10 things you’ll soon learn about Jozi

Chasing sunsets, one of my favourite activities in the city

Chasing sunsets, one of my favourite activities in the city

For those wondering what it’s like living in Jozi, here is a list of the few things that, as an expat, you will soon learn about this wonderful city.

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A fine day at the Beach

Yes, there's a beach in Joburg!! And it's a pretty cool place!

Yes, there’s a beach in Joburg!! And it’s a pretty cool place!

A few weeks ago, Luis told me he’d love to go to the Beach. To which I replied, in a rather assertive tone: “The beach?? But chico, there’s no beach in Johannesburg!!! We’re not in Barcelona anymore”

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The day we flew over Jozi

Jozi's most famous landmarks: Ponte, Hillbrow Tower, and Brixton Tower in the distance

Jozi’s most famous landmarks: Ponte, Hillbrow Tower, and Brixton Tower in the distance

A few weeks ago, we had the privilege to fly during 1h over Jozi in an helicopter. We departed from the Midrand Grand Central Airport, flew over Sandton, reached the centre of the city from the East side, and then in direction of Soweto and Soccer City, where we started our return, going around the city from the West side this time, and then Fourways, Midrand, and back to the airport. I won’t say much about the trip, except that it was one of the best experiences I have ever had, and that I would recommend it to anyone interested in getting to know the city from a different perspective. I’ll let the photos do the talking. Continue reading

The true weight of heritage

My dear future train driver

My dear future train driver

On September 24th, people celebrate Heritage Day in South Africa. On this occasion, everyone in the country is invited to re-connect with his/her own roots and to show for the whole word to see that despite its differences, this patchwork of tribes, races and cultures has finally learned to live happily together.

Heritage Day has soon turned into Braai day, the braai – local barbecue – being the common denominator bringing people of different layers of the South African society together. On that day, right before noon, the acre smell of burnt charcoal rises from every house, every garden, every park, striking eyes and nostrils equally while opening a long awaited perspective to your tastebuds. You feel “yummy” inside before you can even see the shape of a braai in your horizon.

This year was the first I participated to Heritage Day, and as excited as I was, I must admit that the memory of it is still bitter-sweet to me.

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My very own idea of paradise

A park with a view

A park with a view

In my early years in France, I had only one ambitious. Escape the dullness of the countryside and go to the city. Paris, London, Berlin, whatever. I only wanted to lose myself amongst millions of souls and live the frenzy life of city dwellers. But it took me a few decades before I started living the dream and, as a result I guess, I have developed antagonist feelings about the urban life. I can’t help feeling attracted to big cities. But whenever I’m there, I miss the green fields of my childhood. Life can be so complicated sometimes! City parks are therefore vital for me. They help keeping me balanced, and I escape there every week-end to find a bit of my own lost paradise. Continue reading

The sun also rises on Soweto

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Jabulani Theatre reflecting the first rays of the sun

Soweto. Or So.We.To. for South Western Township. Its history is intrinsically linked to the one of Johannesburg, and its name bears memories of freedom fighters and greater men.

Soweto was created as a result of the gold rush that started in the late nineteenth century in the south of Johannesburg. “Matchbox houses” were put up for the hundreds of black workers who came to the golden city in the hope of making a living  and it grew steadily during the industrialisation of the first half of the twentieth century. Continue reading

I learned something valuable today

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There are a few things you will learn when you arrive to Johannesburg. Casual ones, like to always carry a lip balm with you everywhere you go, as the dry climate tears your lips apart. Or more serious ones, like to roll up your windows at crossroads, to prevent the mash and grab.

And then, there is the golden rule. Always hold on to your remote as if your life depended on it. That’s your lucky ticket, the one you don’t want to share, because a remote, that’s basically the key to a safe place in case of emergency. And in this city, you don’t want to jeopardise the access to your safe place. For your own security, and more importantly, for the one  of your family.

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Bang Bang…

Instameet under the old train station

Instameet under the old train station

I knew that I wanted to write this blog the moment we decided to move to Johannesburg. But I also knew that my computer skills being what they are, it would take me a while before I actually posted my first article. So what did I do in the meantime? I went for the easy road, and created an instagram account, @abrandnewsky, to document the steps of our journey to our new country.

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Falling in love again…

Hillbrow tower, from Maboneng

Hillbrow tower, shot from Maboneng

Jozi is a gorgeous city. The skyscrapers from Central Business District shape an elegant skyline, pressed against the sky, from which clearly emerge the massive landmark of Ponte and right by her side, the Hillbrow Tower, crowning the city in an everlasting glow. It’s where the City of Gold lies, and it works as an incredibly strong magnet for any foreigner who approaches Jozi for the first time. You can only marvel at the dreams that must have run through the minds of the men who built this city and want to explore at once its inner parts to feel some of the energy that have guided these men here.

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Why this blog?

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We didn’t decide to go to Africa. It’s Africa that came to us, in the most surprising fashion. A phone call, in the heat of August 2013, while we were enjoying some well-deserved holidays, started everything. Lying in the sun of a Greek Island, I was asked if I would consider a position in South Africa. “South Africa? That isn’t exactly in our plans. Whereabout in South Africa? Cape Town?”, I asked, tentatively. “No, Johannesburg”.

And here she was: Johannesburg, the dreaded city. An embarrassing silence suddenly fell upon the conversation, where one could hear the sound of the mediterranean waves in the distance. I didn’t know much about Johannesburg at that time. Or at least, that’s what I thought. But my head was actually filled with flashes of decayed buildings, clustered homes, window bars and electric fences. Images of shotguns, drug dealers, robberies and heartless crimes, just to name a few, were running through my mind while a  dizzying sensation crawled its way up from my stomach. I was feeling bad, physically bad. And before I knew it, before I even had the chance to consider the scope of our possibilities, the inevitable conclusion just imposed itself onto me: there was no way we would ever live in Johannesburg. Too dangerous. My guts had already decided for me.

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