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Travel Don’t ever take travel for granted. It is such a privilege to explore different parts of the world, experiencing fascinating cultures. South Africa is blessed with some of the most spectacular landscapes and natural wonders. There is a great variety of beautiful natural diverse scenery, varying from mountains, rivers, lakes, lagoons and endless coastlines to sun-scorched semideserts. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

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A Northern Mozambique

Haven If you have

pretty much done the safari thing in South Africa, then handsome young trainee jeep jockeys have lost their appeal, you see through the top end reserves and their GPS-based game tracking and ‘ndlovu’ codes are no longer a secret. When Kruger begins to resemble a giant zoo, it’s time to follow my lead and head for the true African bush at Lugenda Wilderness Camp in northern Mozambique. This bush gem, part of the Luweri Conservancy in the southern reaches of the 44 000km² Niassa Reserve, offers the traveler a quiet and deeply fulfilling bush experience. Did I say quiet? As I write this, I am sitting on a wooden deck, a cold gin and tonic in hand, relaxing after a 5-hour morning bush adventure. Local men across the wide expanse of the Lugenda River are ignoring the crocs as they fish for their evening meal, baboons are frantically fighting over tree fruits and an elephant is quietly breaking branches behind my luxury tent. Just last night, a leopard came into the camp and like a mischievous cat, swatted calabash lamps and ripped up lounge furniture around the pub

Text Karin Peterson Images Karin Peterson & Russell Scott

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almost within touching range from where I was sleeping. Yet I can’t help but emphasize the stillness of Lugenda. The hot winter air hangs heavy with the chirping of insects and the calls of myriad bird species harmonizing with the faint rustle of seasonal leaves, in what can only be described as Green Silence. The feeling of peace is all-pervasive. There are few five star safari destinations, which don’t offer fine service. The difference at Lugenda is that it isn’t obsequious or intrusive.

spot everything that surrounds us including a giant chameleon, perched on a high branch, as we drive by in the dark of night. It doesn’t even seem unusual that Nick, while explaining the connection between the giant Baobab under which we are standing and Cream of Tartar, quietly looks over my shoulder and says “Lion. Let’s follow it”. And we do. For an hour. On foot.

The staff don’t choose to live an 8 hour’s drive away from the nearest functional bush village because they are into glamorous lifestyles. Director of Lugenda Wildlife Reserve, Derek Littleton, Colombian ethno-biologist Paula Ferro, and head ranger Nick van Rensburg see tourism as a wonderful way of indulging their deep knowledge and love - of the Niassa bush. Camp manager Chelene Ebersohn has not only lived in the reserve for 8 years but is raising two

young children here too. Beatrice and Wimmie are confident blonde, tousled haired little human Bushbabies who think nothing of cavorting on the sandbanks of the Lugenda.

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A bush drive with this team is extraordinary. There aren’t new species around every corner, no. Tracker Buenar Paolo, however, ensures that we


The grass is shoulder high after the highest rainy season they jointly remember and as our group walks behind him, fear never dominates the realization that the feline group could be watching us from a short distance away. The fact that we are even permitted to periodically climb out of the game viewer is a breath of fresh African air after the air-hostess type safety rules and instructions that are hammered in at most safari destinations. In the end, we get to within 40 metres of the cats before they grow wary of our intrusion and amble away into the surrounding bush. This is only a little closer than we managed to get to an elephant bull a couple of days before and not nearly as close as we got to the hippos the previous morning.

Bush walks include the added bonus of tasting a variety of wild fruits straight off the trees, eating

The wilderness experience in this lush part of the Niassa Reserve isn’t limited to daily game drives. Even a short stay offers guests the opportunity to explore some of the local history by clambering up some vertigo-defying granite boulders to reach a cave dotted with 4000-year-old rock art. A rafting trip will see you canoeing down the gently meandering Lugenda River and enjoying the baking sun, marveling at the diversity of the bird life. A note here to twitchers: if names like Angolan Pitta, African Skimmer and the Livingstone Flycatcher excite you, then you will understand the richness of this bird haven. The Miambo Woodland offers some 400 listed species – enough to keep the binoculars focused for a while.

dripping wild honey off the comb, smelling unfamiliar plants, examining centuries old trees


and spotting shy butterflies amidst the indigenous flowers. Lugenda is growing in popularity amongst photographers and this should come as no surprise, given the diversity of scenery, ambient light that moves from gentle to sharp, opportunities for portraiture and wildlife shots and colours and textures just begging to be artistically explored. Of course Lugenda remains a pretty luxurious African experience. The ubiquitous local staff traipse across hot river sands to set up a lantern and starlit dinner for us at the riverside. Game drives are peppered with freshly roasted Macadamias and hot snacks. They may occasionally forget the morning coffee, but they do present an array of exotic teas and crisp freshly baked Condensed Milk biscuits that would even impress my grandmother.

+27 11 658 0633 / enquiries@raniresorts.com / www.lugenda.com

Being so isolated presents unique challenges in meeting client’s culinary needs, especially when the supply plane has failed to arrive on time. Just like the city, the Niassa Reserve is a jungle. But it is a jungle of challenges, surprises and soulfulness. A jungle of deep-rooted and natural peace. And on the banks of the Lugenda River, it’s a place of inspiration.

Directions To get to Lugenda, fly with a commercial airline to Pemba, from where you will enjoy a 90-minute flight over the bush and inzelbergs, to the lodge’s private landing strip. For service that is a benchmark in Africa, use CFA air charters. They even drove me around looking for a lost passport. +258 214 66881 cfa.pemba@gmail.com To book your own Lugenda breakaway contact

www.cfa.co.za

Rani resorts Central Reservations

Karin’s travel notes to Northern Mozambique Travel this part of Africa with a sarong. It multitasks as a towel for river swims, a modesty wrap, keeps off the cool evening breezes and can be used as a carry-all on rafting trips. Very few people outside the tourism hotspots speak English. Rudimentary Portuguese is useful.

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Take just about everything you need: insect repellent is essential for the mozzies and tsetse flies and sunblock a must. Preferably travel with your own mini first aid kit, too. Mozambican


hospitals are kind and friendly, but hopelessly underequipped. Support the SGDRN (Niassa Reserve) where you can. They are doing great conservation work under very challenging conditions. Karin Petersen +27 82 375 4083 communicationcog@gmail.com rm

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66 Square Feet in July Text Marie Viljoen Production Catherine Moore Images Marie Viljoen & Vincent Mounier

66 Square Feet

News from New York

How long have you been living in New York? 12 years. Roof Farm

Marie Viljoen’s inspiring blog “66 Square Feet” featured amongst the top ten nominated in the category “The Best Overseas South African Blog” - Blogs written by a South African in any foreign country - in the SA Blog Awards. Her work is regularly published in local and international magazines. Ray investigates and discovers more about this remarkable lady and her life in New York… Who are you?

I live in Cobble Hill, a neighbourhood in Brooklyn, and a 10-minute subway ride from Manhattan. Treeshaded streets and historic brownstones characterize it.

It’s about gardening in tight spaces. 66 Square Feet is named for the size of my tiny terrace, and is about gardening on my terrace and roof ‘farm’, cooking, and green spaces in New York and South Africa. It’s about how to live with a man and a cat in a tiny apartment with a tiny terrace. 10 sue

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Where do you live?

Please tell us a bit more about your amazing blog? What is 66 Square Feet about?

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I am a writer, photographer and garden designer.


It’s about photos, and friends, and inspiration and blackspot on the roses. It’s about food and cooking over an open flame. It’s about wine. And water. And watering... And picnics. It’s about seasons without and within. It’s about New York, and about South Africa. It’s about where I go, and what I come back to: a terrace twelve-and-three-quarters by five-and-a-quarter feet wide. My recipes are all at its sister blog, 66 Square Feet (the Food). What do you miss the most about South Africa? The landscape, the light, the stars, the biltong. Camping in the Karoo. Spring on the West Coast. My mother’s garden, my parents. The pristine beaches and Woolworths!

Estorbo enjoying the view

Watermelon

Central Park in May

com) and I have a drink together and then if the weather is nice eat supper outside on the terrace, with our cat Estorbo. After supper I usually edit my pictures and write a post for the next day. What do you do for a living? For eleven years I designed rooftop gardens in New York, but now I am spending more time on writing and photography, something I have always wanted to do. Amongst other freelance work I write a foraging column for Edible Manhattan, and I write about gardens. I still design gardens… Describe a normal day in your life at the moment. I work at home for the most part so am glued to my laptop. I am not a morning person. After my toasted baguette with butter and jam, and a cup of stovetop espresso with hot milk in the morning I become human. If I am working on a story I might cook and style something for an impromptu shoot at home or on the terrace, or go out in search of pictures. On days when I am gardening professionally I pack up my toolbag and head out to the subway to take me where I need to go. In the evenings my husband, Vincent Mounier, (www.vincentmounier.

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Name 5 things that you love about your lifestyle in New York. I love walking from our building straight into life on the street. I love the food shops within a fifteen minute walk from home: butchers, bakers, excellent cheese and charcuterie, Middle Eastern produce, and an outdoor farmer’s market three times a week. I love public transport. The cross section of supermulticultural New York rides shoulder to shoulder. We don’t have a car. I love the nature in the city. People don’t think of New York as a green place, but its seasons and parks are drop dead gorgeous. I love living in a city filled with incredibly talented and driven people. It seems as though everyone has published a book, made a movie or designed a building; the bar is set high. I was very shy when I arrived. I am now cured!

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Do you ever plan on living in South Africa again? We would like to live in South Africa, though we are concerned about security. And the Protection of Information Bill is deeply disturbing.

Central Park in May Shopping in Chinatown

Name 5 great places to visit in New York. Any street or park in New York in the spring or autumn, especially the Highline, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Battery Park Bosque, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Central Park. Union Square Farmer’s Market. The bar at Balthazar, SoHo. Order a drink and stay for fresh shellfish. Prune, East Village - for their burger. The East River Ferry – for $4, ride up the East River with beautiful views. Central Park in May Marie at Madiba Restaurant

like stories. April and May, September and October. Summer is torrid. Your favourites Food Al di La restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Drink Prosecco on the terrace. Destination The roof, to garden and look at New York Harbour. Song Take the A Train. Film Moonstruck.

Central Prospect Park ParkininMay November

If you are not working, what do you do for fun? I cook and I garden. Work and fun are the same thing. We visit a lot of the parks in New York, we picnic often, and I hunt mushrooms. New York is a wild place. Would you recommend New York as a holiday destination for South Africans? Absolutely. New York at Christmas time is magical, 10 sue

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Marie on Fire Island

1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon bicarb (baking soda) 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 a teaspoon ground allspice 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 70 gr chopped pecans Heat oven to 375°F (190°C). Heat raisins/currants and water in a saucepan to boiling point. Remove from heat and stir in the oil. Cool to lukewarm. Stir in the sugar and the egg (if it is still too hot the egg will scramble). Sift dry ingredients (I never do, lazy) into a bowl and pour in wet ingredients. Stir. Stir in the nuts. Now, “Pour into a greased Swiss roll tin,” says my mother’s recipe. This is sweet. I don’t know if people would know them as Swiss roll tins anymore. Except perhaps in the Midwest, or Martha-world? We knew them, because we were fed freshly-made Swiss rolls stuffed with apricot jam and sugary on the outside, then, for special dessert. Those were in the days of sit-down lunches.

Culture: Local, organic food culture. Fragrance: The linden trees in June. Excerpt from her sister blog - 66 Square Feet (the Food). “These cookies were my favourites when I was a little girl in Bloemfontein, when two big glass cookie jars stood near the back door in the kitchen, every now and then going ke-chink, as a lid was lifted and replaced, very quietly and sneakily, triggering my mother to yell from the other end of the house, down the passage, “Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeil!!!” as our swift-footed, chubby young neighbour made off with his haul...The back door was always open. And Neil always came back. Can’t blame him.

Father in suit, home from chambers, children in school uniforms, home from school. Doris Day singing in the kitchen. Milk to drink, from a jug on the table. MILK!!! Central Old fashioned Park inraisin May squares

You need: 160 gr raisins (or currants) 1 cup water 1/2 a cup sunflower oil 200 gr sugar 1 lightly beaten egg 220 gr cake flour M

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Back to the cookies. Now, a rectangular cookie tin with sides about half an inch high will do, greased. Bake for 12-16 minutes until a skewer comes out clean, or a finger pressed leaves no dent (that’s my instruction. Scientific, hey?). When cool, ice with water icing (powdered sugar and water) made with lemon juice instead of water. This is key. It is delicious. After the icing has set, slice into squares in pan, I don’t know why I turned mine out to cool. They are

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easy to lift out square by square. Try not to eat them all at once. They are good for everything. Stress, sadness, an excess of anything. And brilliant for breakfast with a cup of strong coffee.� Visit www.66squarefeet.blogspot.com and www.66squarefeetfood.blogspot.com

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Brooklyn Bridge

My book: Edible Brooklyn

Our figs

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Raisin Square


Text Neil Cooper Images Che Kershaw

ONE ON ONE

WITH CHE KERSHAW News from South Korea

This month Ray chats to

one of the hippest bloggers in South Africa. Che Kershaw has a Bachelor of Journalism – specialising in Graphic Design and is the creator of the fabulous blog indieBerries. She has an immense appreciation for stationery, good fonts, dark chocolate and all things paper. She usually blows up things in the kitchen so she eats cereal all day. Mostly smiling, always creating and extremely funny on the odd occasion. This girl is going places – here is what she has to say. Who are you? My name is Che (pronounced “shay”). Usually the first question people ask me is “Is that it? Just Che?” My response is always, “Yes, that’s it. Just Che” short and sweet. I like my name.

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I’m proudly South African and I have a Bachelor of Journalism and Media Studies Degree, specialising in Graphic and Communication Design. I’ve been teaching English in South Korea for three and a half years and have recently returned to South Africa. 

Where did you stay in South Korea? I lived and worked at the Gyeonggi English Village, South Korea. The Gyeonggi English Village is a kind of theme park for learning English. The village is about 40 minutes north of Seoul in a small country town called Paju. I taught English at the Village. It is basically like a theme park where English and Korean kids come for the day to practise their English in a “western village” type environment. The whole park is created to look like a western village and includes a fake bank, post office, police station and clinic. Kids come and do role-play type classes with the teachers in these different environments. Other classes that we offered include t-shirt painting, teddy-bear making, Lego workshops, storytelling and family cooking classes. We had a company of edutainers (educator + entertainer) who perform English musicals and game shows. It’s a very unique approach to learning and it’s really a lot more “fun” than teaching which is great.

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Why “indieBerries”? I’ve always been fond of strawberries. One of my favourite things to do when we go on a family holiday to Cape Town is to stop off at the Mooiberg Strawberry farm where you can buy an empty tray and go into the strawberry fields and pick your own strawberries - Delicious! Not only are strawberries the perfect mix of complimentary colours, they are fruity, fresh, aesthetically wonderful and just plain delicious. I wanted to create a blog that is individual, fresh, fun, fruity, juicily inspirational and designedly delicious. “indieBerries” is the perfect combination of all things lovely. I hope you enjoy the feast... Congratulations! You are also a South African Blog Award Winner for Best Blog Design and Best Personal Blog. Describe your feelings upon hearing this exciting news. It was really amazing for indieBerries to be awarded two awards at the South African blog awards. The Blog awards organisers contacted me a few weeks before the awards and let me know that indieBerries

It was a huge decision since it’s such a long flight and I didn’t have a lot of time to take off. The next day, I flew to South Africa. It was all very dramatic. Ha-ha. I’m glad I flew out for the awards. Did you design your blog on your own? Yes, everything on my blog is designed by me. I studied graphic design at Rhodes University so I love playing around with images and fonts. But adapting that to a blogging platform is a continuously learning process and it’s been a lot of testing different things out to get it the way I want it. I’d like to revamp the look and feel of it soon – so I’m just waiting for a free moment to play around with it again. What did you miss the most about South Africa? My family and friends. Also NikNaks, Bovril and Steers burgers. Describe a normal day in your life when you were in South Korea. 7:30 Wake up and do a work out. 8:30 Shower, get ready and eat a lot of cereal. 9:00 Clock into work. 10:00 Work on lesson development and planning for new class ideas. 10:30 Teach two classes. Since this is an ESL (English Second Language) environment and due

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indieBerries is my personal blog where I post about things that I find interesting, awesome, quirky or funny. I do a few DIY posts and I draw cartoons to illustrate my life - which are usually a great hit. People love to laugh and I think indieBerries gives a good chuckle to its readers.

had a good chance of winning one of the categories and they were wondering if I was going to fly out from South Korea to attend the blog awards.

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Please tell us a bit more about your amazing blog? What is it all about?


to the type of learning environment that we are in. These classes could be anything from pretending to be a Police Officer to dancing around like a Dinosaur. 12:15 Lunch. We often eat at the cafeteria, which is a true Korean experience. They always serve rice and Kimchi which is a traditional Korean food – made from fermented cabbage. 13:30 Teach four more classes and work on more lesson development. 18:00 Clock out. 19:00 If I’m feeling energetic will go for a run then eat more cereal. 20:00 Usually I spend this time working on blog posts and creeping all over the internet - there are so many great blogs and sites out there that I often get myself into a bit of a “click-frenzy”.

The Travelling Being a teacher in Korea has given me an amazing opportunity to travel. I have visited Thailand twice, Sri Lanka, China, Bali, Turkey, Greece and the Philippines. It has been an absolutely incredible experience being able to visit all these amazing places. The International Friends Being a teacher abroad, I have made so many new and wonderful international friends. It has been a very enriching experience to really get to know people from other cultures and countries and we often end up talking about our differences and our shared commonalities. I’m so grateful for the amazing people that I have met whilst being in South Korea.

If I’m not on the internet then I’m probably doing some kind of crafty thing with papers and other beautiful stationery. 00:00 Think about going to bed. 01:00 More creeping around the internet. Tell myself I should really go to bed. 02:30 Actually go to bed. Wake up and repeat. Name 5 things that you loved about your lifestyle in South Korea. The Fashion

Name 5 great places to visit in South Korea.

Korean fashion is so unique and free. Shopping there is so cheap and the stuff you can buy is completely different from anything I’ve seen in South Africa.

Seoraksan National Park is really beautiful and close to Sokcho beach – so it makes a great mini getaway.

The Food

Hongdae is a small area of Seoul right next to Hongik University. It is packed with awesome cafes, chilled out wine bars, delicious restaurants, amazing vintage stores and fabulous market shopping. (I was there almost every weekend!)

Korean food is delicious and generally very healthy. It took me a while to really get into Kimchi (the fermented cabbage side dish), but now I’m hooked! (AND it’s been labelled as one of the five healthiest foods from around the world on health.com. BONUS!) My family came to visit me a while ago and they completely loved the food too! The Stationery I LOVE pretty papers, notebooks, journals, calendars, cards, pens, pencils and books and Korea has it ALL – in a huge, great abundance. I am hoping to start importing some stationery back to South Africa and am currently setting up a website at indieBerries.com M

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Kyobo This place is like my dream! It is a huge store crammed full of books and stationery. I would spend hours just browsing around Kyobo! There are stores located all over Seoul. Gyeongbokgung is a really cool place for anyone new to Korea to visit. It is the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty and you can catch the changing of the guards throughout the day. It is also near to Insadong, which is another really great place to see with traditional tea-houses, old calligraphy and paper stores and old ceramic stores.

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Daecheon Beach This is where the infamous Boryeong MudFest takes place. Basically people from all over Korea gather at Daecheon around July and go crazy in the mud. It’s great fun if you go with a big bunch of friends.

Destination

I love playing with paper and crafty things and I also enjoy “playing” in Photoshop. I stay out of the kitchen generally. I catch things on fire a lot.

Song

This is a tough one! I love travelling and there are so many amazing destinations around the world. I love Thailand and have been there three times so far. Sri Lanka is really amazing too and has so many beautiful untouched beaches. LOVE TO TRAVEL... If you were not working, what did you do for fun? My lovely List of travels so far: South Africa; Australia; England; Italy; Switzerland; France; I spend a lot of my free time on the Internet being Austria; Lesotho; South Korea; Singapore; Dubai; inspired by beautiful blogs and tutorials. Otherwise The United States; Indonesia; Greece; Turkey; I loved browsing around big stationery and book China; Philippines; Cambodia; Vietnam; Laos. stores or hanging out in cafes in Seoul with friends.

Would you recommend South Korea as a holiday destination for South Africans? If you’re looking for gorgeous beaches then I’d say that you’re better off staying in South Africa... But, if you are looking for the unbelievably awesome experience of immersing yourself in a culture that is completely different from your own then Korea would be a WIN. It has most unique boutique stores, food, customs, interesting and quirky places and the people are wonderful. Your favourites Food Korean Food: “Chumchee jiggae” – it is a type of spicy tuna soup that is eaten with rice. Cereal is my other staple food. Since I can’t cook and cereal is basically the only food that I haven’t exploded/ blown-up/melted/caught on fire. Yes, it’s that bad. I love my dad’s roasted vegetables. Yum.

I listen to a lot of good music so it’s difficult to pick only one song. Right now I really love Bronze Radio Return. They are really chilled out and awesome. Film I love movies with an epic twist or that make you think. I enjoyed Shutter Island and Oceans 11, but for aesthetics I would say Amelie, The Darjeeling limited and Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Fragrance I like Valentino and Lacoste Pink. Recently I’ve bought Dior Addict.

Visit www.indieberries.blogspot.com or follow Che on twitter @cheKershaw info@indieberries.com rm Hanbok Festival

Drink I love red wine (also good with dark chocolate). Delicious.

Keran Jim

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Impressions of China

Text Rory Alexander & Nathan Dube Images Rory Alexander

R ory Alexander News from China

This award nominee blogger offers Ray insight into his time spend in China. After China he also went to New Zealand and is currently in Dubai.

“It is hard to sum up the last two years in a single post but with any luck you will have been following my adventure via this blog so all that is left for me to do is to give you my impression of China. Writing this several weeks after leaving China I am able to look back on my time there with some perspective. There are several people I’ve met that have asked me, “how was China?” And my response has been this, “It was interesting but frightening at the same time.” M

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about their culture before arriving there. Now I have not only learnt, but I have experienced so much of it first hand and I found so many aspects of it different and therefore fascinating. I am not fluent in Mandarin; it is a much more difficult language than I anticipated learning. Having said that I am in part to blame as I got lazy, once I had learnt enough Chinese to get by, to order food, buy train tickets and bargain in the markets, my enthusiasm to learn any more waned. Also, in the current global economic climate, China seems to be the only country growing and growing at a staggering rate. Without figures or statistics, just from what I saw on the ground there was no slowing down. There is construction everywhere, new subway systems, high-speed rail lines and housing for the continuing urbanisation.

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When the Chinese decide to do something they do it and buildings would literally go up before your eyes. The public transport, which we relied on quite a lot, although crowded at times was convenient, reliable and safe – unlike the public transport back in South Africa. The cost of living is incredibly low; I could get breakfast for R2, lunch for R10 and dinner for R7. So for less than R20 (US$3) a day I could eat all my meals from restaurants, which was handy because I’m not a very good cook. There is also very little crime and almost no violent crime. No-one has guns, not even the cash-intransit security guards. There is some petty crime, like the time someone tried to hotwire my scooter unsuccessfully, but that was my only experience in two years. I never felt unsafe walking around town on my own, even at 2:00 am in the morning. I say frightening because the sheer scale of things in China is like nothing I’ve seen before. Admittedly I grew up in a relatively small country with a population of about 12 million people, then I found myself living in a city of nearly 8 million people with 1 million in my district alone and an urban population density of 3799 people per square kilometre which is over three times that of Cape Town. Hangzhou is approximately 180kms south of Shanghai but is connected by a highway with 4 lanes each way, lined with double-sided illuminated billboards on either side of the road for most of the way. (Very different to the 187km drive from Cape Town to Bredasdorp) Another thing that struck me about China was the staggering consumption. Looking down the streets, on the buses and up at apartment block after apartment block one can’t help but wonder at the sheer amount of resources that are consumed daily by that many people and where it all comes from not to mention the resultant waste and where it all goes.

I’m no expert but I can’t help but question whether the situation is sustainable. I think it will be very interesting to see where China is in 20 years time.” Who are you? My name is Rory Alexander. I was born and bred in Zimbabwe until my family immigrated to South Africa just after I had finished high school. After completing a Bachelors degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Cape Town and realising I needed something extra to be more employable I did a post graduate diploma in Marketing and Advertising at the Red & Yellow School. I worked in an advertising agency for three and a half years when, with the global economic crisis looming and the job market drying up, I decided to try something completely different. I did a 40 hour TEFL course and within a week had a job offer from China and started packing my bags. Part of this decision was to travel and experience another culture but at the same time I thought that if I could learn Mandarin it might set me apart in the job market in the future where China is undoubtedly going to be a large world player. While the language has proved to be much harder to learn than I anticipated it has still been an amazing experience and challenge living there, but at the same time I have learnt so many new things about the Chinese people and culture that I have no regrets about my decision to go to China. Where did you stay? I lived in Xiaoshan which is a district of Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang Province in China. If you don’t know where that is or if you are still having trouble finding it on a map, it’s about 180 kilometres south of Shanghai.


Please tell us a bit more about your amazing blog? What is it all about? I started my blog primarily as a way to share my experiences with family and friends without having to send out mass emails which I loathe. It was also an opportunity for me to explore the craze of blogging and see what all the hype was about; little did I know where it would lead. Despite facing several issues with popular blogging and media websites being blocked in China I found ways around it and learnt something new about blogging everyday. I have enjoyed linking up with other bloggers, adding widgets to the sidebar and embedding multimedia to make it more dynamic and appealing. Congratulations! You are also a South African Blog Award Nominee for Best Blog Overseas South African Blog. Describe your feelings upon hearing this exciting news.

from, but you can then customise this to suit your own taste. So I changed the background colour, used my own panorama image as the header as well as choosing the font and layout for the pages. What did you miss the most about South Africa while you were in China? The blue sky, seriously. The pollution is really terrible. It’s not that you feel like you are breathing dirty air but there is a constant dusty haze in the sky as you may have seen in my photos. What did you do for a living? I am an English Teacher. I started in a private language centre for my first year teaching all ages from six to sixty. I also taught at a government primary school, grades one to three where the kids are between the ages of 7 and 10 with the average class size of 40 students which was quite a challenge.

I heard about the awards before but never imagined that I would be a part of them. It was really exciting and it was a frantic couple of weeks as I tried to get every one I knew to vote for me and although I didn’t win, just to be a finalist was beyond my wildest dreams and the exposure that my blog got from those awards was fantastic with my site visits increasing three fold.

Name 5 things that you loved about the lifestyle in China.

Did you design your blog on your own?

The public transport, although crowded, is reliable and cheap with a bus trip across town costing between R2-4 and taxis are readily available for R3 per kilometre.

Not really. It’s hosted for free by Wordpress.com and they give you several design templates to choose

The cost of living is really low there. You can get breakfast from roadside stalls for as little as R1, lunch in canteens for R10 and some hand made noodles from a Muslim restaurant for dinner also under R10.

Catching a bamboo raft down the Li River from Guillin to Yangshuo


The lack of crime. While there is some petty crime there is almost no violent crime and I haven’t felt unsafe once since being there, even walking alone late at night.

outside of the major cities most toilets are squat toilets and toilet paper is rare in many public restrooms.

The parks in the city are a hive of activity. In the early mornings there are groups of elderly ladies doing Tai Chi. During the day you will see groups of children having roller skating lessons.

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While at night music systems get plugged in and whole groups of adults dancing, some to Waltzes in couples and others line dancing to 80’s disco – it was quite a sight.

So if you are adventurous I’d say go for it otherwise you may have more of a holiday somewhere else.

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As a foreigner you feel like a celebrity, I even had my picture in the local paper on two separate occasions. You get treated often whether it’s getting taken out for meals, having drinks bought for you in bars or being invited to dinners just so the host can show off that they have a foreign friend.

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Beijing has rich history and lots of the must-see sites of China.

Twitter: Rory_Alexander

“Right now you’re probably wondering “what next?”

Well as far as teaching goes, I’ve had an amazing time and have learnt a lot over the last two years but Just walking around or in the supermarket people I don’t think teaching is what I want to do for the will come up and ask to have a photo taken with you. rest of my life. However this can be a bit of a double edge sword as some days you just want to go about your business As far as blogging goes, I’ve come to really enjoy and not be bothered, but you have to remind yourself writing up my experiences and using the medium that even in the bigger cities some of these people of blogging to share them with friends, family and have never seen foreigners before. the world. So I am definitely going to continue blogging.” Name 5 great places to visit in China. Visit www.roryinchina.wordpress.com and Shanghai is an amazing city with a great energy about it. www.roryinnewzealand.wordpress.com

Yangshuo famous for its Karst limestone peaks. Nanjing where there is an incredible museum about the 1937 massacre.

alexander_rory@hotmail.com rm

Sunset on New Years Eve in Shanghai

Guilin is home to many spectacular limestone caves. Although most of them have tawdry multicoloured lighting they are still pretty impressive. Would you recommend China as a holiday destination for South Africans? This is a tough one to answer. History, temples and pagodas aren’t my thing but I know some people love them and there is a lot of that there.

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It is a relatively cheap place to visit, but you have to be street wise as there are quite a few scams that target unsuspecting tourists. Personal hygiene is also not the greatest in China, people spit everywhere,

Chinese Whispers

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Having said that I don’t think China is very tourist friendly because of the language barrier and the touristy places are always packed with thousands of people with the dreaded tour groups following some person with a flag on a stick.


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