Browsing Tag


Reflections of a Jet-lagged Woman Between Continents

Over the past month I have been to the following places: Graaff-Reinet, and about seven other small towns around South Africa, Reunion Island, Istanbul (only for eight hours — will explain in a future post), Washington D.C. (I’m here now.) Fall leaves in Washington. I arrived just in time. Johannesburg is the one place where I haven’t been very much during the past month. As I’ve said many times before, I love traveling but I also hate being away from Joburg, especially for extended periods. I’m really grateful to be back in the United States at such a beautiful time of year and to reconnect with my American friends and family, some of whom I haven’t seen for years. Every time I come back to Washington I’m surprised by how lovely it is, how quaint the houses and shops and restaurants are, and how liberating it is to step out onto the street and just walk. Jeez, I miss walking when I’m in Joburg. People in South Africa often ask me if I “miss home”. My usual answer is no. I miss specific people and I miss certain things. But as I go about my day-to-day life in Africa, I don’t […]

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Home in Melville

Exactly five years ago, on August 6, 2010, I landed in Joburg and moved into a house in Melville. Several weeks before that, when I was still living in Washington, Jon had emailed me some photos of a house for rent in Melville. From the few things I’d seen and read, I already knew that Melville was the Jozi suburb where I wanted to live. And the moment I saw these photos, I knew that this Melville house was the house I would move into. The deck of the house in Melville, on a winter day in June 2010. The garden, featuring what would later become my favorite aloe tree. Jon sent photos of every room in the house, as well as the garden and the house’s exterior. I loved them all. But the photo that really captured me, the one that made me feel certain I would live in that house, was the shot of the lounge (the Americans among you would call it the living room). The room was huge, with parquet floors, large windows, and heart-shaped burglar bars. A man stood in the middle of the floor. That man’s name was Lucky. Lucky in the lounge of the Melville house.  Lucky was silhouetted and I couldn’t see […]

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For Ray

Dear Ray, Happy birthday. I’m glad I was able to find wi-fi so I can give you your present on the actual day. We met exactly a year ago, the day before your birthday. The time has flown by in a way, but I also can’t remember what life was like without you. I wanted to give you something cool for your birthday. You’ve immortalized my name all over Joburg in your graffiti pieces and I struggled to think of something similarly awesome. So I’m immortalizing you in the only way I know how, in my blog. You know I can’t draw so I asked my friend Fiver to make a sketch of you. I think she captured you perfectly — I hope you like it too. My life was great before but it’s become immeasurably better with you in it. I think you came at just the right time. Thank you for supporting me and cheering me on and making me laugh and feel happy. Thank you for adding so much color to my already colorful world. Also, thank you for being so strong and making me feel safe when I freaked out on that desolate mountain road in the Transkei two days ago. (The rest of you […]

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Confession: I’m an Artist

Last Friday, an artist named Amanda Palmer performed a show in Joburg at the Sheds @1Fox. Confession #1: I had no idea who Amanda Palmer was until a few days ago. Confession #2: I didn’t go to Amanda Palmer’s show. When I heard Amanda Palmer was coming to Joburg and realized that this is a big deal, I googled Amanda and then downloaded her book, the Art of Asking. I started reading the book this weekend. I’m only on page 53 of 348 but I’m already blown away. Here are a couple of amazing things that I’ve read in the book so far: There’s no “correct path” to becoming a real artist. You might think you’ll gain legitimacy by going to art school, getting published, getting signed to a record label. But it’s all bullshit, and it’s all in your head. You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected. And: In both the art and the business worlds, the difference between the amateurs and the professionals is simple: The professionals know they’re winging it. The amateurs pretend they’re not. I’ve never met you, Amanda, […]

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An Update From the Real Me

My blog lives a double life. Most of the time it’s a fun, informative guide to living and traveling in Joburg and surrounds. But other times it’s a personal account of what’s happening in my actual life. A few years ago, when lots of tragic and dramatic stuff was happening to me, I wrote lots of personal posts. After Jon died, I wrote at length about death and addiction and grief. I poured my rawest, most intense feelings into the blog, sometimes not realizing what I’d written until after the post was published. But I find it harder to be personal on my blog when awesome, happy stuff is happening to me. It’s easy to write about surface-level happy stuff, like co-authoring books and fun blogger trips around South Africa. But all these surface-level happy things are happening for a reason, and that’s what I want to write about even though it’s really hard. The real me. She hasn’t written enough lately. (Photo: Ray) A couple of years ago I realized that I wasn’t a complete person. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted and needed. I was addicted to self-destructive feelings and emotions and I couldn’t make myself happy. I looked fine on the outside but on the inside I was eating […]

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A Thank-You Letter to My Blog

Dear Blog: You came into my life four years ago today. I want to thank you. Thank you for giving me a sense of purpose. When I first arrived in Joburg, I didn’t have a job or even a plan. But I always had you. Eventually you became my job and my plan. Thank you for introducing me to photography. Creating you made me realize that I tell stories much better with words and pictures than I do with words alone. I’m a photographer because of you. Thank you for helping me to survive the most difficult times of my life. When I felt like I had nowhere to turn, I turned to you. I clicked “New Post” and started typing. Thank you for keeping me in South Africa. When life got really bad, I thought about leaving. But I knew that you couldn’t live anywhere else, and I knew that I couldn’t live without you. So I stayed. Thank you for introducing me to my city. You made me fall in love with Joburg. Now it’s home. Thank you for introducing me — directly or indirectly — to many of the people I care about most in the world. Thank you for introducing me to myself. I […]

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