When we were back in the states a few months ago we brought some small gifts for friends. One such gift was a bottle of Cape Fynbos Gin. Our friend is a master gardener in Madison, WI and we knew she’d be thrilled by the concept and the label art. Today she posted a blog post and we were happy to see that she has indeed been enjoying both. See her blog Post here. She provides an excellent break down of what fynbos is and what makes it special.
Living away from friends and family can make it harder to maintain connections. While Facebook and other forms of social media claim to help, they just give you the surface details. You have to be a little more vigilant about maintaining contact with some friends because no matter how hard you try you simply can’t see everyone when you are back in town for a week. There are quite a large number of friends and family I haven’t seen in well over a year. As much as I hate to admit it, there just isn’t enough available time or money to see everyone when I want to or for as long as we’d like.
For the more tech savvy of the bunch, I’ve been able to maintain contact via Whatsapp, Facebook, or Instagram. But there are others that I have only had minimal contact with. I recently found out one such friend had passed away in November. For some reason, his death has hit me a little harder than others even though we weren’t what I would call close friends. Maybe it’s the shock of finding out months later, maybe it’s that he was close to my age. Either way, it’s a good reminder for me to check in on people more than once every few months.
Celebrating the festive holidays in the Southern Hemisphere is really messing with my head. The weather is too “summery”, the sun is too bright, and rises too early. As much as I disliked the cold in Wisconsin, the snow and holiday lights peeking through always warmed my soul. Seeing fresh snow on a pine or cedar branch while sipping a warm beverage can’t be beaten.
Looking back on it, I was probably 100% ok with winter and the cold until the end of February, then it just felt like Ol’man winter was just being a houseguest that wouldn’t leave. I’m sure we all know what that’s like.
So now that Christmas is only 9 days away we are starting to make some strategic plans. Friends have invited us over for a braai ( BBQ, or Fry out for the fans from Sheboygan, WI). They are going to prepare a gammon (I’m not quite sure what it is). In proper “bring and braai”form they encouraged others to bring a dish to share. The green bean casserole from Thanksgiving is our entrance fee. We’re also going to try our hands at some other traditional favorites (My Great Aunt’s Pound cake, Pop-unders, etc).
While we won’t have snow, I know we will have a great time with good friends and that is something that can’t be beaten.
The concept of loadshedding is foreign to many if not most in a non-emerging world country. In South Africa, it seems to be accepted as normal. When we were exploring what living in SA would be like our research made loadshedding seem like ancient history. Surprise, it’s back.
Loadshedding in SA is the method that the local electric utility (ESKOM) employs to decrease demand on the grid but shutting out power in a rolling black-out across the entire country in an effort to prevent total grid failure. Sounds exciting, right?
So you may be wondering how does a nation that gets what feels like 365 days of sun, has ample wind and access to fossil fuels hit a situation where they need to implement rolling blackouts nationwide. I wondered the same thing until I drove past a few electrical substations. To my admittedly untrained eye, these things looked like they were built using 1950s hardware. Then news broke that ESKOM was running out of coal. That was in turn shortly followed by news that a 600-page report had been filed that detailed corruption at ESKOM and Transnet ( a transportation entity). The utility itself has blamed planned and unplanned maintenance to correct faults as the cause.
But it’s not all bad news. Our water restriction has been lowered to stage 3. Which means we can use up to 100 liters of water a day. So while we may not have a reliable electrical grid, but we have ample water.
Check out our Instagram feed for a few pictures from the South African Historic Gran Prix we recently attended
While our friends and family in the states celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday, we were able to celebrate on Sunday with an eclectic group of friends.
For many Americans, Thanksgiving is a time to reconnect with their parents, aunts & uncles, and maybe cousins. Some give thanks for what they have by providing a meal to someone less fortunate, some just enjoy the company of family and friends.
As an Expat, I was prepared to forgo the traditional turkey and make do with what we were able to cobble together. It was looking like it was going to be a sad version of the times we had spent with our Thanksgiving family. This is where our network of expats came in and saved us from a sad and lonely event.
We had 7 Americans, 4 South Africans, a Briton, a Canadian, and an Italian. For several of the non-Americans, this was their first exposure the Thanksgiving experience. For the Americans, it was a bit strange to be eating our Thanksgiving meal when it was nearly 75/24 outside. But the view more than made up for it. Oh, we suffered.
Most guests brought a side to share, we ended up with a pretty great mix of dishes in addition to the two turkeys. P made green bean casserole that was a huge hit with everyone. I think a few folks got a bit nostalgic. There was a tomato casserole, a corn pudding, sweet potato bake, stuffing, mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, and finally a salad.
And on a personal high note, the lone Italian (who had never had mac and cheese before) was impressed with my version. So much so that she requested the recipe and asked if I’d be offended if she made it but called it something else so that her Italian friends and family wouldn’t shun her. I was more than happy to oblige.
In typical fashion, I think everyone ate too much, and the host encouraged everyone to take some leftovers home. While it wasn’t Thanksgiving with our Thanksgiving family, we had a great time, made some new friends, and have even more to be thankful for.
Life as an expat ain’t too bad.