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Exploring Jozi’s Odd Side

Melville has a reputation as one of Joburg’s quirkiest neighborhoods. But Melville doesn’t have a monopoly on quirkiness. Today Joe and I went to Greenside, one suburb over from Melville, to try out a restaurant there called the Odd Café. We go to Greenside all the time for groceries but this was the first time I’d properly investigated the neighborhood. Turns out the whole place is odd. A vintage ashtray outside the Odd Café.

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In the ‘Hood

I’ve been exploring Melville on my own lately. Yesterday I walked two blocks to 7th Street — the main strip in Melville. I poked around used book stores and gift shops. I bought handmade earrings and bracelets for next-to-nothing at the bead store. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon and the bars and cafes were getting busy.

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A friend requested that I post more about the food I’m eating. Here are a few of my favorites so far: Top-right: Fruit chutney crisps. I discovered these at the Tyrone Fruiterer in Parkview, which has become my favorite place to food-shop. (Despite the awesome name, they sell more than just fruit.) These crisps are basically kettle potato chips that taste like mango chutney. Interestingly there is no fruit listed in the ingredients, just garlic powder, onion powder, and “herbs and spices.” When I bought them, Joe said I was on my own because he doesn’t like crisps. He had a change of heart when he tried one. We’ve put away half the bag in the last 24 hours.

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I’ve gotten ahead of myself. I should say a few words about this place where I’m living. Johannesburg (Joburg, Jo’burg, Jozi, JHB) is the largest city in South Africa and the fourth-largest in Africa. Interestingly, South Africa has three official capital cities but Johannesburg is not one of them. Joburg is known for crime, and the abundance of security fences and armed guards bears that out. It’s also known for trees: Joburg has more than 10 million trees and is the largest man-made forest in the world. It’s a sprawling city, comprised of the Central Business District (CBD) and a web of suburbs and townships. “Suburb” has a different meaning here than in the U.S. – Joburg suburbs are more like neighborhoods than towns.

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It’s my second full day in Joburg. I’m sitting on the deck of my new house in Melville, soaking up the late winter sun, admiring the small purple flowers on the potted rosemary plant, and listening to a chorus of bird calls. There’s a neon-yellow weaver making a nest at the back of the garden — it’s a bouncy ball of green leaves suspended from a vine hanging off a tree branch. It looks, sounds, and smells like Africa. A South African hadedah (Ha-dee-DAH) on the back wall of the garden.

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