Last week Wendy Carstens, the chairperson of the Friends of the Melville Koppies, asked me to take a portrait of her and her husband, David, at the top of the Koppies. The portrait is a gift for their daughter’s birthday. I have huge respect for Wendy and the work she does maintaining and promoting the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve, with a small amount of money and a massive amount of determination. So I was honored when she asked me to take the portrait, but also nervous. I don’t do many assignments like this and I was scared of messing it up — that Wendy and David wouldn’t like any of the pictures I took and I would feel like a miserable failure. Luckily that didn’t happen. Wendy and David at the top of Melville Koppies Central, with the northern suburbs and Sandton City behind them. This is the picture they chose. Another option, with Melville in the background. Wendy liked this one too. This one was my favorite but I don’t think they wanted such a close-up shot. Anyway, this is a super-short post. But I thought I’d show off some pictures I’m proud of and remind you that the Melville Koppies is (are? Subject-verb agreement […]
I’m grateful that it’s sunny in Joburg on Christmas Day, even though the weather forecast predicted clouds and rain. I’m grateful that my sister flew here from America to be with me, and that she decided to stage an impromptu photo session in the aloe tree this morning. That was a really nice Christmas present. Here is a photo strip documenting the experience. Susanna climbs the tree.
I’m moving out of my house, the Lucky 5 Star, at the end of this month. I’m not happy about it. I bemoan my impending move to anyone who will listen. Last night I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself — for a few hours at least — and do something to celebrate this awesome house. I invited a few friends over for a Lucky 5 Star House-Cooling. (A house-cooling is the opposite of a house-warming. Thanks to Martina in Jozi for introducing me to this expression.) It was the perfect summer evening for a party, and a perfect opportunity to enjoy the new view of the Melville Koppies from my back garden. View from behind the Lucky 5 Star after half a tree fell two weeks ago.
I gave myself a new blog for Christmas. It’s a good time to reinvent myself. It’s been a heck of a year. I’ve experienced immense joy in 2011, along with unimaginable grief and despair. The last two months in particular have left me feeling like someone removed my internal organs, beat them to a pulp with a hammer, then placed them back inside my body. And the year ain’t over yet. So. Time for a change. I loved my old header image of the South African and U.S. flags flapping in the wind. Joe shot the photo in Melville during the 2010 World Cup, just before I moved here. It was a unique image that communicated a lot about who I am and what my blog is about.
As long as I’ve lived here, the view from the deck at the Lucky 5 Star has been a wall of green. It was one of my favorite things about the house — the back yard felt like a private jungle, filled with unruly indigenous plants and flowering creepers (the creepers are pretty, but invasive). Yesterday, the creepers got the best of the yard’s largest indigenous plant — a twisty rock karee tree. Here’s a shot taken from the deck, exactly a year ago during a summer rain storm. You can see a limb of the rock karee tree shooting off to the left. The other limbs are obscured by creepers.
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.
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.
In my last Melville Koppies post, I mentioned a Saturday morning guided hike in Koppies West that I planned to attend. I didn’t make it and I won’t bore you with my lame excuses. But to make up for our morning laziness, Joe and I took our own walk on Koppies West yesterday afternoon. Of all three Koppies sections, Koppies West is the largest and has the highest elevation. The view of downtown Joburg from Koppies West is jaw-dropping.