Leaving Well : Pretoria, South Africa

This guest post is brought to you today from Clara Wiggins. We are exploring the concept of “leaving well” [the act of intentionally saying goodbye to a place, as one makes their way to the next destination] and today’s post discusses Pretoria, South Africa.

Leaving Well: Pretoria

Naomi has asked me to write about “leaving well” and come up with some of the things I knew I would have to say goodbye to. Yes we aren’t going for a while yet but when you know a break will be as hard as this one will be, there is no such thing as too soon. This is an excellent chance to begin this process … the process of “leaving well.”

The views

Every week when I take my children to their weekly horseriding lessons we climb up to a point on one of the hills high above Pretoria. From here the city lies below – spreading in every direction out to the surrounding country. It’s not a classically beautiful or majestic city but the combination of the height, the breeze and the space makes for something very restful. Add to that the stunning display of purple in every direction you look when it is jacaranda season and I know this is one place I will certainly miss. And talking of jacarandas….

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

The flowers

As I say, Pretoria is not one of those cities that people think about when they list beautiful cities of the world. But it is a pretty place and one of the main reasons is because of the foliage. Everywhere you go, especially as we reach spring, blossom is appearing. The bright red, pink and orange bougainvillea is stunning – particularly set against the brilliant blue skies that this country is famous for. But jacaranda season is when Pretoria really comes into its own – even though many cities around the world boast streets of this famous flower, I am told it is good enough here to attract Japanese tourists for this reason alone.

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Cape Town

There is much discussion amongst expats in South Africa about the best place to live. Everyone assumes it must be Cape Town – one of those cities that frequently makes it into the top ten cities of the world for its dramatic Table Mountain backdrop, it’s cool restaurant scene and its proximity to the winelands. Personally though, as an expat, I think Pretoria is a better place to live simply because it is a city where many other transients like us reside. This means finding and making friends is very easy. What I LOVE though is that I can drive down the motorway, hop on a plane, and be in Cape Town for a weekend within a couple of hours. I am sure that if I lived there the beauty of the city would wear off, I wonder whether you would even notice the Mountain after a while? But knowing it is there, practically on your doorstep, for whenever you need it, is a great feeling. We have been twice as a family already and I also went with a friend for a girls’ weekend, but I am sure we will be back at least once before we leave.

Johannesburg

This is a late entry but as I wrote about Cape Town I felt I needed to mention the other great city of South Africa, Jo’burg, too. Just down the road from us, this vibrant city has a reputation for crime and violence that is fast being replaced with fashion and food. It really is one of the most hip cities on the planet right now with so much going on it’s hard to know where to start. If you ever get the chance to come to SA I would recommend trying to stay at least a couple of nights in Johannesburg, maybe booking a graffiti walking tour or a cycling tour of neighboring Soweto or a foodie tour or…..you get the idea!

The dog walks

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

My life turned around when we got a dog. And although the dog himself is wonderful (a very good natured miniature schnauzer called Cooper) it is the accompanying life with him that has been the change. Every week at least once, often twice, a group of us meet with our pooches to walk them in the dog park about ten minutes from where I live. It is one of the only places dogs can be let off the lead safely – we also regularly meet at another place which is more of a hiking trail than a park! This group started small but has been growing in size and is now practically an institution. What I means is that every week not only do I get to catch up with my friends, meet some new ones, get some exercise and see my dog have fun with the other pups, it also means we can extend our social lives beyond those hour-long walks. So we meet, we chat, we get to know each other, we work out what ages our various children are (if we have any), we exchange numbers, we arrange to meet for coffee or playdates or doggie dates…..these walks are the highlight of my week (Cooper agrees!) and in all honesty are one of the reasons I have been so happy here.

The roof-top terrace at the Moroccan House

Never have I eaten out as often as I do in Pretoria. Why? Because it is so darned cheap! It isn’t quite as cheap as it was before the Rand had a little rally and the pound fell through the floor but even so, it is still almost as cheap to eat out as to eat in. I would probably do it a lot more if it wasn’t for the fact that portion sizes to tend to be big and the pounds are piling on….As well as eating out in the evening, with or without the children, I try to meet friends for coffee at least once a week. When you work from home life can get pretty lonely if you don’t get out so I see this as a necessity more than a luxury.

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

Our favorite place to meet is actually not South African at all but Moroccan – a café tucked away in a place you wouldn’t know was there until someone took you. But I suspect it’s one of the worst kept secrets in Pretoria as the car park is often lined with diplomats cars and lunches can be dominated by large groups of a certain type of lady….however, it’s a perfect spot for a morning coffee (or perhaps one of their intriguingly named Magic Juices) – an airy roof top terrace, served by attentive staff, surrounded by beautiful pieces of Moroccan pottery, tables strewn with rose petals, gorgeous little spiced biscuits and cakes on offer…..

The wildlife

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

No post about South Africa would be complete without talking about the wildlife. From the zebras we pass on our way to horse-riding to the majestic Kruger park, animals have dominated our time here in South Africa. I can’t get over what it feels like to live somewhere where you can hop in a car and see rhinos in your local reserve within 20 minutes. We have all got used to telling the difference between a springbok, an impala and a kudu.

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

Whales, penguins, leopards, elephants, snakes (yes, one in our garden!), dung beatles, wild dogs…you name it, we’ve seen it. Except cheetahs – the one thing that has evaded us yet. So on our list before we leave? See cheetahs…

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

Braai’s and outdoor living

There aren’t many days when you can’t be outside in this country. In the winter it gets pretty chilly at night but the days are generally still bright and sunny. In the summer we get thunderstorms (see my next item) but it’s still hot. We have a total indoor/outdoor life with the patio doors always open and food eaten wherever the fancy takes us. We also have a built-in braai on our patio – the Afrikaaner word for barbecue – much to my husband’s delight. He loves mucking around with fire and if it were up to him we would eat freshly grilled steaks every day. It’s lovely and casual, very little standing on ceremony and the sort of lifestyle that I think is more familiar to us from Australia. Shoes? What they?!

Storms

When I say storms I mean storms. Real storms. I have never heard thunder like it or seen as much lightening in my life. Let alone hailstorms with hailstones the size of golf balls (which can cause a helluva lot of damage in a very short period of time – our cars are always put in the garage overnight). It can be a tad noisy but it is certainly dramatic.

It’s hard to think about leaving when we are only half way through our time in Pretoria but when you only have a year left thoughts do inevitably turn to what it is you will miss most about a place. I know I will miss everything. Everything. The weather, the people, the friends, the food, the restaurants, the weather, the wildlife, the travel, the expanse, the wine and did I mention the weather?  So leaving Pretoria is going to be very, very tough – I am already well aware of that and need to mentally prepare myself a long way in advance of our departure.

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

Clara Wiggins was born in Cuba to British diplomat parents and hasn’t stopped traveling since. As a child, she moved between the UK, the Philippines, Nigeria, Venezuela and Gibraltar before flying the nest. Her work as first a journalist and later a diplomat in the British Foreign Office took her abroad again, including to Jamaica where she met her husband. With his job, they and their two daughters have lived in Pakistan and St Lucia and South Africa. Following her experiences as an accompanying spouse, Clara has written the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide. You can find out about the book at her blog: Expat Partner’s Survival

Tuesday Triangle Tunes: Rivers and Roads

mix tape

 

A year from now we’ll all be gone
All our friends will move away
And they’re going to better places
But our friends will be gone away

Nothing is as it has been
And I miss your face like Hell
And I guess it’s just as well
But I miss your face like Hell

Been talking ’bout the way things change
And my family lives in a different state
And if you don’t know what to make of this
Then we will not relate
So if you don’t know what to make of this
Then we will not relate

Rivers and roads
Rivers and roads
Rivers ’til I reach you

 

I Am a Triangle Community Rules

I AM A TRIANGLE 

I Am A Triangle, a home for global nomads where everyone fits

This FREE Facebook community, I Am a Triangle, is a home for global nomads, immigrants, globetrotters, TCKs, CCKs, MKs, Trailing or Trailblazing Spouses, Stars, LovePats, Digital Nomads, Expats, and anyone who understands living life abroad, where EVERYONE fits. We come together to share wisdom, ask questions and provide answers, share humor, reach out with specific needs, offer insights, tips, and most importantly support for one another in their globally nomadic journey.

 

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Naomi Hattaway

Owner of 8th & Home Relocation

Founder of the I Am a Triangle community

 

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Be the kind of supportive friend that you want and need on your globally nomadic journey.

 

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FROM THIS COMMUNITY

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We get it. This wild crazy life we’re living is a hard one, and there are no easy answers. Also? Everyone’s situation is unique. That’s where you come in. Your take on this global tapestry is important. The more insights and guidance in our community, the better we all become!

 

LOCAL GATHERINGS

If you are looking for your local TriCONNECT group (where Triangle members get together in “real life” to have coffee, tour a museum, share a lunch or a drink for happy hour, we are happy to connect you with your nearest location. Visit the TriCONNECT locations post for all current locations and topic based groups.

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Rosy’s Kitchen

If you know me very well, you know that I used to abhor cooking.  The term “cook” in MY kitchen meant either Green Bean Casserole, my famous chili or the drive thru.  After marrying Todd however, I developed a love for the kitchen.  Experimenting, perfecting, trying new things out.  It pleases me to menu plan and feed my brood.

I loved my hanging pot rack and really loved my spice rack.  I loved that my pots were well-used and worn.  While I didn’t like the clean up portion of cooking, I LOVED the shopping, the planning and the cooking part immensely. I experimented with freezer cooking (whereby one weekend a month, I would shop in bulk and spend the sum of two days cooking, chopping and prepping meals for the next 2-3 weeks, all which would sit nicely in my freezer until it was their turn to be consumed).

We participated in a round robin style cooking process with several friends. One day per week, we all cooked our dinners, but made multiple batches, and then delivered them to each other. It was a brilliant plan, especially when it worked out just so that someone else delivered stuffed red peppers to our home on the nights I was responsible for coaching the soccer team.

When I first heard about the “norm” in India to have a staff, I thought (like all of my American friends), “HOW COOL!”. I mean, how spoiled to have an actual designated cook doing all of the drudgeries of running a household. No more grocery shopping (hooray!), someone else could tackle the food prep, the cooking AND the cleanup. Not to mention passing off the dishes duty.When our belongings arrived and the unboxing begun, I wanted desperately to unpack my kitchen. Put things where they belonged and get that portion of the house set up first. I was itching to locate my favorite coffee cup and arrange the kids’ lunchbox containers just so. Little did I know that it was no longer my job.

Rosy and Sushila (the cook and the maid) both set to that task immediately and actually SHOO’D me out of my own kitchen. See … the reality here in India is that it is no longer MY kitchen.  It is Rosy’s kitchen.

Yes, I know.  I can hear you now.  ‘Naomi … don’t complain.  Be glad that you get someone who does all of that FOR you. Think of what you can do with all of that extra time!’  The takeover didn’t stop with the unpacking of boxes. From the moment I entered my new home, the kitchen – as well as most of my other tasks that I assumed on behalf of my children – became … hers.

Being asked to give up the job of whipping up dinner, the satisfaction of hearing “that was really good, babe!”, and knowing I had successfully taken random ingredients from my pantry and created something delicious and healthy for my family, was extremely difficult.

Mia - upset because we couldn't purchase from ALL of the vendors.

Mia – upset because we couldn’t purchase from ALL of the vendors.

I associate my success as a mother and a wife with the ability to feed them well.  Their full bellies and contented smiles after dinner means I’ve succeeded as a mom.  I know the feeling when dinner is burned, or when presenting filled plates, you receive sour puss looks, followed by “I don’t WANT this”. It feels like small failures. 

I’ve spent a good portion of the last 6 years perfecting the balance of what’s healthy for my family and what they’ll actually eat, and have learned to not only enjoy it immensely, I thrive on the challenge to find where the scale evens out in the middle.

This having a cook gig not only takes away my control and my joy in providing for my family, it also requires some extra steps.  Instead of relying simply on my memory power to remember what is a staple in my pantry, or what leftovers I have to work with, or what meat is in the freezer, it requires a daily conversation with Rosy about that day’s menu plan.

Shopping Indira

Realizing that it doesn’t seem like a big deal to simply have a 10 minute conversation about tonight’s dinner … the reality is that those 10 minutes virtually ends my responsibility for that part of raising a family.  The problem is again with control. After 14 years of being the SOLE decision maker on what my family needs to fill their belly, I … with the simple act of boarding of an airplane … have now relinquished the safety and health of my children to someone I barely know.

We will eventually figure out this cooking business and I will provide Rosy with a week’s worth of menus, with the list of ingredients needed and the recipes.  We will have our morning chats to ensure that she understands what ingredients we need, and so that I understand what ingredients might not be available at the local markets or at the “Sugar and Spice grocery store.”

 Antonio Indira

I have begun to insist that our meat come from somewhere a bit more “normal” instead of arriving at the house, in a black plastic bag, still warm (you get what I mean, right?) and we will figure out a balance of when I choose to do the grocery shopping vs. Rosy taking that responsibility.

It has been decided that I will be the one in the kitchen every morning to get my children their breakfast. It’s also been agreed that no one will come up from their quarters until 9:00am so that I can enjoy my coffee in peace. Because she loves her dearly and enjoys squeezing her cheeks and plopping her up on the counter to teach her Hindi, Rosy will provide lunch for Mia. And for me, I will work on my struggle to give up control over one of the KEY elements of being a mom/wife to this family and will give Rosy the controls. 

After all, she quietly works in the kitchen all day long to provide great meals for us that are seemingly magically ready at the appointed hour of 6:00  pm … and once we’ve finished our meal, she reappears to do all of the cleanup.  “My kitchen” has NEVER before been this clean 24/7.

[By the way … our first Indian food here in the house was a huge success.  Rosy made Aloo Gobi (cauliflower and potatoes), dal (beans) and chipati.  Mia tasted her serving but deemed it too ‘picy.  Tony ate his entire helping and well, Terran and I licked our plates.  I’m hoping to implement Indian food into our menu plan twice per week, with Western style food being the main option.  Rosy is a great cook and makes the most wicked brownies you’ve tasted … this side of the ocean!  Don’t tell anyone, but we’re going to keep making Mac N Cheese on Indian dinner nights until the littles have developed more of a taste for it.]

 

[Side note: Rosy’s employment didn’t last long. While she was wonderful to our family, in the end her desire for full control of decisions, parenting choices and how our home life played out clashed too strongly with mine and we found a new cook, Shanti. The final straw was one afternoon when I was insisting that the children make their OWN beds in the morning and clean up their OWN toys, Rosy responded “this is my house to run, and I know what’s best.” I slammed my hand on the counter and retorted “it may be your house to run, but they are my children and this is MY family.” I’m not proud of the angry tone I exhibited towards her, but it was an important moment in my new role as a “ma’am”. From that moment on, I realized that while it takes a village to raise a family – and in our case, a staff of NINE – my role as a mother and wife could never be taken away simply because someone else was sharing the responsibility to care for my family.]