My life has never been so complicated. I can’t explain why right now; I wouldn’t know where to begin. But I can tell you the things I’m doing to make life feel simpler — writing, taking pictures, and walking in the park. I’ve extolled the virtues of Joburg’s parks, like the Melville Koppies and the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, on many occasions. But I haven’t written about Emmarentia Dam until now. (In South Africa, a ‘dam’ is not necessarily a big wall that diverts water. It’s also another word for a man-made lake or pond.) Emmarentia Dam.
Flowers bloom easily and frequently in Joburg. But they don’t always bloom for long. The blooms on wild irises, also known as Dietes grandiflora, open gloriously for one day. The next day the blossom is shriveling, and the day after that it’s completely gone. We have several large clumps of wild irises in our back garden and yesterday they all bloomed at once. I had my camera ready.
This guest post was inspired by the Blog of Otis. Hello, I’m Squeak. I also have another name, but I’m keeping it a secret for now. This is me, Squeak. (Photo courtesy of Joe.) Heather asked me to write a post for her blog so I can tell you about my extraordinary achievement. Every cat gets nine lives, but we’re supposed to live them one at a time, not concurrently. Only the most charming, intelligent cats are able to live two lives at once. I am one of those cats.
My dad still lives in the house where my sister and I grew up. It’s in a quasi-rural part of Maryland, about an hour’s drive north of Washington D.C. and 40 minutes west of Baltimore. The house is at the top of a hill, at the end of a long driveway, in a tiny town called Gaither. Gaither is so tiny that it doesn’t appear on maps. When I was growing up, there were three ‘public’ buildings in Gaither – Little George’s Market (a small convenience store), the Methodist church, and the post office. The post office wasn’t actually a building — it was a room in the back of Mimi Loon’s house, at the bottom of Gaither Road next to the railroad tracks. We used to walk down there every afternoon to get the mail and catch up on the town gossip with Mimi. Eventually Mimi’s post office closed and Gaither was absorbed – at least in the eyes of the U.S. government – into the neighboring town of Sykesville. Dad has a Sykesville zip code now, and I usually tell people I’m from Sykesville because no one has heard of Gaither and I don’t want to bore them with […]
Joe and I woke up ridiculously early one Sunday morning. It was a beautiful day. Joe had an idea for an outing but wouldn’t tell me what it was. He ushered me into the car and we headed up the M1 toward Pretoria. When I saw this granite monolith staring down at us, I realized Joe was taking me to the Voortrekker Monument. Die Voortrekkermonument. (It’s all one word in Afrikaans.) Voortrekker, which means ‘pioneer’, is pronounced ‘FOUR-trecker’, with a rolled R that I can’t replicate.
My fascination with Hillbrow — a former middle-class inner suburb that is now the toughest neighborhood in Joburg — began in February when I explored Hillbrow on a Joburg Photowalk. When I heard there would be another Hillbrow Photowalk this past weekend, exploring the grounds of the old Johannesburg General Hospital, I signed up, stat. Saturday afternoon in Hillbrow.
A few months ago, I promised to write periodic posts about Melville guesthouses, restaurants, and shops. I’ve strayed from that commitment — the majority of my posts these days are about the Joburg city centre or more far-flung places outside of town. So today I’m getting back to my roots. Melville is one of Joburg’s wackiest neighborhoods; it straddles a divide between tree-lined suburbia and urban grittiness. Melville is constantly changing — there are always quirky new places to visit, along with well-loved old standbys. I’m not a Melville tourist, but I’ve just spent a few days wandering around pretending I am. Here is a recommended itinerary for a one-day visit to the place I call home in Jozi.
I’m leaving town for a few days and probably won’t have internet access. Before I go, I want to share a few recent pictures from the garden at the Lucky 5 Star. Before moving to South Africa, the only aloes I’d ever seen were aloe vera plants — droopy house plants that people keep around for when they burn themselves. Here there are hundreds of different kinds of aloes, ranging from small, cabbage-sized plants to massive trees. I’ve also recently learned that aloes grow tall, flaming orange blooms in early winter.
Yesterday I took another jaunt with the Joburg Photowalkers, a group that organizes walks around different parts of town for photographers, amateur camera enthusiasts, and people who just want to explore. (Read about the last photowalk I attended in Hillbrow.) Monday’s walk covered a few different areas on the eastern side of downtown: Troyeville, Bertrams, Ellis Park, and the 12 Decades Hotel. It’s difficult to summarize everything we did in a coherent blog post; I think my photos tell a slightly disjointed story. But here goes. We started our walk at the Troyeville Hotel, which is actually not a hotel but a restaurant. Troyeville is a historically poor white neighborhood on the edge of downtown. The Troyeville Hotel is famous for its quirkiness and delicious Portuguese-Mozambican food. I’ll have to write a longer post about it someday in the future.
Joe and I needed a to get away. But we didn’t have much money or time to get away with. So last weekend we decided to take a short trip to Magaliesburg, just an hour or so from Joburg, and spend the night at a B&B. I was excited at the prospect of getting away from the city, albeit for a short while, to relax in the sunshine and frolic in grassy mountain meadows. We awoke on Saturday morning to leaden gray skies and chilly pouring rain. Ew. The weather forecast predicted little change for the rest of the weekend. We nearly opted not to go at all, but we’d already put down a deposit. So we went and I’m glad we did.
Joe and I drove along a bucolic country road in the Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site 45 minutes outside Joburg. It was a sunny afternoon. We weren’t exactly sure where we were going. We’d heard there was a large sculpture park out this way and we wanted to check it out. We came upon a gate that said “NIROX.” Our map said this was the place. But the gate was closed and locked. After some internet surfing and a few phone calls, we learned that the NIROX Sculpture Park is only open to the public for special exhibitions and events. NIROX is a private foundation created to cultivate the arts in South Africa. The foundation is set on 15 hectares of land, filled with trees and wildlife and gurgling streams. In addition to the outdoor sculptures, which blend seamlessly with the landscape, NIROX also provides accommodation for artists in residence who stay for a few weeks at a time.