Another project, another continent…..Africa! David’s Saudi Arabia project has ended. I think that we both are somewhat sad as I know David enjoyed his time there and I certainly enjoyed my time globe-trotting through Europe.
This project, a uranium mine in Namibia, came at an appropriate time. It was an appealing project to David. For the first year, he is overseeing the engineering of the mine in the South African office of his former company, AMEC. Next year, we will move and live in Namibia while David is involved with the construction of the mine.
Preparing for this move was no easy feat and a tad stressful. David arrived home from Saudi and had less than two weeks to get all the required medical and paperwork done before flying to Johannesburg. The medical that AMEC required was extensive for David. One thing I know for certain is that he is certainly healthy after all the test and medicals he has had over the past year for the Saudi visa and AMEC requirements. The week before we left for SA, we both came down with head colds. I honestly think that the contributing factor was the stress of organizing everything. Fortunately, for David, his cold cleared up after a couple of days. Unfortunately, for me, mine lingered and I even had a few side effects from the cold when I flew.
It was challenging to deal with the medical requirements because it was organized through Healix, a company out of England. I suppose, if we had gone to one of their clinics in their network, it would have gone smoother. I didn’t want to have to “recreate the wheel,” by signing release forms for our medical files when our doctor was in the area.
I was supposed to have a house hunting trip to Johannesburg, but that was canceled when my
stepfather, Paul, passed away on Sunday evening, March 16 at 7:15. Paul had suffered from Alzheimers for several years and had been living at the Veteran’s Home in Bangor, Maine for over the past two years. It was sad watching his decline and when he passed, it was a blessing. We were grateful that he went comfortably and peacefully.
The funeral was the following Saturday, March 22, at the Old South Congregational Church in Hallowell, Maine. Old South is our family church that we attended while we lived in Hallowell. It was a lovely tribute to him. My sister, Kathy; brother, Perry and I all shared our memories of Paul. The funeral was followed by a reception in the vestry of the church, complete with lobster rolls from Paul’s favorite restaurant, the Red Barn in Augusta, ME. I know that Papa was smiling down on us all at his lovely send-off.
Since I was unable to make the trip over to pick out an apartment, I picked one of two that our AMEC contact, Barbara, had scouted out for us. With her recommendation, I chose the apartment near David’s office.
The two weeks that David was home passed very quickly. With the medical completed, the visa paperwork done, an apartment picked out, a new wardrobe for David (it has been years since he was in an office) and the packing finished; we were ready to catch our flight to South Africa on Monday, April 28th.
We left from Portland, Maine on the Jetblue, 6:00 AM flight for JFK. We had a 3 1/2 hour layover there before leaving for Johannesburg on South African Airway. Thankfully, we flew business class for the 15 hour flight. True to form, David slept for most of the flight. I, on the other hand, watched 3 movies and when I did finally get to sleep, it was for a short time. The “fasten seat belt” sign came on and the announcement was made that the captain had just illuminated it. That woke me up and I was unable to get back to sleep.
|First South African Sunrise
We left JFK at 11:15 AM and arrived in Joburg (as the locals call it) at 8:00 Tuesday morning. Going through customs was a breeze, getting our luggage seemed to take forever and then, we were rolling through final doors out into the throng of family/friends/limo drivers who were waiting to greet the arriving passengers.
It had been arranged for Eddie, the owner of Radiance Guest Lodge, to meet us and take us there for our first two nights. We connected quickly with him, loaded the luggage in his van and were off to see our new home for the first time. Eddie is originally from Johannesburg and tried to orient us on the drive in. He gave us much information but not being familiar with our surroundings, I am afraid not much was retained.
The Radiance is a lovely oasis in the middle of the suburb of Bryanston, north of the city center. We had
a room overlooking the pool and garden. The first day was one of severe jet lag. David slept and I desperately tried to stay awake so I would sleep my first night here. We are six hours ahead of the US eastern time zone. When it is 6:00 AM here in Joburg, it is midnight at home.
When David did wake up, we walked to a nearby mall, Nicolway, and walked around for something to do. It is a nice mall with 3 grocery stores, bookstore, appliance store, drug store, many speciality shops and several restaurants. This mall is not only close to the guest lodge but it is very close to the AMEC office where David works, as well as, our apartment.
Tony Vecchio, who retired from AMEC, and his wife, Wendy had been staying at the Radiance for the past month. The last time we saw Tony and Wendy was about 5 years ago when we moved into their condo that they were vacating in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Tony had come to South Africa to cover David’s position while David closed the Saudi project. It was nice to see familiar faces.
Wednesday, David was up and out the door to go to the office with Tony and get up-to-speed on the project. Wendy and I had breakfast together. She had made arrangements for Eddie to take her to the Nelson Mandela Square mall in Sandton and asked if I would like to join her. I was very grateful to have something to do for the day while David was at work.
The mall was very impressive. It is the one of the largest in Joburg. At the plaza entrance is a larger-than-life statue of Nelson Mandela and at the opposite end of the plaza, a larger-than-life portrait of him. The plaza area is surrounded by restaurants and cafes that offered alfresco dining and gave the whole area a European ambiance. Inside the mall, there are 3 floors of stores and I think that you could find just about anything that you might be looking for. They have a wonderful store full of reasonably priced African crafts and in another part of the mall, is a craft market. Where do I begin to tell about the beautiful crafts? There are woven baskets, beautiful bead work that decorates jewelry, glassware and cutlery, batik material with designs of village life, paintings, wood and stone carvings of the wildlife found here. It is all so amazing and so reasonably priced.
We had dinner Wednesday night with Wendy and Tony as they were leaving later that night. The food at the Radiance was incredible. Our meals started with tasty squash or potato and leek soup. One entree was swordfish that was seasoned perfectly. David had rack of lamb and another entree of chicken. My meals were mostly vegetarian and extremely flavorful. One night was Moroccan beans and rice and another night, I was given a dish of potato smothered with spinach and mushrooms.
May 1 was moving day and it was certainly marvelous to get our belongings unpacked so that we were no longer living out of suitcases. It drives me CRAZY to have to search through luggage to find an outfit to wear. Note to self: next move, pack better so that the outfits can be found easily…..especially, if we are spending time in a hotel.
Our apartment is on Bantry St, which is a very quiet side street off of William Nichols Dr, one of the major
streets in this area. All apartments and houses are in complexes behind high walls, secure gates and guards. Joburg has a large crime rate due to the immigrants that have flocked here looking for work.
I like the area where we are living. There is a small mall within a five minute walk from our apartment. Within a 10 minute drive, is another mall area. As I mentioned earlier, David’s office is near another mall and about a 20 minute drive from our apartment.
The apartment was very well represented in the pictures that Barbara, our South African AMEC contact, sent us. She was most helpful in finding a place to live. I feel it is the average apartment with a well equipped kitchen, living/dining room area. It has the master suite and a smaller, extra bedroom and separate bathroom. We have a lovely balcony as well. It is fairly quiet except for when the neighbors are entertaining on their balconies but for the most part, all is quiet by the time we are ready to go to bed.
This is our master bedroom. The way it is decorated makes me feel like I am going into a hotel room every night! LOL!!!! It was very comfy and that is the most important thing.
My initial impression is how pleasant and courteous everyone seems to be….except when they are behind the wheel of the car. They are aggressive drivers over here, which doesn’t bode well for someone who is getting used to driving on the “wrong side of the road.” We have been given a Honda Jazz to drive while here. It is similar to the Honda Fit in the states….a good car to zip around in 🙂
I got my driving initiation when I spent three hours looking for an adapter/converter for all of our electrical equipment. One person recommended that I go to a hardware store to find one. The hardware store that I went to, didn’t have one. I went to a store in Nickleway Mall which is similar to Best Buy in the states. They didn’t have one, either. However, the salesperson gave me directions to “Satellite Television” store. I wasn’t real keen on driving throughout the city on only my fourth day here but he assured me, this store would have what I was looking for.
I missed the road that I was supposed to turn off but as luck would have it, I drove to the side street that I was supposed to find the Satellite Television store. Feeling mighty proud of myself, I marched in and asked for my converter/adapter. Imagine my disappointment when they shook there head and said that they didn’t carry anything like that. However, they were more than eager to give me directions to another store where I would definitely find what I was looking for.
I found the next store, thanks to the good directions but I didn’t find the adapter/converter there. Trying to be most helpful, they sent me to another electrical supply store and assured me that I would definitely find it there. I had a heck of a time finding that store. Actually, I never found it, even after I stopped and asked for directions. The store that I was directed to was an electrical supply store but not the one that I was originally looking for.
It was at this store that I met Helder and he turned out to be most helpful. He did have an adapter/converter but wasn’t real certain if it had enough power to charge my computer…..iphones and kindles definitely but he wasn’t certain about the computer.
After spending literally all morning looking for an adapter/converter, I decided to buy the one he was offering. At least I would be able to charge some of our electronics and I am pleased to say that it does charge everything. Yea!!!!!
Throughout that whole experience, I kept feeling that people really wanted to help me find what I was looking for. Even if they didn’t know for certain, they still sent me to the next store which, in their minds, might have it but they, convincingly, told me would have it.
Another pleasantry I have found is upon approaching a cashier or service person, they always ask how you are doing. This happens every so often in the states but it doesn’t happen consistently, like it does here.
I am having difficulties understanding some people’s accents. I feel horrible but I have to ask them to keep repeating it, sometimes more than once before I understand what they are saying. The accent is between the Afrikans and British. Some people have stronger accents than others. It is the strong ones that I find more challenging.
Last Saturday, David and I went to the Organic and Craft Market. It is every Thursday and Saturday. They had some beautiful crafts and many tasty goodies. I went again today, Thursday to buy a beautiful hand painted wooden bowl. I could see it decorating our dining room table back home. It had bright colors and Guinea hens painted on it. It was still there and I purchased it. Sadly, when they tore to price tag off, part of the paint came off with it and damaged it. I was so disappointed. They are going to try to have another one made for me and will call me in a month.
I did purchase a broom that was handmade by a lovely lady who was selling them in the parking lot. I needed a broom and this one has much character. It works really well, too.
Last Sunday, we visited the Apartheid Museum. We spent 3 hours there and we both agreed that we need to make several more trips to absorb all the history and information that the museum has to offer.
Well, I guess that brings you up-to-date with our South African adventure. David is enjoying his project although he is doing a little adjusting to being in an office atmosphere….wearing dress clothes everyday and trying to smooth out the “construction edges”. I like it here….it isn’t one of my top 10 favorite places but it certainly isn’t the worse either. We are both looking forward to exploring all that the area has to offer. Stay tuned…..