A Polish expat in Cape Town, South Africa. A somewhat humorous blog. Ha ha.

St Lucia: 4 Intense Days Filled with Wildlife

rhino butt scratchingWhen you only have short time available for your holiday, choosing a domestic destination is a good idea. Fortunately, when you live in South Africa this still means you can experience quite cool things. This year we decided to visit a different province, KwaZulu-Natal. Our trip started with 4 days spent in St Lucia with quite an aggressive wildlife seeing plan.

Day 1

On the first day of our holiday (yes, that’s when we left Cape Town) we visited the St Lucia Crocodile Centre. Informational displays are badly maintained and mostly faded. Some to the point that it’s difficult to read them. Still, it’s a very interesting place to visit. At 3 o’clock daily there’s an extensive feeding of crocodiles and alligators. The caretakers walk into enclosures and feed the animals. This doesn’t mean that it’s an entirely safe thing to do. We saw crocodiles snapping a few times at people feeding them, fortunately without consequences. The tour guide also told us about his close misses during the feedings.

2 girls 1 cup

Not really excited about this chicken. Can you blame them?

close up chicken licken

Juvenile crocs are much more energetic than the adult ones.

find the big croc

The Master of Camouflage

snap snap

These are still dangerous animals!

The attractions weren’t over for the day as we also booked a night safari drive for that evening. We were picked up in a very toursity looking safari jeep at 8 o’clock in the evening. There was almost no natural light so during the drive we relied on spot lights provided by our guide. We were quite fortunate in the beginning and managed to see three elephants having a meal. Then our luck has mostly run out and we saw much less exciting animals. What no one tells you about such drives is that they’re actually not that thrilling most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s super cool to see a wild animal in its natural habitat. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t happen all the time. Often you spend three hours driving and all you see is a bunch of antelopes. This is not to say I regret the moneyspent but rather that I would prefer to have known about it to lower my expectations and be prepared for the most of the drive to be uneventful. Night photography is also a completely different thing than day photography. I was surprised how challenging it was.

are you talking me

We’ve seen tons of these guys (Waterbuck). At least they can make funny faces.

elephants ass

The elephant telling us what he thinks about us

zyrafa dupa

The giraffe is also telling us what she thinks about us

We arrived back at our accommodation exhausted. Still, our pace was nothing in comparison with the other tourist, who after finishing the night drive at midnight was being picked up for the next safari at 5 o’clock in the morning.

Day 2

St Lucia offers a lot of paid trips to see wildlife but perhaps even more exciting is the possibility to catch some viewings when just walking around. On day 2 of our stay we went for a run and a hike. We saw lots of monkeys and butterflies during these outings. Because of the lush environment insects and other beings are rather big. Check out the size of the snail we encountered, below.


Monkey business

monkeys jajusia

I know this pic is a bit blurred but photographing monkey’s genitals is challenging. Not sure whether someone painted his balls blue for Easter or what.


A bunch of monkeys hanging out on a tree


A massive snail, which came out after the rain

We also visited the Umfolozi Riverlodge and Bird Park that day. Don’t even bother! You’ll just feel sorry for the birds kept there in small cages. The lack of variety makes the visit a waste of time. Only pop in, if you’re nearby: there is no cover charge.

Day 3

Another day filled with adventures! Or so we hoped. For Day 3 we had a half-say safari and a boat safari booked. The first part of our itinerary meant getting up at 4:30. On our way to the park in the jeep we learnt an important lesson: always take a lot of warm clothes on a jeep safari. Even if it’s hot outside the wind can be strong and make the perceived temperature in the vehicle much lower. A quick rain shower is also not a reason to stop the drive (or even to cover the jeep) so something rainproof is also a good idea.

Our second safari was a bit more successful than the first one. We managed to see some buffalos, rhinos, zebras and lots of smaller animals. Still, the ratio of driving to seeing is probably like 1 to 100. It didn’t help that the park was an hour away from our accommodation.

The best experience during our time in St Lucia was definitely the boat safari. We managed to see plenty of hippos and some crocs in the wild. The cruise was very picturesque and a knowledgeable guide told us everything we wanted to know about the river animals. Hippos may look cute but they’re actually dangerous. They’re a not uncommon cause of death in African countries. They won’t hunt you but if you enter their territory and they fell threatened, they will charge and bite you in half. The worst part is that they won’t even eat you as they’re herbivores. What a waste!

Day 4

We spent most of the day actively. First we went to the beach and splashed in the ocean. This is something I never do in Cape Town because of the cold water temperature. Here the ocean is really warm. The current is very strong, though so you can’t go too far in. Afterwards, we did spent some time swimming  properly at the pool in our accommodation. I love everything water so I was very happy to take it easy.


That’s me in the pool!

In the evening we had a turtle tour booked. The advertised 6-7 hours were a bit intimidating but can you say “no” to the possibility of seeing turtles hatching? We couldn’t! It’s also a seasonal viewing that one can only catch during 4 months every year so we felt lucky to be able to give it a try. Prepared by our previous experiences with safaris, we came equipped with podcasts. Tim Ferris show saved me from dying of boredom. We drove for around 3 hours through the park and on Cape Vidal beach and saw nothing. Then we ate very average snacks provided by the organiser and we drove back for another 3 hours. The only creatures we saw on the beach were crabs, which were frantically escaping the wheels of our car. The most exciting event was when the car got stuck and we had to get off and walk for a bit, while the tour guide was getting the vehicle out of the sand. The trip didn’t turn out to be a complete waste of time, though. We saw two leopards on the road, which just finished mating (“Did you see them do it?” ask the guide one of the fellow tourists.). They’re very rare so it was a treat! Unfortunately, they were also unimpressed by us and ran away too quickly for me to capture them on the camera. We also saw a hippo on the road (same story in terms of photos).

A few tips for visiting St Lucia

The best way to reach St Lucia is to fly to Durban and then rent a car. A lot of tour companies, which organize safaris and other wildlife activities there can also take care of the transfer from the airport but it’s rather pricey. If you don’t drive or are scared to drive in an unknown place, though, you’d be fine without a car in St Lucia. It’s a small tourist village (not to say a shithole) so you can just walk around it. Tour organisers use their own transport to pick you up from your accommodation. All in all, I really enjoyed our stay in St Lucia. If you’re there, try to do as much as you can in terms of seeing wildlife. The tours may be a bit longish but it’s worth trying to see the animals in the wild. If you’re really time efficient, a smaller game reserve with guaranteed viewings (like Aquila in the Western Cape) could be a better idea. St Lucia is nice but get prepared for self-catering. There are plenty of eating-out options around but the food served at the numerous establishments is very unimpressive and paying for it feels like a waste of money.

We’re off to Durban now to explore what it has on offer. I’ll be writing about this experience soon.

Have you done any safaris, Dear Reader? Did you like them or were you a bit underwhelmed?

My Electric Bicycle Experience


Our destination: Hout Bay

It seems to be our nuclear family’s tradition to go cycling on the Boxing Day (is it a tradition yet if it has happened twice?). This year we ended up cycling 60 kilometers from our house in Observatory to Hout Bay. We traveled half of the journey on our regular bicycles and then swapped them for electric bikes.

Finding electric bikes in Cape Town isn’t very difficult. There are a few rental places that can help you out with different kinds of electric bicycles. We opted for what was basically a regular mountain(ish) bike with an engine from Chilled Squirell. I’m not sure about other places, but this particular one has an insane deposit. Seeing that the bikes are worth quite a bit, you have to put down thousands of rand (15 to be precise) to rent one. You’ll get it back after the trip but I must say that for me it was an unnerving experience to be using something that potentially could make us lose so much money. That’s a big disadvantage but honestly, the only one.


Husband and the bike

The Hout Bay cycle was something I wanted to attempt forever. My husband can manage to cycle uphill for that long but for me it always seemed like something impossible to achieve. The little cheat in form of an electrically powered bike made it possible for me to also enjoy this absolutely stunning cycle. The big advantage of e-bikes is that you can make your experience as difficult (or as easy) as you want. Both of our bikes had regular gears and 5 levels of engine assistance (6 if you count the “no engine support” option). I cycled a lot unassisted and when the uphill was getting too much for me I used the additional push. I really did not abuse the engine, because even if I’m a little bit of a weakling, I still really enjoy cycling as a form of exercise. Of course, I had to try out the 5th level. It means barely pedaling as the engine does most of the work to keep the bike moving. It actually feels a lot like traveling on a scooter. The maximum speed you can go at is 20 km/h.


A pretty view on the way up

After having experienced the Hout Bay cycle, I must say it’s quite challenging. Now I know I hadn’t been exaggerating and I wouldn’t have made it without the occasional help of the engine. This kind of cycling has also other challenges. Traveling on bike through Camps Bay, for instance, is a bit nerve-racking because of the proximity of cars. The drivers there are often not very nice either. They’re too concerned with looking cool in their posh cars to also remember to be nice human beings towards those who share the narrow road with them. The experience gets better between Bakeoven and Hout Bay. The cyclists have basically a lane for themselves and motorists are encouraged to pass wide by the signs on the road. It’s still takes a while to get used to cars passing so close next to you, at 120 km/h or so. Still, the views are really pretty and it’s a nice work out so it’s worth getting out of your comfort zone.


Llandudno, where the rich people like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have their holiday houses

On our way back we stopped for lunch, keeping our super precious bikes very close. I was quite surprised to see so many people chilling with their friends and families, celebrating Xmas in a secular way. We didn’t struggle to find the right place to stop at, though. There’s a Bootlegger in Bakoven, which is a nice and popular venue for cyclists doing the route. If you’re not ashamed to be all sweaty and sporty in Camps Bay, you can also go to one of the fanciest restaurants there.


That’s me next to Bootlegger

After we dropped our bikes it was actually a bit difficult to get back on our old ones. Even if the engine was just an option, well, it was always an option. A regular bike relies only on your legs, which in my case, were a bit tired after the uphill cycle. When we arrived home I cringing with pain. My muscled exercised too but the biggest challenge for me are my knees, which cry for help after being so long in one position.


More stunning views

Would I do it again? I’m not so sure. I felt a bit uncomfortable with the deposit. The bikes look like they cost a lot and people keep staring at you when you use them. It’s a potential security threat. I think I would feel better if I owned the thing and had it insured. Chilled Squirrel apart from the rental also offers pimping up your bike and turning it into an electric one. Perhaps it’s something to keep in mind for the future.

Secular Christmas

empty_xmas_treeEvery year when Christmas arrives I feel a bit weird and even more so since I moved to South Africa. I often feel like it’s just not right to use traditions of a religion I’m not a part of.

Even though my parents were never really religious, they did make me go to church as a child and do all the obligatory stuff till my first communion, just in case. After its confirmation I decided it’s time for me and church to go our separate ways. You see, how it works for most people in the world is that you’re born and you take whatever religion your parents chose and then you follow it till you die. I don’t know how come most people never question such things or perhaps they do but the sense of belonging wins with anything else. It does look to me like driving cars of a particular brand all your life just because your parents did so. To me it only makes sense if you really like the brand and to know that, you should perhaps test drive at least intellectually some other ones. You could argue that your religion and the subsequent views on life is more important than a car. I agree! Why then people are more likely to spend some time choosing a car and not their beliefs? Whatever works for them, though. I have decided for myself I don’t like Opel that much.

Can I keep Christmas from religion, though? Given that it’s all about Christ, it doesn’t seem right to celebrate it. In Poland my mother insisted on keeping the tradition going. I tried to reason with her but failed. We still would do all the food, presents, keep a place for a stranger, break the wafer and not eat meat on Christmas Eve. When I moved to South Africa I basically stopped celebrating because at first I didn’t have anyone to celebrate with. However, since I started to date my husband things have changed. Obviously in my own family I finally can decide how I want to spend Christmas. It seems that the answer is: cycling, hiking, going to the cinema and meeting friends. In other words, by enjoying what’s good in life in a secular way as I would do during any other holiday. We still do the presents but it’s mostly because I always like presents. I don’t eat meat on Xmas eve either but that’s just because I don’t eat meat in general.

I still in principle disagree with the Xmas period being legislated as free. To be honest, it doesn’t seem to make sense in a country like South Africa. In Poland the majority of people is still Christian so I can see the rationale. In South Africa, however, Christians may rejoice but for people representing different religions or not believing at all, it’s just the imposed time to be merry right here and now when everything is overcrowded. When their own religiously imposed time to be merry comes, they have to use their annual leave and I don’t think it’s fair. Perhaps a good idea would be to add two days to the minimum leave package required by law and call it “Religious celebrations and other”. In this way people could use it whenever they wanted and the Xmas period would stop being such a nightmare with everyone taking leave at the same time.

You can think about what I said or not. That’s all, folks. Enjoy your holiday season (how cool and secular English is that it has this alternative to Merry Xmas?)!


Conquering Table Mountain

ct 2Finally! After years of living in Cape Town I’ve conquered Table Mountain. And yes, for a lot of Capetonians it’s just another trail run they do five times a week but I’m proud of myself. After a few weeks of hiking on less demanding trails such as Lion’s Head or Skeleton Gorge, my husband, I and a semi-random “hike on Saturday, who’s keen?” group of ours attempted Table Mountain.

Platteklip Gorge is the easiest way to get to the top and the recommended route. This doesn’t mean it’s easy. A cardio workout starts right at the bottom and the first time I almost burst into tears, abandoned the group and turned around was half an hour into the hike. The mountain goat like, marathon running female friend of mine certainly was making me feel like a failure and so did the other male hikers who were a part of my group. I did hear that Platteklip Gorge consisted of steps but I assumed it would be like Skeleton Gorge or Devil’s Peak: more like the stairs you have to climb when the elevator isn’t working than anything else. Unfortunately, Platteklip Gorge is nothing like that and it has steps made for actual giants. If you’re like most mortals you’ll use your stronger leg more than the other one and therefore half of your bum will get sore already on your way up.

Apart from the giant steps, the hike may be discouraging if you look up. Don’t do it! The way up does look a bit like mission impossible and can kill you motivation. Rather keep looking at what’s directly in front of you. Certainly don’t trust people who’re telling you that you’re almost there, because people are liars and you can’t trust them. My thing when dealing with such adversity is: keep quiet and try to survive without crying. I honestly don’t know why this hike was so difficult for me because I’m certainly not a couch potato.


The trail is fortunately not as busy as other hiking trails in Cape Town, probably because of the difficulty level. You do encounter some trail runners but not as many as in other places. The path is narrow, though and there is a limited number of ways in which you can move up, so you my end up waiting quite a bit. In general, people seemed to be better prepared than for other hikes so in hiking shoes/sport shoes and equipped with water, sunscreen and caps as opposed to high heels/flip flops and skirts which I saw elsewhere before. As the hike is challenging I didn’t see many small kid but I did encounter one cruel couple with kids around 5. I’m sure the trip traumatized the little ones and will keep them off hiking for at least a century.

the tree

That’s me doing what I know how to do best: showing off

It is quite tough but it’s worth it too. There are nice views as you’re walking up and some even nicer ones when you’re on the top of the mountain. The peak of the mountain is much bigger than what I’m used to with other hikes. You can easily do yoga selfies, meditate and do whatever else will bring you Instagram fame on the top. Approaching the very verge of the mountain is quite a vertiginous experience but can end up in getting some very nice shots. It did feel exhilarating to look down on Cape Town being all tiny tiny.

lion's head

Do you see this nipple down there? That’s Lion’s Head

Walking down is a challenge on its own as it’s quite heavy on your knees. Your back may also get sore from weird crouching that’s required occasionally. I call it crabbing down but no one seems to get the analogy. Once you’re down you’ll probably walk like a cowboy for a bit but I’m sure you’ll feel it was worth it. I really recommend attempting some easier hikes before doing this one. You may be fit in general but hiking is a particular activity and it seems to require the hiking kind of fitness, which on this trail entails being able to make giant size steps.

Have you managed to do Table Mountain yet, Dear Reader? What’s your favorite hiking trail?


Planet Meh…irth

Planet Mirth“Planet Mirth” is the new show by Alan Committie, which you can catch at the Theatre on the Bay till the 13th of January. I remember enjoying his “Love Factually” last year so I decided to go and see his new show. Just a disclaimer: I’d like to say that I do realize how difficult it must be to work as a stand-up comedian and that it requires a lot of courage and effort. I acknowledge it. I’ve been trying to be funny all my life and look where it has taken me! NOWHERE. Having said that I still have to trash this show.

“Planet Mirth” is full of low-quality, easy and cheap jokes and puns. Some sources of laughter in the first half were: Donald Trump and the fact that he’s orange, Zuma and the shower story and foreign names. I’d like to avoid this post being a massive spoiler so I won’t tell you about all of it. You get the point by now, I’m sure. The jokes are old and safe and often cringe-worthy. I even caught myself whispering “Please, don’t” to the comedian when he started to do a bad impression of the American accent. I was really embarrassed for him (and also a bit for myself as I paid for the tickets). Did the second half improve my perception of the show? I don’t know (we don’t know!*) as we decided to leave during the break and totally wasted money on two overpriced bottles of water. It wasn’t the worst show ever but I wasn’t having enough fun either and time is precious.

Any positive aspects to mention? There were some counter-intuitive and not obvious jokes which I remember really appreciating in his last year’s show. The one thing I enjoyed was Committe’s interaction with the audience. He’s very good at improvisation and at making jokes at the spot. This time, unfortunately, he didn’t manage to create a good routine but I would still give him a chance next year. Even though my husband and I remained mostly untouched by the show, a lot of people were laughing. If that’s encouraging enough, to be on the safe side, go for the discounted tickets that the theatre usually offers for some shows and some places.

*You’ll get it if you’ve seen anything by the comedian.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

IMG_8909I’m sure you’re familiar with Trevor Noah. He’s a South African comedian who made it to the Daily Show, replacing Jon Stewart. “Born a Crime” focuses on Noah’s humble beginnings; his childhood and young adulthood in South Africa. Is it worth a read? Totally!

As you would expect from a comedian, Noah’s memoir is funny. Like a lot of his work, though, it’s not funny ha ha, more bitter kind of funny. He often finds humor in horrible and sad places. It’s not surprising as it can often be used as a tool of dealing with a harsh reality. Noah in his book jokes about everything: from the horrible rules of apartheid, through not having a toilet to having a slightly intense mother. Sarcasm and irony are very powerful tools, which make his narrative more moving.

Already the circumstances of his birth are heavy. He was born to a white man and a black woman in times were interracial relationships were forbidden by the South African law (hence the catchy title, “Born a Crime”). His mom seemed to be quite a rebel who navigated her life through the limitations of racist politics and sexist communities. It’s probably through her belief that impossible doesn’t exist that she ended up bringing up a son who achieved so much. Noah seems to have a tremendous respect for his mother, even if he often disagrees with her views. To me she’s more of a scary character with her religious devotion bordering on fanaticism. She did, however, always try to give the best she could to her three children. Getting them out of a township and giving them a good education, was definitely helpful in them having prospects for a better future than she herself had.

Noah doesn’t feel sorry for himself, neither glorifies his poor background. I was really impressed with his explanations of apartheid and other parts of the complicated South African history. Honestly, his straight to the point descriptions give you a better understanding of racial mechanisms, discrimination and related issues than history and sociology books provide in thousands of pages. I was really impressed by his sensitivity that I did not have a gist of from his stand-up shows. He didn’t have it easy in the beginning of his life not only due to the political system but also because of the domestic abuse he and his mother experienced from her husband and Trevor’s step dad. The institutionalized minimization of the problem of violence against women eventually led to a tragedy in Noah’s family… This part of his memoir is a very important narrative as it touches upon the issue of domestic violence in South Africa, which is still a massive problem.

Perhaps the only thing that may be considered slightly negative about this book is that we learn almost nothing about Noah’s career. I’d be curious to read more about it. We do get some insight into Noah’s resourcefulness, so we can have a vague idea about how he managed to achieve his success. Still, I hope that one day he will write more about it. “Born a Crime” is a really well-written book that apart from being a story about Noah, gives the reader a glimpse into understanding the problems which modern South Africa is facing. He is a gifted writer and this book is one of the best I’ve read this year.

All Things Polish in Cape Town

IMG_8689.JPGYou’d think that a country like South Africa is quite far away from Poland and therefore there’d be almost no Polish people here. This isn’t true and surprisingly there’s a  Polish diaspora of a reasonable size in Cape Town and a much bigger one in Johannesburg. In today’s post I’ll tell you a bit about Polish people living here and other Polish things you can find in Cape Town.

I have no idea about the actual statistics for Cape Town in terms of Polish people living here. In my years here I have personally encountered around a hundred Polish people. Most are female and the story often goes: they left Poland for U.K./Ireland, they met an SA man there, the soetie* misses home and they moved to Cape Town together. Apart from Poles Poles, there are also people who are children and grandchildren of immigrants. Their Polish is usually surprisingly good, especially in case of the first generation.

I’ve met a lot of nice Polish girls but I haven’t met my Polish bff yet. Our Polish connections are initially full of excitement as we speak the same language and then sometimes it turns out there’s not much more we have in common. The language incentive is very strong in a country like South Africa, where it’s not every day that you can speak your mother tongue. Still, I have some friends and acquaintances whose way of thinking and being is similar to mine and whose company I really enjoy. I also really liked having Polish coworkers in an international office and being able to gossip out loud with no one understanding us.

I guess my biggest problem with relating to Polish people here is the Catholic religion. The Polish community is very much connected to the church. I really don’t mind other people going but it’d be nice if the Polish events weren’t so strongly connected to what’s happening in the church. The afternoon tea or coffee is always happening before or after the mass, close to the church. The Polish library is also located just next to the church and only opens on Sundays (the mass day). Even if the person who helps with the library would like to have it more separated and let people benefit from the Polish culture without necessarily using church services, as much as it’s possible, it doesn’t seem to be encouraged. Polish people I’ve met here, however, are mostly non-aggressive with their religious views. Once or twice someone told me that they’ll see me in church, assuming that I must be a believer and one time a lady was outraged I lived with my husband before marriage. Even though she got married at the ripe age of almost 40 she didn’t live with her husband before getting married because her family (note: not her) was very religious. Whatever floats your boat, my dear. I very much enjoyed the perks of sexual liberation in my life.

From the more formal point of view, there’s a Polish school for kids. There’s no embassy in Cape Town but the Consul comes to visit every two-three months to assist with formalities. I got my new passport via this service but my husband unfortunately had to fly to Pretoria to get his Schengen visa when we were visiting Poland. There’s also a semi-formal Facebook group for Polish women (mostly because Polish men don’t seem to be a thing here).


Apart from Polish people one may also encounter Polish food in Cape Town. There are occasional food events organized by the Polish Association (of course, on the church premises). There’s no Polish restaurant unfortunately but one may still get by. There are ladies making and selling pierogi (=a kind of dumplings) and if you’re more patient you can easily make pierogi yourself from local ingredients. Spar sells amazing crunchy gherkins with the Polish flag on the jar that taste like home. You can buy Polish herring too. Some Polish sweets are also available at Checkers. Once I saw prunes in chocolate but it’s the chocolate products by Wawel that are regularly present on the shelves. If anyone reading it craves an apple pie (=szarlotka), I know  someone who’s half-Polish and makes amazing apple pies. In local liquor stores you’ll find vodka Wyborowa for around 100 rand and Żubrówka a pricier Żubrówka for 300 rand. Otherwise the Poles here have to rely on packages from Poland, friends visiting the motherland or their own visits to Poland or England to stock up on supplies.

It’s quite nice to have an opportunity to speak Polish from time to time and I really get excited if I manage to eat some Polish food. At the same time, I’m interested in integration more than organizing my little Poland here so I’m quite happy that there are not as many Polish people here as in England or Ireland.

*a soetie is a slang term for a South African man living in England. It’s referring to an Aftikaans word for salt and what’s allegedly salty is his penis from standing with his one leg in South Africa and another in U.K and having salty water in between.

Moving to the (Su)burbs

suburbsCape Town is pumping with things to do and places to go. Many of these places are in town, in the so-called CBD. Many young people tend to live there, because they want to be close to where everything is happening. I spent 6 years moving around such areas. Some of them are a bit up on the mountain, others are closer to the ocean. I had a preference for the latter. I used to pay really reasonable money for staying in such places, but the rental increased quite significantly in the last 3 years (much more than by the 10% annual inflation). Eventually, you reach the point when it’s just not worth it anymore because the money you use on rent could be used on things you like more than being able to walk to a theater (like traveling for instance).

For me, the decision to move to the burbs was maybe more difficult than for some. When I was a teenager my mother had this brilliant idea in which her and my grandmother sold their apartments and we bought a house in a village, which by now is a burb of Warsaw. Of course, my mom didn’t consult me on that. She took me away from my friends and school at a walking distance to somewhere where it took me around 3 hours daily to commute with public transport. I hated it. I hated it even more during my studies when I felt I stayed too close too Warsaw to move out. If I wanted to party I needed to find a friend’s house, or a bathtub, to crash at for the night. I’ve been hating the burbs ever since and now I moved here out of my own free will.

Perhaps the particular place we moved to is not as bad as my mother’s place. It’s more like 15 minute drive from town than 45. My home burb for entertainment had only vodka and incest on offer. Observatory has a number of restaurants, bars, a theater and other activities such as improv comedy classes and kung fu (just to give you the most random examples). It also has a certain bohemian vibe to it which is nice. What’s less nice is that a lot of students are attracted to this vibe and it makes you feel old when you go out. I like the fact that we’re paying less for a house here than we were paying for a flat in the CBD (and much less than we would have been paying had we stayed there after the increase).

Unfortunately, lower rental prices also mean higher crime rates. We were quite unlucky in our first three weeks of tenancy in Observatory and we had our car stolen as well as experiencing a semi-burglary with someone getting access to one of our rooms through a closed window, despite the burglar bars. This doesn’t mean that a typical inhabitant of the area has their stuff disappearing as often as we did, it is just to say that opportunistic crime is very much present in the area. People hire paid security companies, install alarms in their houses and get electric fences. The rule of thumb is: make your house more secure than your neighbor’s. Perhaps it sounds horrible and pragmatic but that’s what people do around here. Of course, I didn’t enjoy being stolen from. In fact, I was very disturbed, bleak and my anxiety is still increased after these events. I will not go crazy, though and let fear guide me. I am also still not buying a pepper spray!

People associate burbs with the family vibe and indeed, we have here, basically, the whole family of my husband. I was a bit freaked out by it initially but fortunately, they’re chilled and they don’t do unexpected visits, which my mother was famous for in Warsaw after I moved out. I was close to hiding a gentleman in a wardrobe once, as she was insisting on coming upstairs during yet another unexpected call. Eventually I managed to meet her downstairs instead, blaming my flatmate for her inability to visit us on such a short notice. Anywaaaay, the life in the burbs is also associated with starting a family. However, the thought of having a dog and/or a baby still freaks me out. I did have an idea about getting a puppy but then I was lucky enough to puppy sit for someone and I realized it’s a lot of effort and what for? I feel similarly about babies. The stories we hear from our friends who already have them make me feel a bit weak in my knees. I occasionally get broody but the thought of having no time for myself or for our relationship puts me in my place. Also, you can never get rid of a child. What if you don’t want it after you had it? Don’t love it? What if it’s stupid? Or a disgrace? And why do I seem to be the only person who worries about that? No babies for me, yet.

It was certainly a big decision for me, to move to the burbs, but the financial aspect of it was very important to me. As I just started my own business, lowering the cost of living was crucial to me so that I can feel like I’m contributing towards our budget. Will I be happy here? Pfff. Despite all my efforts, I’m not a very happy person in general. I may as well be my sour self somewhere where we pay less rent.

Period Pain by Kopana Matlwa


“Period Pain” is the third novel by Kopana Matlwa. The author is a rather impressive woman. She’s not only an accomplished novelist but also a medical doctor. More importantly, she’s still in her twenties! You may find my review of her debut novel, “Coconut” here.

Matlwa’s newest novel focuses on a very important South African issue, xenophobia. South Africa being one of the most attractive African countries in terms of economy naturally attracts many immigrants from other countries on the continent. Even though the immigration policy is getting stricter by the day, there are a lot of migrants in the country. As South Africa struggles with unemployment as it is, it’s also dealing with growing aggression and hostility towards migrants. Understandably, there’s also a strong link between the aggression and one’s economic situation. There have been violent attacks and murders of foreigners in townships, while the better earning immigrants usually just read about such issues in the news. Enough of the background, though!

The protagonist of the book, Masechaba, is a medical doctor. She suffers from a condition causing her painful, almost never-ending periods. As she is a believer, she assumes that this is perhaps some sort of punishment from her Maker and to him she addresses some of her entries in the diary. Her best friend, Nyasha is also a doctor and a foreigner from Zimbabwe. The latter experiences directly and indirectly a lot of xenophobia. Masechaba’s passivity in such situations enrages Nyasha. Eventually, the protagonist decides to do something to protect her friend and other foreigners. Unfortunately this behavior makes her a kwere-kwere (a pejorative South African term for a foreigner) protector and therefore an enemy for some people…

Apart from xenophobia the novel addresses other important issues such as violence against women and the ailing public health system. It is written in first-person narrative which seems to be Matlwa’s strength. It is easy to relate to the characters described and to understand their motivations. The form of a diary allows the author to serve raw emotions on paper to the reader, which is a very powerful device given the events described. The novel reminds the inhabitants of South Africa about the issues that we often don’t think about daily, at least not till another wave of violence happens. The title of Matlwa’s newest novel refers to the protagonist’s condition but is also a metaphor of the pains, which South Africa is going through as a country. May the protagonist’s friend be right in saying that this too shall pass? I guess only the time will show.

The fans of the author (if there are any to be found among my meager readership) may point out that I’ve forgotten about the novel which came after “Coconut”, “Spilt Milk”. I have not. I read it and find it to be an unconvincing and sentimental story of reconciliation. There are too many characters and the reader learns too little about them. The children seem overly mature and the adults overly childish. I don’t see the point of going on about it, though. I’d rather focus on the positive: Matlwa has written two good and important books and that’s more than I or you can say about ourselves 😉

Halloween in Cape Town

old zombieSouth Africa doesn’t seem to be too big on Halloween in the traditional sense. Perhaps you can find kids walking from one household to another asking for sweets but I haven’t encountered any. I’d assume that because of safety issues (both paranoiac and factual), it wouldn’t be the case. However, the marketing people use Halloween for their purposes and you do receive all the “frighteningly good” or “fangtastic” offers in you mailbox during this period. There are also numerous Halloween themed events organized nationwide.

Halloween is my personal favorite. I don’t know whether you know that about me but I’m a massive thriller/horror/suspense fan. I even used to contribute to one of the biggest zombie websites in Poland, writing about movies. This is why I’m quite bleak that this year me and my husband are moving during the Halloween weekend (again!!!) and I cannot fully participate in the celebrations. Enough about me, though! Let me give you a quick breakdown of what’s worth attending during the Halloween period.

First of all, the City of Cape Town has been hosting an annual Zombie Walk since 2009. Zombie virgins: a zombie walk means a bunch of people dressed up like zombies walking around groaning and roaring for shits and giggles. Even if you’re not willing to dress up yourself, it’s actually quite a fun and occasionally scary event to watch. This year’s zombie walk will be taking place at 6 o’clock on the 28th October. The starting point is 11 Mechau Street. Don’t get confused by the mentions of cover charge on the web: the zombie walk itself is free. You only need to pay if you want to attend the after party. You can find other details about the event here. I try to pop in to the walk annually to at least take a few snaps. Below you can see some of my pictures from the 2012 event.

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If you’re already dead inside and up for a dress up party, you’re quite spoilt for choice. For instance, you can release your inner clown at the (apparently) Ultimate Halloween party, MCQP Presents Halloween. This year, perhaps not surprisingly, the theme is IT. I hope the organizers haven’t overestimated the maturity of potential participants who hopefully won’t be too scared to attend an event, where their childhood fears come true. If you’re not ready to face your traumas, you may opt for the Day of the Dead party at HQ. You’ll find plenty of tequila and Mexican tapas there to help you cope with your existential angst. I don’t know why you’d like to go to Decodance or Gandalf’s but just FYI they’re also hosting Halloween parties on the 28th.

For horror movie fans there’s an annual SA Horrorfest Film Festival at the Labia Theatre (25th October – 3rd November). You can see both new and old movies during this event. A definite highlight of the festival are the screenings of silent movies with the live soundtrack of Makabra Ensemble. Last year I saw “Vampyr” with their music and it was a really fun experience! This year you can see “Metropolis” at 21:30 on Saturday, the 28th of October. My other personal favorites are short movies, which give you a nice variety of horror sub-genres. This year there will be three parts of such screenings. You can learn more about the festival and check the exact schedule here. Another movie option is the Galileo screening of “The Dawn of the Dead” at Bloemendal Wine Estate. I guess, it isn’t very exciting for real horror fans who can recite all dialogues from this movie backwards. Fortunately, there are some new releases at the cinema as well. If you haven’t seen “IT” yet, I recommend you go watch it and then never go to the circus again. Another scary movies you can see on the big screen at the moment are “Annabelle: Creation” and “The Snowman”. If none of this is to your satisfaction, you can always opt for a scary movie at home. I’ve discovered, for instance, that “Gerald’s Game” (another Stephen King’s adaptation this year after “It” and “The Dark Tower”) is available on South African Netflix.

I know that the choice of events on this blog is not comprehensive and rather subjective but no one pays me for it so I can do what I want. Still, I hope that my short guide will help you celebrate Halloween in style.

Are you big on Halloween, Dear Reader? What’s your favorite horror movie? Please also don’t be shy if you need some suggestions for scary movies to watch or books to read. I could talk about them for hours!