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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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James and Henrike at Hillbrow Boxing Club

Remembering Henrike

Warning: This post contains graphic language. Three days ago there was a terrorist attack in Côte d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast), in a resort town called Grand Bassam not far from the capital city of Abidjan. About 16 people were killed, plus the six gunmen who were reportedly affiliated with Al-Qaeda. My friend Henrike Grohs was one of the people killed. Henrike boxing with James Ike, one of our coaches at the Hillbrow Boxing Club, in March 2013. I hadn’t spoken with Henrike in several months, which I regret. Henrike moved from Johannesburg to Abidjan in January 2014, and during that time I only saw her sporadically when she passed through town for meetings. She was here a few weeks ago and stopped in for a training session at the Hillbrow Boxing Club, which she often did when she was in Joburg. But I was away in Turkey so I missed her. Henrike was from Germany but moved from Berlin to Joburg in 2009 for a position with the Goethe-Institut Südafrika, where she was in charge of culture and development. She later moved to Abidjan to become the director of the Goethe-Institut there. It’s hard not to sound cliché at a time like this. But the first […]

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Something I’m Afraid Of

A few weeks ago, 2Summers was featured in a post called “Top 10 African Travel Blog Posts” in the Where Lions Roam blog. It was a nice feature and I was pleased to be included. But the description of my blog surprised me. “On an altogether more cheerful note this blog from an American-turned-Jozi-fan is great light reading and will educate you about many fun and quirky things to do in Johannesburg that most residents will not have encountered!” Seeing my blog described as “light reading” brought up an interesting mix of emotions. My homepage proves this description accurate: The most recent posts are about bakeries, walking tours, street food, and cats. I’m a lighthearted person and people seem to enjoy my lighthearted way of describing things. And there’s no reason for me not to be lighthearted, right? But light reading wasn’t my original intention for this blog — not my main intention, at least. When I started 2Summers in June 2010, I planned to make it an in-depth account of my emotional journey. You see, I was in the midst of divorcing my husband, who I was leaving for another man, and that man lived on another continent. This is a good story, I thought. […]

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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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Remembering Things in the Land That Grows Rocks

Amidst all the excitement of the #MeetSouthAfrica trip, I nearly forgot that I was going to Lesotho. One of my newest Instagram connections, @nuttywheat, recently referred to Lesotho as “the land that grows rocks”. It’s a perfect description so I’ve decided to adopt it. Anyway, I got home from the #MeetSouthAfrica trip and ran around the house for 36 hours — unpacking, doing laundry, repacking, blogging, and trying (unsuccessfully) to rid myself of a persistent head cold. Then I jumped into my car and drove to Maseru, capital of the Land That Grows Rocks. I didn’t think much about where I was going or the assignment that I would be working on in Lesotho. I was on autopilot. I didn’t think about the things I’ve forgotten or what I might remember. I arrived in Maseru and walked into the offices of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. The first thing I saw was a large framed photo of a mother and her baby in a health clinic. The photo was shot by Jon, during an assignment that he and I worked on together in Lesotho in September 2010. The photo startled me. I should have known it would be there but I’d forgotten. I wandered through […]

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Mourning, Honoring, Celebrating Madiba

Nelson Mandela was buried yesterday (Sunday), and South Africa’s official period of mourning came to an end. After listening to the funeral on the radio Sunday morning, I thought I was finished mourning too. But I hadn’t yet been to Mandela’s house in Houghton, where he actually passed away on December 5. My friend Michelle, who just flew into Joburg this weekend, wanted to go. So we went to Houghton on Sunday evening. I actually thought we might be too late and that things would have died down in Houghton by last night. Once again, I was wrong. The street was still a huge, living, breathing memorial to Madiba.

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Goodbye Africa, Hello America

The title of this post was a shameless ploy to get people to click on it in a panic, thinking that I’m leaving Joburg forever and moving back to America. Gotcha! I’m boarding a plane tomorrow and flying to America for a three-week visit. (I used to call it the United States. But as with many other words and pronunciations, after three years of living here I’ve converted to the South African way of referring to my home country. “America” is shorter and easier to say than “the United States”.) This trip is momentous for many reasons, first because I haven’t been “home” in more than two years.  It’s been two years since I’ve driven on the right side of the road. It’s been two years since I’ve watched Matt Lauer in the morning. (Is Matt Lauer still the host of the Today Show? I don’t even know.) It’s been two years since I’ve eaten legitimate Mexican food. (This dire situation will be remedied immediately upon my return.) It’s been two years since I’ve seen my mother.

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Still Crazy After All Three Years

If you’re under 45 and/or aren’t familiar with Paul Simon’s early solo recordings, you won’t get this headline. Sorry for that. It popped into my head when I started writing and then I had to use it. This is me. Do I look happy? (Photo by Germaine de Larch) Today is the three-year anniversary of my arrival in Joburg. I always write a post in honor of my arrival anniversary, so here goes.

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I sat in the Jozi Fashion District yesterday, watching a group of kids perform a traditional Tswana song and dance to celebrate Africa Day. I took dozens of pictures of the dancers with my big camera. But the best shot of all was taken with my iPhone. (I’ll write more about my adventures yesterday in a future post.) As I watched the dancers I started to cry. Not just a tear or two. Serious crying with tears rolling down my cheeks. It’s been a while since that happened.

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Signing off for 2012

I’m leaving this weekend for a much-needed break. As much as I love Jozi, I’m ready for a temporary change of scenery. I’ll keep my holiday destination a secret for now. Be ready for lots of photos when I get back in January. A few odds and ends before I go: Thanks to everyone for the nice comments on my post about Jon. On Wednesday afternoon I went to the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens with my friend Nina, as a way of remembering Jon. We almost didn’t make it into the park — it closes at 5:00 p.m. and we got there at 4:55. But Nina sweet-talked the security guards and we managed to gain entry. It was nice having the park almost completely to ourselves.

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A Year Without Jon

I’ve been trying to write this post for a while but I keep abandoning my drafts and starting over. I haven’t a clue how to say anything meaningful without sounding trite. But let me try again. Jon died exactly a year ago. He died of alcoholism. I’ve put off writing about this for a long time because I don’t know how to make people understand. Or to put it more honestly, I’m afraid that people won’t understand. Alcoholism defies understanding. Even though it’s all around us, it’s hard to see it for what it is.

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