Monday, November 26, 2012

Week 3: Stuff we bought.

We had an active week being consumers, so we thought we'd share some of the highlights.

Department of Transportation: Still no car. Waiting on the following transaction: bank must officially deregister car in their name, owner must reregister in her name, owner must deregister in her name, owner must register in our name. Many stamps will be inked.

Department of Energy: Africa doesn't do billing. Not for the vet, not for phones, and certainly not for electricity. Below is a picture of our power meter. The main screen shows you how many kilowatt hours are left and you recharge the meter by paying for power at a gas station (like a gas tank). The keypad allows you to put in a recharge token (like a pin) that is texted to you and allows the power you purchased to be credited to your account. Above the pad, you can see the smiley and sad faces on the left - bet you can figure out what that means about your power supply. On the right, the light bulb blinks once for every watt/hour you're using, so 1000 blinks = 1 kw/h. The faster the light blinks (like when Kelsey dries her hair), the more juice you're using.

Department of Housekeeping: We didn't get the car, but the car owner was able to sell us her old dishwasher (in fine shape), so we installed it over the weekend. Meet the Whirlpool, does the dishes so our nails stay pretty. Too bad we don't have enough dishes to really fill it.

Department of Homeland Security: We're sure you just skipped to this part, so here are the pictures of the puppies that you've been waiting for. Midas is browner, Mella is whiter. The pictures are all of them asleep, because they don't sit still long enough for the IPAD camera to focus. First vet visit was on Sunday, they are very healthy and both weigh about 16 pounds at ~11 weeks old.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Our REAL mailing address

We've changed our address yet again. Not that we don't trust the SA Postal Services, but we don't. Also, when they installed the wall surrounding our property, they put the mailbox INSIDE the 10' concrete wall topped with electric fence, so it seems unfair to expect letters to be delivered.

We've instead contracted with our local "Private Bag" (PO Box) supplier. These guys go down to the main post office, pick up our mail for us, and put it in a secure box. They also handle DHL packages (the recommended international courier) for those of you who might want to send parcels.

Here's our new address:

Jonah Choiniere and/or Kelsey Glennon
Private Bag X9, Suite #217
Melville, Johannesburg

Monday, November 19, 2012

Week 2: Cheese, flowers, cars, and queues

 Week 2:
Pictured below are these cute little gem squash which look like "Holy Hand Grenades" when uncut. The skin on these things is like a kevlar jacket, but once you've popped it open they roast up beautifully.

Delicious squash and not so delicious goat Pecorino Romano
So, we have a duck guy. He's a duck enthusiast that Jonah met during his first trip to Neighbourgoods back in September. This past weekend, we splurged and bought two duck breasts to pan sear with onion marmalade. Mmmmm. Pictured above and below are the results from our hard work. Seriously, though the hardest part was not scarfing down the food instantly. Also, we got an asparagus guy. The duck guy is also the onion marmalade guy. But don't trust the goat pecorino girl, because she wouldn't know pecorino if it bit her.

In addition to duck, we have also taken to a new type of pasta. Spaghetti and mince...In this case, we minced up some boerwoers, added some canned tomatoes, and some legit cheddar cheese (Adobo is also featured in this sauce...). It's actually pretty darn good. Pasta takes FOREVER to cook here, and after a few glasses of wine some hard thinking, we finally realized why. We live a mile high, so water boils at a different temperature here (202F, in case you were wondering). Oh boy. Baking will certainly be an adventure now.

It's late Spring here, and if you guys come visit, you really should consider coming in November, because everything is in bloom. Of course, that means my nose has gone on strike (as is the style here). Below are a few pictures of some of the prize specimens from our garden at the house..

A mystery plant -thought it was Chelone
Bougainvillea along our fence; INVASIVE
Some flowering violet family thing?

Our koi pond

Bird-of-Paradise in our back garden; Native. These
have gone by now, starting to look like
fading rock stars-->

These are Cape Gooseberries; not native. You can see that
they are closely related to the tomatillo, but they're slightly 
more tangy.

Jacaranda trees lining our street; Non-native. The flowers can be inflated and popped in
your hand, a surprisingly engrossing pastime for us nitwits and noobs.
Our toilet-themed miniature succulent garden. 

The Saga of Buying a Car:

Step 1: Find a dealer you can trust, or find a car through a private seller. We opted for the private seller using Gumtree (essentially Craigslist with better graphics)

Step 2: Decide on the car of your dreams. Our dreams were financially limited, so we decided to get a diesel (for mileage), something small (for mileage and cuz we po), and a foreign make (i.e., not a Ford, Chevy or Dodge).

We found this little beauty, drove out to see it, and were hooked. Kelsey will tell you some time about my white-knuckle test drive doing 120 down back roads, but that's for another day.

Step 3: Realize that this is South Africa, so you MUST have at least 5 forms to fill out before you can actually drive the car you've fell in love with. DON'T forget to get things stamped.

Step 4: Dance a jig when you find out the forms AND instructions are ONLINE! See below.

Step 5: Dance of different type of jig when you realize that the forms and the instructions have been superseded by a rain soaked, poorly edited, size A4 sign attached to plywood at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Go back to step 3.

Step 8??: Finally get all your forms together, stamped, etc. From left to right: instructions for how to get to registry, landlord's ID, utility bills for last three months, lease, job letter, driver's license, visa & passport, form, below 4 photos. Getting the photos was another shady story involving street entrepreneurs.

In the meantime, realize you've driven 49km to do all these tasks.

Step 9: Get to registry and realize line is literally out the door, off the sidewalk, and spilling into the highway well behind the silver Mercedes.

...But that was just the line to get in! Once inside, join the secondary line...

...and the tertiary line....

Step 10: Get forms stamped in office with no power, no computer, and no filing system. Go home or back to work, and tell Johnny all about your problems.

Protecting your Investments:

While Jonah was figuring out how to make us more mobile in a city dependent on cars, and cars alone (unless you want to take a crazy taxi minibus...hell to the no), I had a much more important task of making our house even more secure...

After many long, tedious hours on Gumtree, I finally found the humans who owned Mom & Rocky (above). These two lovely hounds were kind enough to supply an adorable litter of what South Africans call American Bullies. I emailed the guy, got an address after convincing him that we were legit and coming from Wits, and off we went.

Our newly employed home protector!! (btw- Midas is the one looking at the Ipad, he already loves having his photo taken)

Midas will be coming to live with us this weekend, once Jonah has secured us a legal vehicle. Luckily he won't be over 200lbs like the Boerboels we considered, so he should fit snugly into the back seat of our Getz. Road trip!!!!! ...Hopefully.


Whelp, we're suckers.

Based on comments by colleagues (e.g., "you're just getting ONE dog??"), the general cuteness shown below, and the fact that almost everybody we know on earth has a pair of dogs, we called the owner and told him to reserve us a female, too. She's the one in the pictures below with the crunk eye. We think. Anyway, we're sure about her name. It's apparently the name of a Zimbabwe goddess (don't tell Mugabe) who among other things is known for her half-moon pendant. This seemed to jibe well with the one moon-colored eye, and also Kelsey vetoed the name "Winkie".
Meet Mella (foreground left side). Midas is the brown and white
feller on top of the pig pile in the back.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Johannesburg Week 1

Here we are on SA204, having successfully dodged Superstorm Sandy who tried desperately to keep us waterlogged in NJ. Although no bars were open in the airport--we made up for this by drinking as much free booze on the plane as we could hold. In between Dry Lemon & Gins, we did crosswords, walked around, and took funny photos.

Our seats were equipped with these useful television screens (YES! How I Met Your Mother AND Big Bang Theory were both available!). These were handy to see where we were in the world. We actually got a great view of a lightning storm off the coast of Freetown in Sierra-Leone. Simply stunning. And here we are flying over Namibia just 4 hours before landing!

The Rubidge family was kind enough to host us for our first night so we didn't have to sleep on hard floors in our empty house. Their home is lovely, and here we are drinking tea, eating cake and chatting about all things South Africa.
(Left to Right: Marc, Marina, Bruce, Kelsey)
 Marina is a wonderful cook!

And these two adorable Corgies are 
Clumpie & Rumple Rubidge.
Such sweethearts! 

On Monday, our belongings finally arrived!!! These are only four of the five crates. They had to go back and retrieve the last one once these were unloaded. I'm standing in the middle of our driveway gate. Let the unpacking begin!!

Our amazing crew from Pickford's. They all spoke Zulu, and were awesome. One of these guys can lift a box on his head that took two US guys to struggle to lift. I was impressed. They couldn't believe how much stuff we had and seemed to have a good time laughing at us silly Americans.

Here's just a sample of the amount of crap we had to unpack/set up. I think we might have set a record because our house looks relatively normal in just three days. This is our front hall (front door is to the right). Oh, did you notice our NEW VACUUM!?! :)

Our first task as South African residents was to outfit our new home with appliances. It's common here for previous home owners to take washing machines and fridges with them, even in rentals. So, we headed off to MaKro's to purchase our first grownup appliances. We got a great washing machine that can wash up to 13kgs of clothes. It plays merry little tunes to apprise you of its progress. And behold...our SA fridge! You'll notice it's slightly smaller than a USA fridge. We assure you, though, there is plenty of space for necessary items (see below)!

 All of the essentials:
beers (top rack), custard (door), and of course, 
a wine rack.

 Just when we thought we could take a break, Jonah had a last-second scientific visitor. He was kind enough to provide us with meat & beer, the South African essentials. On the left are skilpoetjies (pronounced "Skul-Pike-Ease"). These are lamb liver covered in spices and wrapped in lamb intestinal fat. These little things resemble small tortoises, hence the name. On the right are pre-marinated kabobs available in any grocery store in great abundance. The makings of our second braai.

Many of you have been asking about the beer selection here. The best common beer is actually Namibian and is shown here on the right. This beer is pronounced "Vund-hook" and is like a typical European-style lager. You can see our transformer (the bomb-esque black box) in the background, powering our red rice cooker.

Kelsey's first South African purchase at the Checkers (local grocery store). Ranch dressing is not available here (gasp!), but luckily, bleu cheese dressing was!

This morning, we ventured to Neighbourgoods Market, the hipster farmer's market, just by campus. It's two floors: the top floor has clothing and jewelry and a bar with tables outside, the bottom floor has many tables of food to purchase. Mostly lunch items and delicious bites. There is also an abundance of organic wine & local beer to purchase a glass of. The local crowd was availing themselves liberally of both. (I have to say, I was pretty surprised at how trendy Joburg is so far. It's really a great place!).