Browsing Tag


Learning About DNA (and Me) at Health Works in Hyde Park

Check the end of this post for details on how to win a R1000 voucher to Hyde Park Corner. I haven’t blogged much lately. There are a few reasons for this but the bottom line is I’ve been busy and stressed. My brain is moving in ten directions at once and I can barely remember my own name, let alone blog. It’s not the greatest feeling. As recently as 30 minutes ago someone said to me, “Slow down, Heather. Take 14 deep breaths.” But the universe works in mysterious ways. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that amidst all this craziness I was invited, as part of a blogging campaign, to do something I would never have done otherwise: Get my DNA analyzed at Health Works, a funky health shop in Hyde Park Corner. Health Works in Hyde Park Hyde Park Corner is a fancy shopping mall — a Joburg institution, really — filled with high-end restaurants and stores. But Health Works is different. The owner, Linda Weech, is a self-proclaimed “old hippy girl” who used to work in the clothing business but eventually switched over to health food and supplements because “health is more creative than clothes”. Linda opened Health […]

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Florence and twins

My Favorite Joburg People: Florence Ngobeni-Allen

I recently announced a storytelling project I’m working on called My Favorite Joburg People. I chose four people in Joburg, each of whom has an amazing story to tell, and interviewed them and shot their portraits. I’ll be presenting the stories and portraits at an event called Translating Joburg – Storytellers, and also publishing them on my blog. This is the third of the four stories. These stories are longer than my normal blog posts. Florence Ngobeni-Allen, May 2016. Florence Ngobeni-Allen I met Florence in August 2010, just a few weeks after I moved to Joburg, when I was hired to interview Florence and her family for an assignment with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF). Florence was a spokesperson for EGPAF, who I had worked for in Washington D.C. before my move to South Africa. So although we’d never met, I knew about Florence through stories I’d read. When I met Florence she was pregnant with her second son, Kulani, and I went to visit her after Kulani was born. My mother was visiting from America at the time and I have lovely pictures of Mom holding Kulani. The following year, when my boyfriend Jon’s alcoholism ramped up and I didn’t know how […]

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Summer Camp, South African Style

Day camp in Kagiso — a township surrounded by factories and mine dumps on Johannesburg’s far western edge — is much like day camp at the average American YMCA. But with a lot more singing and dancing. Dance class at camp in Kagiso. (To learn more about Kagiso Township, read this article from the Mail & Guardian.) Most American kids go to summer camp, whether it’s local day camp or sleep-away camp, at least once in their lives. I attended countless sports camps, drama camps, and everyday camps as a child, and my first summer job was as a camp counselor. In South Africa, camp is a novel concept. Middle and upper class kids might go on camping ‘holidays’ with their families or with school groups. But organized camp programs, especially for underprivileged kids, didn’t really exist here until several years ago, when an American NGO called Global Camps Africa (GCA) and a South African NGO called HIVSA got together and started Camp Sizanani.

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Why I Came to Africa

I first visited Africa four years ago, through my work as a writer for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF for short). Many of my assignments involved visiting health clinics and schools in various African countries, meeting beneficiaries of EGPAF’s programs and writing stories about the people and places I visited. These assignments changed my life. Joe took this photo of me at a rural primary school in northern Tanzania, on my first trip to Africa in March 2007. I had just discovered the joy of the photo-share.

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Saving Buildings and Lives in Hillbrow

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.

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Part 3 of 4: A Swazi Reunion

We awoke, soggy and groggy, on the morning after the flood (see Part 2). It was still raining. We picked up Zandi, our Swazi colleague from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and headed out of town. We were going to see Zanele and her two-year-old daughter, Phiwa. Zanele has HIV, but Phiwa is HIV-negative because Zanele received medicines that prevented her from transmitting HIV to her daughter.

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Final Thoughts on Lesotho

This trip ended more than a week ago but I still have a few more things to say about it. Driving to Mokhotlong The drive from Maseru to Mokhotlong was about 300 kilometers (168 miles). It took six hours. An hour after leaving Maseru, we reached a police checkpoint. Such checkpoints are common in Africa. Often they serve no apparent purpose – they’re just there. This was one such checkpoint.

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Horse-riding for Health in Mokhotlong

Let me back-track and explain the purpose of our trip to Lesotho. Bear with me because this will take time. On a map, Lesotho looks like a small dot in the middle of South Africa. It’s nick-named “the Kingdom in the Sky” and is one of the few places in Africa where it snows. Lesotho’s Maluti Mountains are among the highest in Southern Africa – many peaks are over 10,000 feet. Typical mountain scene in Lesotho.

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