Wednesday, March 26, 2014

South Africa - part 2

I noticed during my quick trip to South Africa was that while I clearly was not a tourist I could look at some things from a more ‘touristic’ point of view. Things that the locals have to live with every single day were things I could just look at and smile. Cause, you know, I don’t have to deal with the bad service, or terrible roads, or lack of common decency.  Also, I know for a fact that you can have the same experience in Belgium, or anywhere in the world for that matter. I just chose not to focus on those things.

The one thing that was totally unavoidable thought was the load shedding. Sure I had heard of it from everyone but this time I actually experienced it. Let me tell you, I can see why people get, to put it plainly, pissed off about it.

I have a very good friend Val who went to high school with me. We weren’t such great friends in high school but over the last couple of years we have kept in contact and email and call each other about once a week.  So, on the Wednesday we had agreed to meet up and he would buy me a nice lunch.

I took the very convenient Gautrain to Centurion where he picked me up.

The Gautrain is South Africa’s first high speed train connection between Pretoria and Johannesburg (including the airport). It has been operational since 8 June 2010.

It was quite funny to see the people on board’s reaction. Some of them were using it for the first time and taking photos and calling their fiends and family saying ‘guess where I am?’

A couple of them even asked me where they had to switch to get on to the airport line, at which point I had to tell them that it was also a first time for me. ‘Wow, are you loving it?’ ‘Well’ I had to reply, ‘I actually live in Europe so high speed trains are nothing new for me’. I did, however, mention how super impressed I was at how clean it all was. And it really was.

But I’m getting off topic.

So, my friend Val and his four boys picked me up outside the train station and took me for lunch to Irene farm. It was my first time there and I loved it! 

According to the boys this is not the most friendly of swans
My friend Val with his four boys

On the way there I noticed that none of the traffic lights were working … what’s that about I asked. Load shedding.

When we got to Irene farm we were told that they were without electricity and could offer us something to drink but no food.

The boys were happy enough with that and raced off to go explore while Val & I sat catching up. Finally the boys all came back saying they were starving and could we go get some pizza somewhere. No problem ... or wait problem … we needed to pay for the drinks but:

  1. no electricity meant no payments by card
  2. Val didn’t have cash on him … they usually don’t accept cash and he knows this cause they go there often

Not to worry, I had cash on me and managed to count out the exact amount (they also couldn’t give any change).

We decided to go try our luck at the Irene Mall. They also didn’t have any electricity but we were able to get some pizza for the kids and Val was able to get cash from one of the grocery stores.

Not even the cell phone towers were working which was really strange since they don’t need electricity.

My sister-in-law is a 5th year med-student and she said that the hospitals have generators but that they are used for essential services only. This meant that none of the electric door locks were working. She was on-call that night and they couldn’t lock the door of the on-call room or lock off any of the wards which usually are ‘locked down’.

As developed as South Africa is the cracks are starting to show. Load shedding like this is becoming quite the norm which is really worrying since the government doesn’t seem to be overly concerned about it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


My friend Noreen works as a occasional journalist for a local expat radio station called Radio X. The money isn't great but she gets to interview interesting people and sometimes get free tickets to events.

I got a call from her at 6 last night. She had managed to get her hands on two tickets to see Russell Brand, last night. Dang! I couldn't make it. Himself was working and I had to fetch Cat from swimming and go home and feed the kids etc you know be a good mom.

So after both Noreen & I called around, I managed to get someone who was willing to drive out to pick Cat up,  drop her off at home and make sure that the kids had dinner.  Which means that I flaked out on mommy duty and went to go see Russel Brand.

He was hilarious! Really really funny.

I know he might not be everyones cup of tea but I had tears running down my face from laughing at some points.

I said sorry to the kids this morning for not being home early last night. Oh we don't care they said. What did you do. I told them that I went and saw Russell Band (aka. Katy Perry's ex-husband). What does he do, asked Tiger. Well, he is a stand-up comedian so he tells jokes.

'Awh you have all the luck', he said, 'I love jokes'. 'Yeah, but these were jokes for grown-ups'. 'But I really love grown-up jokes' he said.

I have a couple of photos but the man doesn't stand still for very long so please excuse the quality.

He was asking this lady why she was wearing a dress with a huge cut-out and padlocks on it
When she told him that that padlocks were for safety he told her he things she miss understood the whole thing and if she wanted to keep her chest safe she might not want to wear a dress with a huge hole in it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

South Africa - part 1

My trip ‘home’ to South Africa almost seems like a million years ago. It has been go go go since I’ve gotten back. We have a new schedule to stick to at home. Himself is now working every night, save Fridays at the pub and since he starts at 3 it means that I now have to do the sport runs at night.

What it boils down to is getting home after swimming/football at roughly 8:30 at night at which time I have to make dinner and put the kids to bed. Then I got to the gym and make it home to shower and before I know it I’m asleep. Don’t ask me when I’m cleaning the house cause I would have to tell you I’m not …

Anyway, you want to hear about South Africa not about my dirty house.

So, it was Friday evening and Himself & I were sitting in the clubhouse, having a drink waiting for Tiger’s football training to start. School closed for mid-term and I also had a week leave booked.  I had been toying with the idea of popping over to London for ages now but I was sitting there complaining about how much it would cost. Going doesn’t cost much; it is finding a place to stay and public transport which really cost more than I like to spend. (I don’t spend money easily on myself). I worked out that it would cost me roughly EUR 500.

‘You  know, you could probably fly to SA for that price’, says Himself. Really? ‘Yeah, I saw some really cheap tickets this morning’. Mmh, ‘home’ to SA or a couple of days in London. Well, as much as I want to meet Sarah (who now lives on London) the idea of going home for the first time in nearly 5 years was just too tempting.

On Sunday morning I dropped the kids off at my folks who were taking them camping till Wednesday evening and by 6 I was on the train on my way to Paris.

I landed in Johannesburg on Monday morning and was very glad to see my brother-in-law waiting for me at arrivals since I wasn’t sure that he had gotten my message asking him to pick me up due to some phone issues I was having and them being busy with a birthday party for his wife all of Sunday.

First view of Johannesburg just before dropping down below the clouds

Coming in to land .... so much for sunshine :)

The down side, it was pouring!!!! Here I thought I was getting away from the incessant rain in Belgium only to be greeting by rain, rain and more rain. The most rain in 60 years!

Photo courtesy of: Anwar Nagel - Road to the Airport from Pretoria to Johannesburg

Photo courtesy of: Anwar Nagel

Photo courtesy of: Anwar Nagel

I spent the week visiting family and friends. Drinking loads of coffee and eating way too much cause everyone just wants to feed me all the things I can’t eat here.
And I went shopping. It was quite a novelty to go shopping in a proper mall again. Luckily my mother-in-law was more than willing and on my last day one of my brothers-in-law and my sister-in-law 'bunked' work and med school to tag along.

I met kids who either were too little to remember meeting me before (two nephews) or weren’t even born yet the last time I was home. (more about all of them in a later post).

It was fantastic! Only two things could have been better, the weather, cause sadly it never stopped raining for very long,  and it could have been for longer cause I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with anyone.

And, I experienced load shedding, but I’ll tell you all about it in my next post.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit

I like to think that there is a little bit of Irish in all of us.
So, to everyone who feels a little Irish today and to all my fantastic Irish friends:


Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Friday!

I'm back from South Africa and trying to come to grips with a mountain of work but I wanted to at least post this:

Monday, March 3, 2014

From South Africa ...

I'm in South Africa, first time in nearly 5 years. It is a very impromptu trip and only for the week. I'll write and tell you all about it when I'm back home. But, I can tell you that the weather sucks! 

I know I can't believe it either! I hasn't stopped raining since I got here! And Murphy's law, it is sunny and dry in Belgium!