Thursday, April 7, 2011


It was spider season when I came.


Now it’s the beginning of autumn. It’s gray. It’s chilly. Unfortunately I’m not built for this weather. Coming from Malaysia (or South East Asia for that matter) where the seasons are defined as either hot, humid, wet, dry, blah, or a combination of any of these all year round, it’s still a new concept for me.


This morning I was at the Restorative Justice Centre in Pretoria where Rizwan is running a workshop and me doing the agonizing work of going through 1000+ photos we have between us, each one going through the process of scrutinizing, deleting, editing, reducing, hopefully uploading when the connection’s a lot better. I’m being brutal unless I want to end up with 1000+ photos by the end of this exercise.


It all went smoothly until the unfortunate discovery that our rental car got broken into. It didn’t even look like it until we realized that a friend’s GPS device we’re borrowing is missing.  Mild panic ensued, we went back to the office retracing our steps, just in case we dropped it but found nothing. We had to settle with the fact that it is indeed stolen. Here’s where the adventure began as we had quite an interesting time at the police station to report it. For a country that’s notorious for crimes it’s so quiet and chilled at the station. We’d expect to be stuck in a long queue but we were attended to very quickly , even the police woman was graceful enough to agree to a photo. The whole thing took about an hour and we were out of there. Without a GPS, we had to rely on instructions given to us verbally – all the way back to Johannesburg in the evening. We only found out later that the house keys are also missing – very, very bad news – lucky for us, the house number is not stated in the GPS. We’re hoping until now that the thieves won’t bother to look.


In South Africa traffic lights are called ROBOTS. Probably one of the coolest things I discovered here. “Drive to the robot.”


“And give him a high-five.”


And oh my, the food! If you managed to get away from the sandwiches and the pastas and the pizzas and the burgers, which is a norm menu here and get your hands on proper local food, you’ll be dreaming about it thereafter, I promise you. Very fortunately the first home-cooked South African dinner we had was at Sunelle’s in Stellenbosch. The bobotie, pap and malva pudding were just marvellous! We had it with cider – another big thing here. Savanna is what you ask for on a hot sunny day. We always have a bag of biltong with us in the car the first two weeks driving around. The variety to choose from at the Food Lover’s Market is mindboggling! I’m wondering why I don’t have it with me right now.


South Africans are proud of their braais, and rightfully so. Thick slabs of meat, boerewors and mielie (maize) will leave you wanting for more. We experienced a few different braais, all set against a different backdrop. First one was at the students’ block, the Academia in Stellenbosch. The second one was at the Thulani Game Lodge -it was humongous braai fest outside but disappointingly polite small portion on a large plate later. But the treatment was the best – a family runs the lodge and the mother even played the piano for us over dinner. The third and most unforgettable one was definitely at Zain’s, these people are serious about their meat!



Zain working on his kettle braai.



Braai feast!



Chilling out with Mark at their home. It’s a quiet place out of town with a huge compound and I’m hidden amidst the green.


But I think the one most worth mentioning is Thembi’s Kitchen in Hammanskraal. The concept is the same as mixed rice or economy rice back home. It’s rice or pap served with side dishes of your choice. Shredded cabbage, carrots, beetroot cubes, mashed pumpkin, beef, chicken, pork, mutton of different styles – simply marvellous!



At Thembi’s Kitchen



Now this is a meal!


It’s towards the end of my stay in Johannesburg. This Saturday I continue my journey to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana.



The children in Hammanskraal. They were playing indigenous games at the village, taught by one of the local boys. Villagers say hello to you from their front yards!



With a couple of the girls from the Siyakhula Learning Centre in Johannesburg.


Dina said...

Hi, I was using the Next Blog button when I found your blog and posts about South Africa. Since I live here I found your comments fascinating. It's a pity that you missed out on one particular South African dish pampoenkoekies (pumpkin cakes! You make a kind of dough from cooked pumpkin and eat it with cinnamon and sugar. Thanks to the worries about getting fat and so on, people don't eat it often, but it is a real treat!

macK said...

Hi Dina, thanks for dropping by. I wish I can remember everything I had, pampoenkoekies sound delicious! The last time I tried a huge variety of South African cuisine was when I met a friend for dinner at Gramadoelas at the Market Theatre. A tad fancy but the food's great!

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