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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 : Hardship Post, WotSheLike

Hardship Post Tuesday Triangle Tunes

Introducing Liz Cotton and the Wotshelike band … with “Hardship Post”:

 

 

Welcome to a first in what will hopefully be a new series called Tuesday Triangle Tunes! Once per month, I’ll share some expat / repat / life abroad related songs for you!

Today, I’m introducing the sometimes crude, always honest Liz Cotton and her band WotSheLike with their song, Hardship Post.

Our very first home as an expat family was in Delhi, India, which was classified as a hardship post. But what IS a hardship post?

From Wikipedia:

A hardship post is a term used in the United States Diplomatic Service to describe a diplomatic post where living conditions are difficult due to climate, crime, health care, pollution or other factors. Employees assigned to such posts receive a hardship differential of between 10 and 35 percent of their salary.

From an article on CNN, I found these comments:

What defines a hardship post? There is the question of war and personal security, but for the average multinational company much more is involved — health services, education, climate, language, how remote the place is and the availability of goods.

“Traditionally a hardship posting is defined as one which presents particularly onerous or unhealthy conditions,” Sarah Collins of Sterling Corporate Relocation told CNN.

“It does depend on the individual and there are certain people who, when taken away from their frames of reference, their support networks, their friends and families, would find pretty much anywhere a hardship,” she reiterated.

Re-location advisors say that success and enjoyment in a hardship post depends on attitude and that planning is essential, as is getting advice.

That piece of the quote that I’ve put in italics, I found, was so true! There were people who THRIVED in Delhi, in spite of the label “hardship post” and there are people who can barely get out of bed in some place like Singapore, which is nicknamed “Expat Lite” because of its general ease of lifestyle and lack of struggles.

I find often that expats rank the level of their hardiness by the locations they’ve lived. “Oh, that was where you lived? WE lived in _______.” (as if it earns them extra badges or jewels on their expat crown) I have talked to countless Triangles who then struggle with feeling as though they aren’t worthy enough because they lived somewhere “so easy.”

What do you think? Should the insinuation of having lived through a hardship post be relegated to days of past and instead focus more on the quality of life that a family / individual / couple is bringing to their current adopted / host country?  Should we stop talking about hardship posts and instead simply support and encourage each other, regardless of where we’ve lived?

Live On. Give On. giving back with the Bakken Invitation

During our time overseas, living in New Delhi, India and Singapore, it meant a lot to me to be able to give back with my time. Living abroad as an expat wife who wasn’t employed meant I had plenty of time to dedicate hours in every day to different organizations.

Giving Back in India Naomi Hattaway

 

Now that I’m back in the United States, I have had to step away from gala planning and teaching English as a Second Language to kiddos from an Indian slum. These days, I find myself looking for simple ways to give back. I’m constantly on the lookout for volunteer opportunities that allow me to give back to my community and those who serve our community. Giving back doesn’t always have to be a huge, massive event or something that everyone is talking about. I’ve settled into a routine of honoring those who serve our country/communities in many different ways, including by offering a percentage of my commission from my real estate business to military, teachers, police personnel, firefighters and those in the health care industry. I also spend time volunteering at Boulder Crest Retreat in Bluemont, Virginia, offering overnight and weekend stays/retreats for wounded military personnel and their family.

Here in the United States, we’ve just finished the celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday and we are moving rapidly into the sometimes over-commercialized holiday season of December. 

I’d love to introduce you to the Bakken Invitation.

The Bakken Invitation, by Medtronic, has chosen ten honorees from around the world in a Live On. Give On. campaign. Each of these honorees has been given a second chance at life. Due to a variety of medical issues and challenges, these honorees have faced incredible battles and truly understand the short nature of the life we are all given. They have all chosen to do spectacular things with their second chance and that inspires me. I’d like to introduce you to the honoree whose story most spoke to me.

Meet Raj.

Rajnikant Reshamwala Bakken

Nearing the age of 80, Raj started experiencing pain in his chest when exerting the slightest of energy. My own grandfather passed away after a long struggle with cardiac issues and those that suffer from problems related to cardiac issues and coronary artery disease have a special place in MY heart.

“I have been a lifelong volunteer and public service worker through various groups like the Progressive Group, the Jaycees and the Rotary Club. But it is my work with Sleeping Children Around the World that is most important to me. Their premise is simple. If you have a good night’s sleep on a decent mattress and something to cover yourself with, you will be able to get the most out of your day in school and at home. Since 1987, I’ve been locating needy children, purchasing essential items that they need such as pillows, sheets and blankets, and then coordinating distribution events to successfully reach the children. Over the years, I estimate that I have been able to help more than 75,000 young people. Then, I started having pain in my chest when walking, or when climbing the stairs. I was getting easily exhausted, and did not feel like going to the office or doing any other work involving even a little physical activity. My doctor advised that two stents should be inserted to remove blockages in my arteries.”

Read the rest of Raj’s story.

 

Rajnikant Reshamwala Bakken Medtronic

 

You may not be sure what offering you have or what talents you could lend to your community, and that’s ok! Take a look at this infograph and let the ten points really sink in with you.

What inspiration can you take away from these ten lessons? Which lesson speaks the most to you?

Medtronic Bakken Infograph

 

What inspires YOU to give back? How do you give of yourself in your community? What would YOU do with $100 to make a difference in your community?

Share your comment for a chance to win a $100 prepaid Visa® gift card to be used to further your volunteer efforts!

 NOTE: CONGRATS TO MY WINNER: KELLY D. !!!

Note: Thanks to Medtronic for sponsoring today’s post and the giveaway. Gift Cards should be used to further an effort inside of your community or in some way give back. I would be honored if the winner would come back to report, and would love to do a follow up post on the topic! Gift cards will be mailed to winners the week of January 5. Participants must be 18 years or older and with a US address.

 

Fellow Passengers.

Something that is very new to me and VERY much enjoyed is the luxury of having a driver.

I don’t have to explain it to you … no hunting for the car keys, no need to worry about reaching behind you to retrieve a thrown sippy cup and no longer the requirement to be “on your game” while behind the wheel.

Guess what else comes with having a driver?  Someone ELSE cleans up the car.  It is freshly washed first thing in the morning, and several times throughout the day.  The interior is cleaned DAILY.  No more finding rancid cheese sticks or melted fruit snacks. 

If I’ve had a long night, I can doze on my way back from school drop off.  If I want to read the paper, I can do it in the car.  If I’ve let my purse get out of control, I can simply go through it, en route to the next destination.

The interesting thing – on the days I choose to look out the window – is that there are loads of other women sharing the same road.

* *


Some of them are fellow expats.  It’s obvious that they are expats, though not visually apparent from which country they hail from.  Some (if not most) sit in the same seat as me, eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, nose buried in a book, or fingers typing an email.  Some appear to be exhausted, succumbed to the daily grind of getting through their days in Delhi.  Head resting in their hand, body slumped.


Others appear to be actively engaged in discussions with their children, or the fellow female passengers – possibly on their way to a lunch date or a morning coffee.

* *

Some of them are young students, crammed into a tiny bus, with brilliant white uniforms (how they keep them white is a secret I may never know).  Hair braided into two braids, tied off with big ribbon bows with oversized barrettes holding back the wayward strands of hair and bangs.

* *

One day I saw a very white and very blond woman.  If I had to guess, I’d say she’d only been in the country for a day or two, judging by the paranoid look on her face.  A beggar approached her window, which was rolled down, and pointed out the baby on her hip.  She got aggressive and began holding the baby up physically to the window, speaking to this petrified woman through the open window.

I could see the look in her eyes, as she glanced towards the rearview mirror – trying to ask the cab driver silently with her stare – to help her.  The air conditioning must not have been working in the cab, and that day the heat was stifling.

She let tears fall and tried to close her eyes.  Each time she attempted to shut out the drama right outside her window though, her eyes sprang back open.  As if she couldn’t help but look, listen and experience.  The relief on her face as the traffic light turned green, and her cab inched forward, away from that woman and the baby, was evident.

* *

I see blue license plated cars, which means its a diplomat’s car.  Is the woman riding solo in that car the diplomat, or is she married to one?  Does she like it here or would she rather return to their last posting?  Does she speak multiple languages and have a road map of history that would take years to tell?

* *

I also sometimes glance out of my window and see a yellow and green rickshaw.  Because of the way they’re constructed, often times you can’t see the passengers inside, only their feet, and their hands – most often folded neatly in their lap, clutching their bags.



* *

I see all of these other women … every day.  I’ll most likely never know their stories.

What if I did know their stories?  Would I take the time to listen?  To offer a bit of advice or a shoulder to lean on?  Would I smile a fake plastered grin and say “yea, lunch sometime sounds nice.”  Would I take the time to really get to know them … if the glass between us wasn’t the barrier, would I bother getting to know them?


When it’s not convenient to make a friend … do you make the effort anyway?
(reprinted from Delhi Bound, my blog about our time living in India, 2009-2012)