energizer Bunny. She runs a restaurant that’s not a restaurant (don’t you dare call it a pop-up), in a dining room attached to her sprawling Houghton home, where she whips up eight courses (maybe ten, if the mood strikes her) of pan-Asian taste bud excitement every Wednesday evening. Some dishes re-occur; others surface once and are never seen again. Spicy soy sauce in progress. Dinner Chez Fong is like a lucky packet of flavors, or a Forest Gump box of (savory) chocolates in which you never know whatchyer gonna get. It’s guaranteed to be delicious though. And you’re firmly guaranteed to laugh a lot. People laughing Chez Fong. Su-yen messaged me on a Tuesday, inviting me to attend her dinner the next night. There wasn’t a seat for me, she said, but I was welcome to come hang out in the kitchen and sample the food as it came out. I accepted without hesitation. People […]

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The Palace at Sun City

Adventures in North West Province: 24 Hours at Sun City

Last month I spent a weekend in Groot Marico, a whacky hippie town in North West Province. Soon after booking the Groot Marico trip, I received an invitation to spend the night at Sun City during the same week. I was really excited. I’d never been to Sun City — which is like a South African Vegas — and had been awaiting an opportunity for years. Since Groot Marico and Sun City are both in North West, I decided to extend my stay in Groot Marico for a day so I could go straight from there to Sun City. If you’ve been to both Groot Marico and Sun City, you’ll appreciate the humor in this arrangement. Groot Marico and Sun City are in the same province but they might as well exist in two different dimensions. “The Palace of the Lost City” at Sun City. I was invited to Sun City to participate in the festivities leading up to the Nedbank Golf Challenge, the biggest pro golf tournament in South Africa. I attended the Nedbank Golf Challenge Welcome Dinner, as well as an event called the Style Affair — a ladies’ morning in which women were invited to lounge around […]

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Lettuce growing at Culinary Table

#Gauteng52, Week 49: Culinary Table in Lanseria

Welcome to Week 49 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Culinary Table in Lanseria. It’s a lesser known fact that Johannesburg has not one, but two major airports. O.R. Tambo International Airport, the huge one everyone knows about, is about 30 kilometers east of central Joburg, give or take. I’ve always considered Lanseria International Airport, the smaller of the two, to be much further away. Hence I never went there. But a few months ago, when I accidentally booked a flight out of Lanseria instead of O.R. Tambo, I realized Lanseria is virtually the exact same distance (33 km) from my house. It’s also a considerably more pleasant drive. Best of all, I’ve just discovered there’s an amazing restaurant virtually next door to Lanseria airport: The Culinary Table. The kitchen garden at the Culinary Table. The restaurant is in the background. The Culinary Table has an interesting story. The restaurant is attached to the Culinary Equipment Company, a large warehouse and showroom just off Route 512. Chef Daniela Gutstadt’s family owns the Culinary Equipment Company, and Daniela initially started out […]

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Inside the Richmond

#Gauteng52, Week 48: The Richmond Studio Café

Welcome to Week 48 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Richmond Studio Café, a new coffeeshop in Richmond. Every now and again I visit a new place in Joburg and get so freaking excited I literally cannot wait to blog about it. Such was the case on Tuesday, when I went to the Richmond Studio Café. Entrance to the Richmond Studio Café. Richmond is a suburb just south of Melville. It’s one of those tiny Jozi suburbs — just a few square blocks — that most Joburgers outside the immediate area probably haven’t heard of. But Richmond has a special caché, despite its modest size. Several national and international news agencies — CNN, Media24, SABC, etc. — are based in or immediately surrounding the suburb, so Richmond has always been a central hangout for the South African media. It has a buzzy, journalisty vibe that I’m fond of. When I first moved to Joburg there was a legendary bar in Richmond called the Bohemian. But the Bohemian closed and moved to Westdene in 2012. Richmond used to have a […]

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Groot Marico Visitors Centre

Adventures in North West Province: Whacky Groot Marico

A few weeks ago I spent a weekend in Groot Marico, on a writing retreat with three friends. Welkom (Welcome) to Groot Marico. Groot Marico, a funky town in North West Province, is best known for its association with Herman Charles Bosman. Bosman was an acclaimed South African author who lived in Groot Marico in the 1920s and wrote a few collections of short stories based on the town. A bust of Herman Charles Bosman at the Groot Marico Visitors’ Centre. I fully intended to read some Bosman short stories before writing this post. But alas, it hasn’t happened. Bosman, who was like the Edgar Allen Poe of South Africa, is all over Groot Marico. Everyone waxes lyrical about him and there was even a Bosman literary festival in Groot Marico the week before we were there. Yet I recently learned Bosman only lived in Groot Marico for a few months, when he worked as a village teacher there for one semester in 1926. Bosman’s time as a teacher in Groot Marico was cut short because he went home to Joburg for winter break and murdered his stepbrother. So instead of going back to Groot Marico, he went to Pretoria […]

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Colorful handbags at Via La Moda

#Gauteng52, Week 47: Joburg’s Best Handbags (and there’s a sale)

Welcome to Week 47 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit Via La Moda, a workshop producing luxury handbags and other leather goods in Industria. I can’t believe I named this post “Joburg’s Best Handbags” because in America we call them purses, not handbags. But during my years in South Africa I’ve gradually adopted “handbag” over “purse” (much in the same way I’ve adopted “petrol” over “gas”), because it just sounds cooler and more sophisticated. And when it comes to handbags, no one is cooler or more sophisticated than Via La Moda. Finely crafted handbags (not purses), made of ostrich leather and python skin, await completion in the Via La Moda workshop. Before I get into this, I should mention Via La Moda is holding its big annual sale next week, from 30 November to 2 December. (Not on Black Friday, thank goodness. Black Friday is the devil.) I’m not a big shopper and usually don’t care about sales but I think this one is worth mentioning. These bags are exquisite and not cheap (like, really not cheap at all). If […]

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Hannah, a moving to Joburg expert, in Breezeblock

Moving to Joburg? Hannah Can Help.

Are you moving to Joburg? Or have you already moved to Joburg and need some help adjusting? If so, meet Hannah of Translating Me. Hannah Pirnie, the bad-ass founder of Translating Me, at Breezeblock. I hope she doesn’t mind me calling her bad-ass but that’s what she is. Hannah and I share many things in common: We’re both foreigners living in South Africa. We both have blogs. We both love Joburg. We’re both on a mission to help other people love Joburg as much as we do. We both have names beginning with H. We’re both bad-ass. Basically Hannah and I are like the same person, only Hannah is way more organized than me and does a lot more stuff. Also she has three small children and two of them are twins. I’m digressing. The point of this post is to tell you about the services Hannah provides — helping people moving to Joburg (or actually to anywhere in South Africa) with all of the practical, logistical, and emotional aspects of relocating and adjusting to life in this crazy place. People often ask what I found most difficult about moving to South Africa. My answer is always the same: the bureaucracy. […]

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Reclaim the Wilds This Sunday

In April 2016 I published a blog post about the Wilds, a park near downtown Joburg. That post felt kind of controversial at the time because most Joburgers considered the Wilds to be a horribly dangerous place where no rational person would ever go. I visited the Wilds back then with my artist friend James Delaney, who lives next to the park and had recently started venturing in with his dog, Pablo. James discovered that despite its reputation, the Wilds really wasn’t dangerous after all. Not only was the Wilds not dangerous, James discovered, it was also one of the loveliest places in Johannesburg. James sits on a newly painted park bench in the Wilds. Pablo, King of the Wilds. Fast forward a year-and-a-half. James has made it his personal mission to transform the Wilds into a well used public space and he is succeeding. Over the last couple of years James has organized crews of volunteers to pull weeds, clear underbrush, and paint park benches. He hung bird feeders on the periphery of the park to attract attention, encouraged his friends to visit, and convinced the security guards in his apartment building to use the Wilds as a short […]

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Olatunji Sanusi, artist at August House

#Gauteng52, Week 46: Open Studios at August House

Welcome to Week 46 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit August House, a collection of artists’ studios and residences in downtown Johannesburg. August House is a building full of artists. I went last Sunday during one of the Open Studio events the building holds a few times a year. I ran into an artist friend who has a studio there (it seems nearly every artist I know either lives in August House, has studio space in August House, and/or is affiliated with August House in some way) and he was shocked when I told him it was my first time visiting. I now realize why. August House, a 1940s-era Art Deco building on End Street. The building housed light industry before it became an artists’ residence. Although I had never heard of August House until a year or two ago, the building has been an icon of the Joburg art world since artists began living and working there in 2006. There’s been lots of intrigue surrounding the building since then, with rumors of it being sold to property developers for low-cost […]

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Jacob Zuma arrest memorial

Adventures in North West Province: The Jacob Zuma Site of Arrest

Last week I had some adventures in North West Province (one of South Africa’s lesser known provinces). It was a fascinating trip on many levels. I can’t possibly recount all my North West adventures in a single post, so I’m starting with the adventure that I think will garner the most excitement among my South African readers: a visit to the President Jacob Zuma Site of Arrest. Site of Arrest. I’ll preface this narrative by saying I generally avoid blogging about South African politics, especially President Zuma. The last time I blogged about Zuma, during “The Spear” controversy at the Goodman Gallery, the post garnered quite a bit of strenuous debate. I’m really not looking to get into any political debates this time. But I just happened to find myself at the brand-new Zuma Site of Arrest and the experience was too good not to blog about. For those of you who don’t know Jacob Zuma: He is the third president of South Africa, currently serving the ninth year of his ten-year, two-term presidency. I’m not going out on a limb when I say Zuma is…controversial. In many ways Jacob Zuma is the Donald Trump of South Africa. I’m sure […]

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