This is the city for making friends

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I always go on and on that the one thing that really sets Johannesburg apart from other South African cities (and from what I hear global too) is how easy it is to make friends here.

One of the things you quickly learn when you leave University is that making new friends – especially of the same sex as you – is not easy. Men have sport which creates the perfect bonding opportunity – women don’t really have an equivalent. I sometimes joke that you have to go on friend-dates, just like you would with a girl or guy you like.

But living in Johannesburg I have made more friends than ever before in my life – warm, genuine, open, intelligent and interesting people. This week I was invited to two dinner parties – where most of the other guests I either didn’t know or have known less than 6 months…you would imagine there might be a bit of stiffness and lots of dull conversation about “what you do” – as there often is at these kinds of things. Instead there was laughter and the joy of feeling like you belong in this world, that there are plenty of other people who see the world as you do.

Thank you Jozi for making me feel like I have a home for my soul.

Sunsets and sunrises

sunrises and sunsets South Africasunrises and sunsets South Africasunrises and sunsets South Africasunrises and sunsets South Africasunrises and sunsets South Africasunrises and sunsets South Africasunrises and sunsets South Africasunrises and sunsets South Africasunrises and sunsets South AfricaThis weekend I got up very early on both Saturday and Sunday to shoot at sunrise. I get to see the sun come up every morning on my way to work but I am always on the highway and I never have the opportunity to take photos. The sunrises in Joburg are spectacular and I feel very lucky to start every morning like that. On Saturday I missioned off to an industrial area in the east called Sebenza, thinking I could shoot the sun coming up behind the power station – alas that proved impossible because the station is on a hill and the sun comes up behind it – so I was too low to get the photo I wanted….but I did get the cool power lines. On Sunday morning we were at the Hartebeespoort Dam and when I got up I had the Supermoon on one side and the sun on the other – a very exhilarating experience. Do yourself a favor – if you don’t usually see the sun come up set your alarm early and go and watch it, I think it has to be one of the oldest most moving experiences for human beings – our ancestors were doing the same thousands upon thousands of years ago.

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I have been home alone all day with three dogs and a parrot and I’m drinking red wine and thinking about Joburg so I thought I would share some of my random snaps from the past month that haven’t made it into specific blog posts. I guess you could argue this about many cities but you really can’t appreciate Joburg unless you are on foot and you venture off the main roads. The amount of detail you can expose yourself too is unbelievable…but you have to get close enough.

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Asking the difficult questions about urban rejuvenation

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On Tuesday night I attended an event in Joburg where a group of young creative people spoke on the theme of “I am Joburg”. It was a fun event, and a fun evening but something really bugged me about it, and it has been bugging me since. It isn’t intended as a criticism of the event at all, because in the end the organizers can do what they want with the format they design, but I guess it is a criticism of the way in which stories about Johannesburg, and its rejuvenation, are told.

The talks at the event all came from the same voice – an overarchingly male, middle-class voice (which I guess some will say is a dominant voice of most discourse). And for the most part, stories of Joburg’s rejuvenation are about the privileged slowly emerging from behind their giant suburban walls to enjoy art, music, cheese, wine and cocktails at certain spots in the city. I am not criticizing this development – I am 100 % part of that group – but I don’t think the issue of rejuvenation should be looked at so heavily through this angle. Yes, it is good that people with disposable income come into the city, have fun there, love it and come back. It brings in investment and hopefully improved conditions for everyone.

But I think we need to confront the more difficult issues too; like that of housing in the city. My best friend brought this up yesterday and it has been an area of immense interest to me for years. It is all well and good to talk about inner city rejuvenation, fixing up buildings etc – but the streets and the buildings are not empty. What happens to the people who live there? The urban rejuvenation story for these people is one of red ants, forced removals and destitution. There was a story in the news a few months back about a building in the CBD where the red ants moved in to remove the people who were living there illegally. It was an awful story, but what made it worse were the cold and callous comments from people about the residents of that building that accompanied it.

For me, this is not urban rejuvenation – it cannot be about serving the needs of one community of people over another. Yes, this is very idealistic of me. No, I don’t care. I don’t think it is good enough to say “but that is how it has always been.” If I was a trust fund baby or a lotto millionaire I would love to put my money into urban development and try to find a solution or approach to this issue.Perhaps I should start buying lotto tickets after all….
I think the first photo kind of sums up my first point about voices – this is Juta street too.
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Who runs this town?

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Today was the opening of the City of Gold graffiti festival in Johannesburg. I attended one of the city tours about graffiti designed for the festival by Past Experiences and then went to the gallery opening in Smit Street, Braamfontein. Do yourself a favour and book a tour or attended some of the other City of Gold events. The city was really rocking this afternoon, makes me love it so much more.

May my heart always be open to little birds

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On Monday afternoon Andrew and I had lunch at Vovo Telo at 44 Stanley (the only place open at 44) and while I waited for the plateful of bread that I ordered (which was amazing) I snapped photos of these little birds – I think they are house sparrows (?). I have always loved how small and delicate they are. although it was really hard to take photos because they move around like lightning.

They remind me of one of my favourite lines from an ee cummings poem:
“may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old”

Feast for a (vegetarian) king

Shayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, JohannesburgShayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, JohannesburgShayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, JohannesburgShayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, JohannesburgShayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, JohannesburgShayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, JohannesburgShayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, Johannesburg
On Saturday we were at the Neighbourhoods market, all set and ready to get lunch, when our friend Jack suggested we go to a vegetarian restaurant in Mayfair called Shayona. The food is prepared according to the mantra that you get out what you put in, and is apparently made without any stimulants like garlic. I didn’t think food without garlic could be this delicious! Mandy and I shared a kind-of mixed platter (deluxe lunch)that comes with three curries, rice, roti and pudding.Jack also suggested we try these little coconut, coriander and chili balls which were out of this world. The best thing – other than the taste – is the price; lunch for 6 of us came to less than R400. If you’re looking for a great vegetarian restaurant in Johannesburg visit Shayona in Church Street Mayfair. (This may go without saying but there is no alcohol served so don’t get a surprise)

When the moon hits your eyes

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Last night, on my way to get ice I spotted the full moon and decided to race to the Midrand mosque to see if I could get the photo I have wanted for months – the mosque with the moon behind it (similar to the sunrise photos). By the time I got there though the moon was very high and just a small and very bright ball….so I decided to go back tonight. Except that tonight the moon rose much later (who knew that happened right?) and by that time the sky was black. I’m still pretty happy with the photos, especially the ones with the cars going past and the electricity pile-ons with the setting sun, but I will be back next full moon to try again.

What’s your cup of tea?

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This has been a weekend of tea….

On Sunday morning, with my two best friends by my side (well one by my side, one in the backseat), Lana del Ray blaring from the speakers, we set off to the little hole town of Heidelberg, about 40 minutes from Joburg. The reason for this mission was a breakfast at Her Majestea’s – a tea house and cafe which boasts over 100 teas on the menu. Mandy ordered pomegranate white tea, I had pineapple rooibos and Sazi had strawberry – the white tea was definitely my favorite. We also ordered some blooming tea – which doesn’t really have much taste but it’s great for the photos. There’s a lot of attention to detail at Her Majestea’s although there are some elements that I think they could do with out (like rude jokes on the back of the toilet doors).

If you’re looking for some amazing tea a little closer to home, visit the Good Luck Club in Corlett Drive – Sazi and I had the pineapple and ginger rooibos tea there on Friday and it was out of this world. I also had after-meal tea at a Turkish restaurant in Mayfair on Sunday afternoon. I love drinking tea out of these little glasses, although it definitely wasn’t as strong as the tea they serve you in Turkey.
Turkish tea - Johannesburg
All photos edited on Pixlromatic on my ipad