Pilanesburg Elephants in Black and White

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Our good friends Jon and Katie came to visit us for a week and it was amazing as always. Every year for the past three years we’ve vacationed together at some place around the world and next year we are planning somewhere in Latin America where P and I have never been. These trips are always such a treat and it’s so fun to see how our lives have progressed in a year, discuss every subject under the sun, and make fun of each other a lot. We plan to continue this tradition until somebody gets knocked up, at which point I hope to resume when the kids are old enough- this way mommy can drinks lots of cab sauv in one room while the kids who at this point will probably be bratty and loud are in another. I digress… since we had visitors it was back to safari and back to Cape Town.

For the bush we went to Pilanesburg National Park which is a two hour drive away from Jozi and contains all of the big 5. Since I feel like I’ve been on safari a lot lately and have been posting lots of animal photos I’m just going to feature some elephants today. One thing I love about elephants is that because of their deep wrinkles and grey skin they look gorgeous with different black and white and split toning in Lightroom.

******

A couple tips on Pilanesburg: we got our guide using Game Trackers. I wouldn’t do it again. You feel as though you are in Disney World and not the bush, plus I felt our guide was very unknowledgeable and cheesy.  Rather go with someone like Chris Green. I’ve never personally had the pleasure but I met him through my friend Heather who has gone and loved it and I hope to soon. Plus, he is charming and knows everything and if you’re lucky he might tell you about the time a Cape Buffalo nearly gored him to death with its horns.

Hartbeespoort Dam

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Our friends invited us to a vacation house in Hartbeespoort Dam, which is located about an hour outside of Joburg in the North West Province. It was created for irrigation purposes and it was finished in 1925 on land that was once owned by the Boer General Schoeman.  It was a great opportunity to show my sister some scenery and spend time with friends. We had a lovely time swimming, braai-ing, and playing Viking Chess on the edge of the dam while the sun went down (so I wandered off with my camera)…P even went golfing with the boys which he hasn’t done since we moved here. The beautiful vacation homes have thatched roofs so the spikes you see in the last picture are their lightning rods. Africa: our life can be so rough here.

2011 in review.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

2011 was a great year for us and I’m thanking my lucky stars. Here is a review of our incredible year.

We ended 2010 with P’s first trip to India to meet the extended fam. We rang in the new year in a penthouse in London with our good friends Jon and Katie (who are headed here soon….yippee!). Soon after that we left Berlin for a weekend to watch my best friend since I was 13, Clare, get married in Minnesota.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I loveThe cold Berlin winter in February proved to be too much and I ran off to Turkey on a last minute vacation with two friends, we ate tons of food and bought diamonds. In March we met up with a couple faves in Budapest for some fun and managed to send out our wedding Save the Date video we made.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

In April I went to the US to finish up planning our wedding and we went on a romantic weekend trip to Nice with lots of filet mignon et Champagne.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

In April, P took me on a trip to Paris as part of our Europe Farewell Tour 2011. We biked around the city using the Velibs, saw the Eiffle Tower which we had both seen before but never together, held hands, and talked about our future in South Africa.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Pat’s friends threw him a surprise bachelor party and I got to help. I made sure he took the days off work and they bought him a round trip ticket from Berlin to NYC to take him on a weekend of white water rafting and beer drinking. The night before they sent him a video to tell him about the surprise. What an amazing group of friends.

 Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

In June and July we found new renters for the fabulous, huge, old, high ceiling’d apartment in Berlin. We planned a farewell party to celebrate our marriage with our Berlin Tribe. Clare and Jake came to visit us. We staged a photo booth (the BEST most worth-it DIY project I’ve done till date) there and set the pictures to this annoying song that wormed its way into our hearts when it was played and replayed after Germany won EuroVision in 2010.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

After that we  embarked on the task of saying goodbye to our poor but sexy city and friends. We had one last eat at our favorite restaurants, and even did a few “Berlin-y” things we had not done as happens when you live in a city.  We had an epic weekend with our friends Nick and Rachel that started in a secret pop-up restaurant with quail-egg sushi, made it past the bouncer and into Berghain, and ended at dinner Sunday at a Sri Lankan restaurant in Freidrichshain.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

I boarded a plane for the States to get married, but first I got upgraded to first class (transatlantic-ly!) and met my sister, cousins and girlfriends in NYC for a bachelorette party. We ate at Shake Shack, brunched, shopped, stayed at the Gansevoort, had dinner at Stanton Social, and danced the night away. It made me miss living in NYC soo much but then I remembered that when I lived there I never stayed at fancy hotels.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love


Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Then, finally it was August and time to get married. My entire family came from India, friends came from all over the US and the world to come and celebrate with us. It was so special and truly one of the best months of our lives. And my sister threw me a bridal shower I’ll never forget.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

We went on a honeymoon to Bali where I got a very bad case of food poisoning but it was amazing none the less.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Then, we moved to Johannesburg. I went on safari in Kruger National Park, we went to Cape Town and Durban.We learned and bought a manual transmission, and moved into a house with a pool and a tennis court. I started blogging seriously and got into photography.  I made lots of new friends through blogging. I took a course and now I very proudly shoot on manual mode and can’t wait to continue learning and expanding (my lens collection hehe). We celebrated thanksgiving, AND I started doing Help Portrait, and then we celebrated Christmas in our new home.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

It’s been an amazing year and I’m so thankful, I’m only disappointed that I didn’t photograph or blog our two years in Europe. My sister comes for three weeks on Friday and we’re going to have SO MUCH FUN. Here’s to a wonderful 2012 and a Happy New Year from our family to yours!

our first christmas in jozi

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

I said that I was going to use this blog to document what’s going on more and then I didn’t post and pictures from Christmas, silly me.

One of the most wonderful things about Jozi has been the warmth and generosity of people we’ve met. Maybe it was because of the language divide in Berlin, but we’ve made so many friends so much faster here (I suppose I didn’t blog in Berlin and I’ve made quite a few friends through blogging!). We spent Christmas eve and day with a group of expats from all over. We received our first ever holiday crackers. Inside P’s was a pair of tweezers and inside mine was a refrigerator magnet. Very practical.

It was not as good as a snowy Minnesota Christmas (though P said he is not missing the cold ONE BIT) with family, especially because my mother-in-law got me my very own stocking(!!!) but it was lovely and our first as a married couple. Plus we ate so much delicious food and didn’t even cook. I wish there was a holiday season every month.

easy pad thai and thoughts

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about this blog and what direction I want to take it -and my life- in. It’s the end of a very good year for P and me and I want to work hard to continue that. One thing is for sure- I want to put more bits of our daily life here so we can use this as more of a visual memory vault which was one of my original goals when I started this blog. I have lots of good ideas for 2012 and since I am going back to work full-time starting mid-January (I know, it’s about damn time but this not working pursuing creative outlets is sooo fuunnn) one of my challenges will be keeping up this blog while  immersing myself in an awesome organization, while still figuring out my life’s path. I like a challenge though and find that I am most fulfilled when I’m really busy doing several worthwhile things. One of the best decisions I’ve made (after the decision to link up fo’ life with P) is starting a blog and I intend on continuing to grow it.

Now that we live in a former British colony we get the day after Christmas off (Boxing Day…yay!). We stayed in and made the cookie sandwiches from yesterday, pad thai for lunch, and were on schedule to cook a gourmet dinner but then did something sinful/wonderful/awful and got spicy chicken sandwiches from McDonald’s drive thru instead. Then we watched Midnight in Paris which was quite good, despite my disgust for Woody. I was even going to make us cheers with our chicken burgers but it slipped my mind.

An aside about McDonald’s: I suppose a sophisticated thing to state on one’s blog is something like “Biking around Paris in the spring is incomparable” or “Weinachtsmarkts in Berlin are just to die for daahling” or “The Hammams in Istanbul just get you cleaner than anywhere else.”   Instead, I would like to solemnly and without shame proclaim that South African McDonald’s Spicy Chicken Sandwiches are more delicious than any McDonald’s chicken sandwich anywhere else. I guess the big-wigs at McD’s decided that other people JUST CAN’T HANDLE IT and when we leave here I’ll have no reason to ever go to McDonald’s again (which is a good thing, I’m fully aware).

Here is a recipe for easy pad thai that we ate yesterday. Adapted from my hero, Mark Bittman.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Ingredients:

4 oz/110 grams rice stick noodles
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 to 4 tablespoons tamarind paste
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 African bird’s eye chili, chopped
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 eggs
3 1/2 oz or 100grams mung bean sprouts
10 oz or about 300grams pressed tofu, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup peanuts or cashews, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, quartered.

First soak your rice stick noodles in really hot water until not quite completely soft. If your tap doesn’t spurt hot water then bring water to a boil, remove from heat and add noodles. It should take about 5 minutes. They don’t need to be completely soft at the end because you’re going to saute them later. Mix together the fish sauce, honey, vinegar and tamarind paste with a fork or whisk (if your tamarind paste is chunky you might want to use a food processor) and heat on low in a small sauce pan. Heat oil on big frying pan on medium high heat until shimmering, add garlic and chili and fry for one minute. Add  tofu and fry until it turns brown. I add in a few dashes of fish sauce at this point as well. It should take less than ten minutes. Add your noodles and the sauce you were heating and mix around. Crack into the two eggs, breaking them up and coating everything. Add all but a just a small bit of your scallions, cashews, and bean sprouts. Cook and taste, adding fish sauce or vinegar as necessary. Turn off heat and mix in cilantro. Serve immediately and garish with cashews, cilantro, and sprouts.

Career advice please?

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Teaching math was my previous career. I graduated from college and joined a 2 year inner city teaching program thinking I was going to save the world by helping give underprivileged kids a quality education, the great American equalizer, and after 2 years I’d head to law school and then work in public interest for the rest of my happy and noble little life. Well 5 years of teaching, reality, a bit of cynicism and a bit of maturing has made me realize that I do not want to teach (btw go and give some appreciation to a {smart, engaged, and focused} teacher you know). I also do not want to be a lawyer. I do miss being able to say that I’m a math teacher though (try it, it sounds so smart and noble, especially fun if you don’t dress like a math teacher). What do I want to do then? It’s difficult to get around my Indian mentality, that I am nothing if I’m not a doctor, engineer, or an investment banker. At least I’ve put the brakes on teaching.

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of jobs I would love to have. It’s not lost on me that reality and what goes on my crazy little mind often do not overlap. I just know that it is possible to get out of bed and love what you do like P does (asshole). Also if one of these is your career I’m not trying to insult you in assuming that I could do it too. I just want to publicly state that I would like to be a:

-Jewelry store owner, curator of badass jewelry made by people like Satomi Kawakita, Belle Costes, Marisa A. Lomanco, and Caitlin Mociun. I would like to make it as good as catbird. Badass women with style would shop there. Like eastsidebride and Patti Smith.

-Interior Designer. I despise that label, is there something else we could call them? I would like to create modern interiors. Eventually I would like to buy a loft apartment with P with grey concrete walls, huge industrial fittings and put subtle pops of color all over the place. I don’t want to go back to school though. I’ve discussed with a friend and I think I instead of school I would need to build a portfolio. Does anyone want to let me design a room in their house? For free? Come on, don’t let my paper-mache rhinoceros scare you.

-Photographer. HA. I JUST got a camera and my pics aren’t good yet. But the interest is there and I’m taking classes. And I’m fairly certain I should be in a creative field. It’s difficult to make money though. Unless you are a badass. Like Chris Saunders. I could be a badass ?.

-Is there a place where I can be creative and work for a non profit or NGO? Like empowering girls to become fashion designers. Does somebody know of that non-profit?

-An education non profit. I know a lot about education and am more interested in policy than in teaching. In this scenario I could do creative stuff on the side.

My time to center and find myself  is coming to a close people as I am starting to get a little bored and want to buy myself every Alexander Wang bag I see and also leather leggings and also CAMERA LENSES feel that I should start pulling my weight financially around these parts (that is my own opinion, as P is being an angel and wants me to do what I want to do and make the right decision because as I mentioned he is a god damned saint).

Do you have any ideas? Job openings? Know of any investors that want to sink their money into my amazing jewelry store? Seriously, what should I be when I grow up? I don’t know how to be in a career that’s not a 9-5. HELP ME.

Buying a car in South Africa Part 1: Manual Transmission Newbies -You can do it!

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

I’m not quite sure how many parts there are going to be to this series, as buying a car in RSA is an exercise in insanity and perseverance. All I can say is that after approximately three months of living here, we are off the company rental and into our own Renault Clio (above). Actually, I’m not even sure there will be a part 2 as I can hardly even bear to think about the whole process, let alone record it (and I wasn’t even the one who had to deal with the Randburg Licensing department)

What I want to talk about right now  is driving a manual having had no experience. Hardly anyone in the States knows how to drive a manual, including us, and we fully expected to buy an automatic. Well it is on average about 20-40,000 Rand (almost 5,000 USD) cheaper to buy a manual (fyi cars are double sometimes triple the price of the same car in the US here). Since we were already irate about having to spend ANY money on a car the decision was made for us. After not even a week into it here are some tips for manual newbies like us.

1. If you are switching the side of the road, (it is not difficult, you can do it!) give yourself a few weeks in an automatic to just focus on driving on the left side, the new road rules, and driving habits in this country. Trying to learn manual and getting used to the new side might be a bit overwhelming.

2. If you have no idea how to drive a manual, book at least one professional lesson. We did that and those 2 hours were invaluable. I can give a hearty recommendation to Johannesburg residents for Patricia’s Driving School. She is patient and nice and has been doing it for 15 years. I mean we didn’t need to go back after only 2 hours with her!

3. Practice just moving off up hill. Yours or a friend’s driveway should do the trick. I spent at least 2 sweaty hours out there (I was so frustrated I took off my pants) and it helped me get to know the car tremendously. Plus a driveway is the most low pressure situation you can be in.

4. PRACTICE. You are going to stall and it is going to be ok. I spent 10 minutes stuck at a steep uphill intersection sweating it out with the hazard lights on my first solo drive. The cars didn’t even honk at me, just drove around. It made me realize I hate using the hand brake to start and avoid it as much as possible. It is also a bad but easy habit to have, if you have a partner to depend on him or her to do the majority of the driving. Don’t fall into that trap! Be independent! The only way you will be good at driving a manual is if you practice, Make yourself go through the discomfort so you can come out the other side.

5. Enjoy! Driving a manual is so much more fun than an automatic and if it continues to go well we are converts for life. You also have to be a lot more engaged in your driving (at least in the beginning) and that can ultimately mean being a better driver. You are learning a great life skill besides!

PS. Drivers everywhere…don’t ride the back of the car in front of you at a stoplight! It’s probably me sweating it out in my manual wishing you’d back the f*ck away so I don’t hit you when the car rolls back 3 feet slightly during moving off uphill.