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photography

Outside Master Mansions

A Magical Visit to Master Mansions

A couple of weeks ago I attended the book launch for Master Mansions. Master Mansions is the eighth in a ten-book series called “Wake Up, This is Joburg”: written by Tanya Zack, photographed by Mark Lewis, and published by Fourthwall Books. My precious copy of Master Mansions. Just a side note about the “Wake Up This is Joburg” books: If you attend the launch of one of the books, then buy the book and impatiently rip it out of the plastic right away, please do not do so while eating canapés. You’ll risk putting greasy fingerprints on the delicate, un-laminated cover of the book. (I photoshopped my fingerprint out of the picture above.) The “Wake Up This is Joburg” series is fantastic. I learned about it late, after the first five books had already sold out, so I only have numbers six, seven, and eight. (Nine and ten haven’t been released yet.) The narrative in these books — which are more like fancy pamphlets, covered with thick, matte paper and bound with staples — is exceptional and the photography is inspiring. The short stories are required reading for anyone who appreciates Joburg’s beautiful oddity. At the book launch my friend Gail approached Harshad Bhikha Master, one […]

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Ted Sheasby at his printer in Malvern

#Gauteng52, Week 22: An Old-School Printer in Malvern

Welcome to Week 22 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit PrintALine, an old-school print shop in Malvern, Johannesburg. Ted Sheasby’s letterpress print shop in Malvern — a run-down suburb in eastern Johannesburg dotted with auto repair shops and crumbling semis — will never appear in any guidebook. This story is more about a person, and a process, than it is about a place. Ted Sheasby in his shop — an ancient garage in Malvern.  So this isn’t a typical #Gauteng52 post. But when I look back over my 52 stories about Gauteng Province at the end of this year, I want Ted’s story to be one of them. It’s too interesting and weird not to include. And besides, this might be the only blog post ever written about Malvern. Stepping Back in Time Inside a Malvern Garage When I was a little girl, my father was the sports editor of the Sykesville Herald, a newspaper in the small town where I grew up. I have a vague memory of going with my dad to the room where the Herald was printed. The room […]

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Thembi Koli in Kayamandi, on tour with Stellenbosch 360

A Non-Drinker’s Guide to Stellenbosch

Let me clarify that I am not a non-drinker. I’m no party animal, but I do enjoy a glass of wine. So I was ecstatic to be invited to participate in #Stellenblog, a blogging campaign in Stellenbosch. There were some non-drinkers in our group, and at the start of the trip I wondered how much fun they would have hanging out for a week in the wine-drinking capital of South Africa. At the end of the week, when I looked through all my Stellenbosch photos, I found they told an unexpected story. There was lots of wine-drinking, to be sure. But the most memorable activities of the week had nothing to do with wine, or any alcohol for that matter. Alcohol-free Stellenbosch So I decided to put together a little guide for non-drinkers. If you don’t like wine, or don’t drink at all, here’s a list of activities to keep you busy on a multi-day visit to Stellenbosch. 1) Take a Segway Tour Back when I lived in Washington D.C., I used to watch group Segway tours glide past and silently make fun of them. I should have known that someday my own Segway time would come. Laugh silently if […]

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The Victorian Secret in Benoni

#Gauteng52, Week 20: Benoni’s Victorian Secret

Welcome to Week 20 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Victorian Secret, a restaurant and bakery in Benoni. I hate to break it to you guys, but the Victorian Secret in Benoni doesn’t sell lingerie. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great place to take your wife or girlfriend. The Victorian Secret’s pastries are every bit as delicious as a sexy lace camisole. Okay, that was a terrible metaphor but I had to do it. Moving right along. I was introduced to the Victorian Secret by Laurice from the Johannesburg in Your Pocket Guide. Laurice grew up in Benoni and took my friend Marie-Lais and me on an exploration of this quirky town just east of Joburg. (In the past I have referred to Benoni as a suburb — as I would to any smallish town on the outskirts of a huge city — but I found out the hard way that some Benoni residents do not take kindly to this characterization. Lesson learned. Sorry, Benoni: You’re a town and nothing but a town.) We didn’t find any flamingos on […]

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View and wine glasses at Jordan Wines in Stellenbosch

11 Spectacular Views in Stellenbosch

I recently received an invitation to participate in a blogging campaign called #Stellenblog. #Stellenblog is an annual weeklong event in which bloggers/social media influencers from around South Africa and the world go to Stellenbosch — a university town outside Cape Town that is the center of South Africa’s wine industry — and hang around eating/drinking/having fun. The #Stellenblog crew, clockwise from top left: Fhatuwani, Trudy, Samuel (doing his best to hide), Lauren, Becki, Vuyo, me, and Audrey. Not shown: Ongama, Dawid, and Mark. Sounds like a tough job, right? Okay, I lie. Drinking/eating/having fun is not tough at all, especially not in Stellenbosch. If you go to Stellenbosch, on someone else’s dime, and don’t drink/eat/fun yourself to within an inch of your life, then there is probably something seriously wrong with you. Like maybe you don’t have taste buds. Or your heart is made of stone. So last week wasn’t hard. But the hard part of this job comes now, as I wade through more than 3000 photos and try to figure out how to tell the story of #Stellenblog. I will start with the view. Stellenbosch is drop-dead gorgeous, especially in the fall when the grape vines and grass and leaves […]

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Chilles for sale

The 8 Best Things About Mexico City, Shot on iPhone

My camera was stolen in Mexico City. As someone who lives in another huge city with a reputation for crime, I didn’t want to make a big deal about this on my blog. The theft happened because I let my guard down and someone took advantage of my carelessness. It could have happened in any city on earth. Sadly though, it happened in Mexico City, which means: 1) I lost nearly all the Mexico City photos I had taken up until the theft, as I hadn’t backed up my memory card yet (another act of carelessness); and 2) I had to depend on iPhone photography for the remainder of my week in Mexico City. Mexico City is crowded and overwhelming. Most of the people are nice, like these two guys. But as in any other city, there are thieves looking to take advantage of wide-eyed tourists like me.  I realized I would have to write about the camera theft, as losing my camera had a profound impact on the way I documented my time in Mexico City. My camera is like an extension of my arm. I had no idea how dependent I was on it — how integral a camera […]

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Graffiti in brooklyn

2Summers in New York City

I took an Amtrak train from Baltimore to New York City. Upon arrival, I climbed from the depths of Penn Station up into the forest of skyscrapers in midtown Manhattan. I walked to the taxi stand and told the first driver in line that I needed to go to Brooklyn. My cab driver, a friendly young man named Mark, was a New York City original. Mark told me about his troubled childhood, how much he loves the bible, and how he “used to be gay” before discovering Jesus and starting a new life as a straight man. I learned all of this, and more, within 90 seconds of getting into the cab. “Can you hear me back there?” he called, peering in the rear-view mirror. “Move over a bit so I can see you.” Mark spent the remaining 30 minutes of the drive imploring me to read the bible. My guess is 99% of his passengers shut him down rudely (which I was tempted to do), or simply ignore him (which I was also tempted to do), and he was excited beyond belief that I was even listening (I was being polite, and maybe a little curious). I wasn’t sure how to respond to […]

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Wolesely hood ornament

#Gauteng52, Week 17: The James Hall Museum of Transport

Welcome to Week 17 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the James Hall Museum of Transport. I was prepared to hate the James Hall Museum of Transport. The only thing I really knew about the James Hall Museum of Transport (which most Joburgers refer to simply as “the Transport Museum”) before I went was that it’s about cars. I have zero interest in cars. Also the first room of the museum makes a bad first impression — full of badly lit, dusty exhibitions — and I kind of wanted to leave within five minutes of arriving. The James Hall Museum of Transport, which looks underwhelming from the outside. A 19th-century carriage, complete with full-size plastic horses, in the “animal-drawn vehicles” collection. This part of the museum, which is the first room after the entrance, was a bit sad.  But I was with my friend Kate on our whirlwind tour of Joburg South, and neither of us had been to the Transport Museum before. We wanted to give the place a chance. And besides, admission was free. We persisted and in the end we […]

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View of Joburg from the top of Ponte City

In Transit: Hillbrow Above and Below

I’m about to leave South Africa for a few weeks, which always makes me feel weird. I woke up in a strange, sad mood today, mourning everything about the state of the world. I recognize the feeling now — it’s pre-transit melancholy. (Although there really are a lot of crappy things happening in the world right now, too.) This is going to be a momentous trip for a variety of reasons and I’ll be blogging about those reasons along the way. But before I go, I thought I’d throw out some momentous Jozi photos that I took earlier this month. I tagged along with some friends on a tour of Hillbrow and Berea with Dlala Nje, an organization based in Ponte City. I’ve blogged about Hillbrow, Berea, and Ponte City on many occasions but these places never get old. Dlala Nje has an apartment on the top floor of Ponte City. This is the view through the window of that apartment. Hillbrow has an incredible concentration of satellite dishes. Ponte City (the tallest residential building in Africa) has a hollow core. Here’s the view from inside the core, one of the most spectacular sights in Joburg. Sorry, one more. Fiver sketches inside the Ponte core. […]

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Cosmos in Delta Park

#Gauteng52, Week 12: The Cosmos of Delta Park

Welcome to Week 12 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit Delta Park, which explodes with pink and white cosmos flowers every autumn. This #Gauteng52 post is cheating a little because I’ve been to Delta Park — a huge city park bordering the suburbs of Craighall Park, Blairgowrie, Victory Park, and Linden — before. But up until yesterday I had never been to Delta Park during cosmos season, which transforms this park into a totally different place. Fields full of cosmos in Delta Park. Cosmos are wildflowers that made their way to South Africa in contaminated horse feed during the Anglo Boer War; the flowers are native to the Americas. The cosmos took to the dry climate of the South African highveld and everywhere the horses fed, the cosmos grew. The flowers seem especially fond of ditches along rural South African roads and highways, and they grow like wildfire in Delta Park. Cosmos: Johannesburg’s Autumn Leaves March is the beginning of autumn in South Africa. We might not have the same abundance of fall leaves that I grew up with in America (there are some, but not […]

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Post box sign in Jeppe Post Office

Inside Joburg’s Historic Jeppe Post Office

There are sections of downtown Joburg where things are so chaotic and colorful and slightly scary that I find it hard to focus on any one thing. Such is the case at the corner of Jeppe and Kruis Streets, home of the Jeppe Post Office. Look here — a clothes shop entrance lined with dozens of curvy mannequin legs in tight-fitting jeans, packed so close together there’s hardly space to walk through. Look there — the hood of a car spread with 100 pairs of colorful flip-flops. Look here — a trolley piled high with oranges selling for a rand each. Look there — a man pushing a shopping cart full of bloody cow heads. Look here — a highjacked apartment building spilling garbage from every window. Look there — a newly restored, gleaming white office block with shiny black glass windows. Spaza shops, hair salons, honking taxis, muscular police vans, and a hundred people squatting, standing, walking every which way. A quick glimpse of Jeppe and Kruis Streets. My eyes dart from one thing and one person to another and my brain considers what or who I should or shouldn’t photograph, or whether I should even take my camera out of its bag at all. […]

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Elephant orphan with caretaker at DSWT, Karen

Baby Elephants, Hungry Giraffes, and Other Cool Stuff in Karen

Karen is a suburb of Nairobi named for Danish farmer Karen Blixen (a.k.a. Meryl Streep), author of Out of Africa. The area was developed on the site of Blixen’s early 20th-century farm, where Out of Africa was filmed. I spent two days of my weeklong trip to Nairobi exploring Karen, which is anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour (or more) from downtown Nairobi, depending on traffic. It’s an alluring place — quiet, heavily forested, scattered with colonial estates and shady tea gardens. I decided to write a separate post about Karen because it’s so different and far-removed from central Nairobi. Karen is also filled with great tourist attractions. Karen’s 6 Best Tourist Attractions Here are the six coolest things I did in Karen. 1) The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust If you like animals and have time to do one thing in Karen, visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT). Baby elephants! DSWT is legendary in the animal conservation community — the first organization to raise orphaned elephant calves and integrate them back into the wild. Daphne Sheldrick, founder of the trust, developed a special a formula that substitutes for elephant breast milk and pioneered a process in which elephant calves are raised […]

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