Seeing Johannesburg for the first time: a walking tour of Fordsburg

Yesterday I finally entered the behemoth that is Johannesburg. And came out not only alive, but carrying packets of spice and some rose petal jam. As well as lots of pretty pictures on my camera.

Joburg (as it seems to be known colloqially) is one of those infamous cities whose reputation strides before it. Known for years as a centre of terrifying crime, it is finally starting to get its day. In the past few years, the city has gone from mass robberies and tyre burnings to street art and hipster markets. I have seen it mentioned many times as one of those “up and coming” places that you must get to before everyone else arrives….which is probably news to the many people who have been happily living there for years. But it is definitely being cited as one of the hip and happening cities on this planet right now.

photo tour b and w

Nevertheless, for someone like myself living in cosy, provincial Pretoria, sprawling Johannesburg is still a fairly daunting prospect. So I was grateful when one of the parents at the school my children go to invited me along on a photography group walking tour in the city – a great way, I thought, to not only learn more about the country I live in but also to start to get a feel for Johannesburg and it’s districts. As well as have a social outing and meet some new people.

As it turned out, the tour was of an area that I would otherwise probably never have thought of visiting, which was even more of a bonus. I should probably have started with Soweto, where I could have learned more about the Apatheid regime and the uprisings against it. But I do at least already know a bit about that era (after all, didn’t all us students in the 1980’s sing Freeeeee Nelson Mandela and take part in protests aginst our government’s support of the South African government of the time?), and I look forward to learning more. Yesterday was about visiting the area where some of the most recent immigrants into this “rainbow nation” have made their homes: Fordsburg.

man in meat restaurant

We were met by our guide Ishvara (a South African chef with a side-line in tour-guiding) on a street in the middle of this compact centre of immigrant life. Right next to us was an old train carriage that had been adapted into a meditteranean restaurant. Next to that were some toilets bearing an inscription that told you the building now housing the Ladies and Gents had once been the focus of a communist uprising. Across the road was a huge banner proclaming that this was a place to buy your “share” (eg a goat or other sacrificial lamb) for Eid. We were surrounded on all sides by a reminder that this was an area that was forever changing – as new immirgants arrived, those who were more established moved on to other areas.

old and new

The old and the new…

We set off as a group and were taken down streets, into shops, through covered market areas, past a huge variety of colourful streetlife that made me feel more like I was in South London than South Africa. It was a good reminder that we are becoming ever more multi-cultural in this world and wherever you go you will almost certainly be able to source a good curry.

Each street or couple of streets was home to a different culture and thus we met and photographed people from Pakistan, Morocco, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Somalia….it was certainly a fascinating insight, although difficult in such a short space of time to really understand how these people felt about living here or how intergrated they were able to be (not very much I understood – but these are the first generation. It usually takes two or three generations before cultures properly mix). We did learn though from our guide that these were peaceful people, trying to make a living from their clothes shops or their jewellery outlets. No-one was interested in some of the more extreme ways of others of their religion – many of them had moved from their home countries to escape from that way of life.


two women in black

The friendliest street in Fordsburg - smiling Somalis

The friendliest street in Fordsburg – smiling Somalis

Overall, it was a very interesting whistle-stop tour of a fascinating part of Johannesburg. We ended with a return to the South Africa more familar to most of us – a traditional Afrikaans-run butchers shop. It felt like a fitting ending and a good way to remind us that although there were many people arriving in Johannesburg and bringing with them their culture, food and way of life – we were still in South Africa.

And we're back in South Africa....

And we’re back in South Africa….

Travelathomecity tripping

show your world

This is England

So many people think of rain when they think of England. Well, this was yesterday – and the day before….and the day before that….and today in fact…..

EDITED TO SAY: I CAN’T BELIEVE I PUT THIS UP AND FORGOT TO MENTION THAT IT IS ST GEORGE’S DAY! ENGLAND’S NATIONAL DAY. For years we have been made to feel ashamed of being English because the right wing parties like the BNP high-jacked our emblems and national-pride was associated with racism. Now with the rise of Scottish, Welsh and even Cornish nationalism, I think there is a move back to claim England, the English flag and all that goes with it (including St George’s Day) as our own. We live in a multi-cultural, tolerant, open and democratic country and I am proud to be English.

pink blossom blue sky

Triumph! Photo101

I feel quite triumphant to have made it to the end of the four week long photo101 course. And one of the reasons I have often struggled to find the time to post that day’s picture has because I have been working hard on the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide – the book whuch gave birth to this blog. It’s nearly done, I am expecting a proof copy next week. Of course I have no idea yet how it will be received but I certainly feel proud that I have got this far. So, to mark the last day of the photo101 course – with the theme of “triumph” – I present a specially created collage of the book:

Book 4 collage

And that’s it folks – the end of the photo101 course. It’s been fun, I feel like I have learnt (quite) a lot and met some great new bloggers. I hope to continue exploring photography – but for now, I’m off to have a coffee!

Photo101: Seeing double…or is that triple?

Today’s photo assignment – nearly the last – asks us to focus on something that you have two of. These fellow’s have a little story behind them.


Known as Cat1 and Cat2, we bought number one (and no I don’t know which one is which) as a cheap  toy for our youngest daughter on our return from being evacuated out of Islamabad. We had to wait a while for our worldly goods to catch up with us, so a quick trip to IKEA was needed to buy some of the essentials. Cat was a bit of an after-thought, but rapidly became one of those favourites all parents dread losing. So much so, that we decided to buy a second – just in case number one went missing….

So there were two.

And then, there were…


Oh yes, so paranoid were we of losing those wretched cats that we bought another. And she didn’t lose any of them! So now we have Cat1, Cat2 and Cat3. The triplets.

Photo101: The eclipse through a glass window

I was struggling to see the eclipse from my back room on Friday morning – but managed to snap a few photos using my camera phone. I joined neighbours out the front and we were lucky enough to have the lend of some proper eclipse glasses and had quite a show. But it was only when I looked back at my photos that I realised I HAD managed to get a picture of the eclipsed sun – reflected on something in the glass. It’s a rubbish photo but it’s got a little special centre!


An interview, some questions and a giant spider on top of the Eiffel Tower.

Merging three short posts again this morning….

First of all I want to thank The New Diplomat’s Wifefor featuring me in her fabulous Notes from the Field series. I wrote about my time in St Lucia and you can read all about it here: Notes From the Field: St Lucia. I really enjoyed doing this interview, sometimes it’s only when you look back that you remember some of the things you went through in a particular posting. I also really love The New Diplomat’s Wife’s website as it is so beautiful and elegant. Plus, she was training to be a diplomat but ended up marrying one herself. Sort of like me, although I did actually manage to work as a diplomat for a few years before becoming the spouse.

So on to the questions. This is in response to another award nomination, this time from Hong Kong – A Teacher Abroad who nominated me for a Liebster Award. Time dictates that I won’t be nominating others but I always think it’s nice to acknowledge the person who has gone to the trouble of nominating you, and I like to answer the questions they pose with the nomination. So here they are:

1. What made you start a blog? This is easy as I already have the answer in my About the Blog section. Basically to accompany the book, somewhere I can add to and update information in the book and just because I love to write.

2. How do you decide what to blog about?  I constantly come up with ideas, but don’t always have time to write them all down! Many of my blogs are based on the themes of being an expat partner, but I also like to write about travel generally. I get ideas from my own experiences, reading about other people’s experiences, news items, discussions in forums…..

3. Do you plan your posts and if so how? A bit. I try to plan ahead if I can but things change so this isn’t always possible. I like to intersperse guest posts with my own and try not to have more than one post from a particular series per week. I also try and do at least one really relevant to my blog’s theme every week.

4. Where is your favourite place to visit and why? At the moment it’s probably Florida just because of the ages of our children and that we have got to know it well. We don’t just go to Orlando though, we love travelling all over the State. My brother-in-law lives there which is why we go so often. We’re also really looking forward to exploring South Africa and the other countries in the region, including Mozambique.

5. Is there one thing you are particularly proud of? Writing the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide and getting it very very nearly to the point of publication! I have always wanted to write a book.

6. Favourite book As a child it was Watership Down. I am very sad my own children don’t want me to read it to them 😦

7. What 5 people -famous or otherwise, dead or alive, would you invite for dinner? It would have to be my grandfather who was murdered in Hong Kong when my mother was a young child – I would have loved to have met him and for him to see that his only daughter went on to have four children and seven grandchildren. Then I would also have to invite my granny (who died in 2003) and my parents. I would make the fifth person be a really good chef so they would do all the cooking. Mary Berry maybe as she was at school with my mum and my granny knew her!

8. If you could ban/get rid of one – celebrity, tv show, band or food (delete as appropriate), what would you choose? Fresh coriander (also known as cilantro). The devil’s food.

9. If you could travel back in time what period of history would you go back to? So long as I didn’t have to actually live there or stay there for very long, probably the Tudor period. It’s one period we all study in such depth it would be fascinating to find out what it was really like.

10. Who is your biggest influence in life? I don’t think I am really influenced by anyone. I am myself and drive my own ship!

Thank you again to Hong Kong – A Teacher Abroad for the nomination. And now the bit I know you have all been waiting for – a giant spider on top of the Eiffel Tower…

giant spider on the eiffel tower

Don’t worry, there is a point to this! The photo is the latest in the photo101’s theme for the day which this morning is: Scale. Enjoy!