Monday, March 30, 2015

Beer Drinking at the SA On Tap Craft Beer Festival

A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it's better to be thoroughly sure.
- Czech Proverb

Mr. Deep and I share a love of beer so we were excited to check out the SA On Tap Craft Beer Festival. According to the website the festival would feature 150 brews, ciders, whiskey's and wine as well as gourmet food trucks and "loads of entertainment for the entire family." In addition, it was promised that live super rugby would be broadcast on screens throughout the festival (because who wants to miss an opportunity to hang out with drunk rugby fans?) And my favorite selling point, a dedicated child minding area. I don't have any kids but I find this amusing as parents certainly don't need to be worrying about what their kids are up to while they are out for a day of beer tasting.

What do you think is the other facet of the festival that I was fascinated by? Yes, glassware for everyone! When purchasing tickets online you choose which type of tasting glass you want. I purchased the one on the far left and the one next to it for Mr. Deep and me but it was a difficult choice as I liked them all.

In order to make sure we arrived and got home safely, we used Uber as our mode of transportation.  The event began at 10:00 a.m. and continued until 6:00 p.m. As Mr. Deep and I are so mature in our mid-lives, we decided we did not need to be there the entire time. We figured we would arrive at 11:00 and then leave around 3:30 partially so that in case everyone was trying to use Uber to get home we would beat the rush. Also, we wanted to leave before they ran out of beer!

The event was held at the Old Parktonian, referred to as Old Parks. It was held in a huge grassy sports field. 

Arriving by Uber worked perfectly. We were surprised when we got there and found out that in order to get beer or food we had to purchase tokens. Tokens cost R12.50 per token (so about $1.00 each) and a full glass of beer cost two tokens and a half glass cost one. Food prices varied from two to five tokens. Even with the token purchases the whole thing was very inexpensive. 

Rich with tokens!
In comparing to the other beer festival that I have been to in the states, there were a few differences. First of all in the states we got a plastic tasting cup and small amounts of each beer. Here there were fewer beer vendors but you were drinking larger beers and sitting down at long tables with strangers in between beers (very beer hall style.) In the states, you would get your small beer and then wait online for your next beer right away - no sitting! 

Pretty much all of the beers I tried at the tasting in the states were good. Here, I didn't think a few of them were that good. Craft beer is new here so it may be that recipes are still being tweaked or it may be just differences in my taste versus tastes here. They did have some beers called Africa Pale Ales (APA instead of IPA) which I really liked. I'm really not a beer snob, it's just that I liked some better than others but truly it was all pretty good!

We met some fun people, ate some great food, successfully used up all tokens and arrived safely home again using Uber. It was closer to 6 p.m. than 3:30 when we left but we were having fun watching some serious beer pong competition so we stayed longer than planned. 

Not a great photo but I think the slogan is funny

Beer pong! 
People watching one of the bands
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Say Goodbye to Sunninghill

Recently I wrote about the Sunninghill Guest Lodge but today's post is about the neighborhood where the guest lodge is located called Sunninghill Gardens. Every weekday I run and/or walk around the neighborhood. When I run, I focus on trying to stay alive. Joburg is over 5500 feet above sea level so breathing and running at the same time is not easy. When I walk I notice lots of things about the neighborhood. Mostly it's gates, walls, landscaping and dogs. We are moving to our house on Wednesday April 1st so look for pictures soon from our new neighborhood!

Here are some pictures taken over the course of the last month in Sunninghill Gardens. 

Pretty tree lined street view

This is a house that has a traditional African thatched roof. 
Pretty sure that big pole is a giant lightening rod.

Gorgeous pink flowers are falling quickly. Fall is coming! 

Everywhere there are walls and then on top of the walls is an electric fence. 
It's strange at first but you get used to it.
Many dogs behind gates throughout the neighborhood. They would bark when I took their pictures so I tried to be stealth as to not have anyone think I was casing the home.

Why so sad?
Gorgeous plants and landscaping everywhere!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Baseball, Hot Dogs and Tipping

First, I want to assure you that back in the U.S. I'm not some extravagant tipper. I don't throw dollar bills up in the air at restaurants and bars.  If someone else is paying a check I don't double check to make sure he or she tipped enough. I tip like you tip, 15-20% at a restaurant, a dollar or two per drink at a bar, a dollar or two per bag at hotel, a dollar or two for the valet. 

I know that tipping practices vary depending on what country you are in. When we went to Costa Rica on our honeymoon we learned that people there don't tip. When we go to Miami and eat at restaurants, the tip is often included in the check because so many people visit Miami from other countries and they don't know the American tipping customs. 

Here it's totally different and I am having trouble getting used to it. We could argue about why I'm having trouble assimilating. Maybe I secretly yearn to be the American big shot who comes to town and is the best tipper Joburg has ever seen? I hope that's not the case and I don't think that it but I guess anything is possible.

In South Africa the suggested amount to tip waitstaff at restaurant is 10%. I have had less of a hard time getting used to the restaurant tipping because it's a rule....10%. For someone with weak math skills (not naming names) it's easy to remember and calculate. So o.k. I can live with it.

Other customs around tipping are less clear. At the hair salon I have watched other people and it does not appear that they tip. There are no little envelopes at the cash register for you to use for tipping. When you pay in cash they don't give you tip friendly change. I have read several websites which suggest tip percentages and it seems like you can tip your hair stylist 10% but they also says that a lot of people don't. 

Here's the reason for my current obsession with this topic. As I have mentioned we are going to be leaving the guest lodge soon after staying here for six weeks. I asked a native South African for advice on how much I should tip a few select people that work here. I won't give you the boring details but there are a few staff here who have really done a lot for us. She replied that I needed to know that a tip was not expected but that if I really wanted to I could give R200 to each person who had gone above and beyond. That's about $20 each.

You've watched t.v. shows about addiction like Intervention and Celebrity Rehab? The sobriety experts always tell the addicts things like, "that's your disease talking and telling you to leave rehab." Well my addicted to tipping American brain is telling me that the person I asked for advice has no idea what she's talking about and her input should be completely disregarded. I'm positive that the woman who gave me a 20 minute scalp massage (don't judge) at the hairdresser was thinking the whole time "rubbing this head better be worth my while."  So yes, it's hard for me to imagine people don't expect a tip. But then I remind myself that I'm in a different place and my American values may not apply and just because I feel the need to tip or to give more than what was suggested doesn't make it right to do so and that it could be wrong to do so. Then I ask myself how can being generous be bad? So I'm the heroin addict who tells the doctor she just needs to step outside of the rehab facility for ten minutes for some fresh air because I can't trust my own brain to know what's right.  

I will tip a few of the staff from the lodge when we leave and somehow I'll figure out how much to give. I'm not going to tell you what I end up tipping because I know it won't be correct. It will be either the right South African thing or the right American thing or some hybrid tipping scale thing that I make up. I need a Budweiser and some apple pie. 

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Sunninghill Guest Lodge

Remember Eloise the children's book character? She was a little girl who lived in the Penthouse of the Plaza Hotel. I am sort of like her except I am an adult and I live at the Sunninghill Guest Lodge. My husband and I live here temporarily and we live in a regular room which is not the penthouse.

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time in hotels. At one time, for my job I traveled about 40% of the time. However, I never stayed in one place longer than a few days and I didn't spend much time during the day hanging around the hotel. We've been staying at the Sunninghill Guest Lodge since February 18th and we'll be moving into a house that we rented on April 1st. That means six week of living at the guest lodge. Mr. Deep goes to work everyday so I spend a lot of time here by myself. 

Fortunately, the Sunninghill Guest Lodge is really lovely. Of course we are excited to move into our house as it will be wonderful to have more space and to be reacquainted with all of our belongings and furniture. But in a way I will miss the lodge. 

What will I miss? First of all, breakfast is included in the cost so every day after Mr. Deep goes to work I go and have breakfast by myself. While you can order eggs, I eat this every week day morning.

That bar thing on top is called Weet-Bix and it's like a brick of cereal

I may have also indulged in the occasional croissant.

Second, the staff here are so friendly and nice. When you are alone in a new country smiling people who say hello and ask how you are every day is really appreciated. Living here, I notice how hard the staff work. Once, around the time people were rocking out to Nirvana, I worked as a chamber maid at an Inn for the summer. It's a hard job and it can be yucky to clean people's rooms. Everyone here takes so much pride in their work. Unemployment is really high in South Africa so they probably are truly happy to be here. In addition to the maids, there is a gardening/maintenance staff of men.  While they do use an electric lawnmower and a sprinkler system, everything else is done by hand. Raking, using a pitchfork to pull up weeds, trimming foliage, all by hand. The grounds here are so pretty and it's due a lot of hard work on the part of the staff to keep everything looking so nice.  

Keeping the pool free of leaves is a real challenge now that autumn is beginning

Third, the neighborhood. Security is a big concern in South Africa so there is a main gate you have to pass through to get into the neighborhood and then in addition the guest lodge has it's own gate.  Every weekday I run and walk around the neighborhood which is called Sunninghill Gardens. I'll do another post about the neighborhood before we move. 

The main gate to get into the neighborhood

Here are some additional pictures from the lodge.
That's our room #21

They put pretty flower arrangements on the tables

Isn't yellow and white a great color combo? 
Behind the dining room there is a lime tree 

Also behind the dining room a small garden. I recognize pepper and basil plants. Not sure what else. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Don't Be a Steve

Mr. Deep's first name is Steve. Mr. Steve Deep. Normally I wouldn't just out him like that but it's central to the story that you know this. And let's be honest, many of you knew it anyway.

When we first visited Johannesburg in October we spent time driving around with our assigned relocation expert, Ruth.  As we were driving around we began to notice various billboards. Here's an example.
Jozi is a nickname for Johannesburg

So finally, Mr. Deep asked Ruth, "what are all of these billboards about Steve?"

Well it turns out that First National Bank called FNB for short which is a big bank here had an ad campaign all about this dolt named Steve. The whole campaign was based on Steve having a lot of misconceptions about banking and not being capable of wisely choosing a bank given his incredible idiocy. The goal of the ad campaign was to position FNB as the bank that has the solutions and encourage people to switch and bank with FNB. 

According to FNB, there were five types of Steve:
The apathetic Steve - ''Today's the day I switch my bank", but he never does;
The ignorant Steve - ''I just didn't know" about the new app or feature, or how to pay less for banking;
The naive Steve, who believes his bank is the best ''because they said so".
The fearful Steve, who thinks switching banks or transacting online will make him the target of ''hackers and pedophiles";
The cynical Steve who has been ''burnt by other banks and decided that all banks are the same".

The ad campaign played off FNB’s previous campaign featuring telemarketing agent “Steve Norris” who consistently failed to retain or win over customers to a competing bank.

I found the whole thing funny but will admit I don't know how I would feel if the shoe was on the other foot. If a whole ad campaign used your name as a joke and you were going to be living in a new country and constantly introducing yourself to people how would you feel? My name is Liza and I know there's a hole in the bucket.

Mr. Deep decided that he would start introducing himself as Stephen, answering the phone as Stephen and he changed his work email signature to Stephen. Those of you who know him in the U.S. don't be surprised if the next time you see him he doesn't answer to Steve right away. He also decided that the Deep Family would not be banking with FNB.
Luckily Mr. Deep didn't need to worry too much because in the time that we were back in the U.S. before moving here, a whole gang of Steve's got together and through their lobbying efforts got the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa to order FNB to end the campaign. And not just end it. Almost all proof it ever existed is gone. Even in writing this post, it's hard to find pictures to show you. Luckily I was able to find some. 

The Steve's used the age old argument that you need to use if you want something changed....they said that the campaign was harmful to children named Steve and it was causing bullying on the playground. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

When is a Snack Bar Not a Snack Bar?

Saturday was one of those days where we had a lot on our agenda. It was all boring stuff like getting the car washed and buying a GPS which then involved signing up for a Costco type membership at a huge store called Makro. In addition to all of this, we (meaning I) wanted to go to the Botanical Gardens. It is still summer here. It will be fall soon and I thought the gardens would be a fun adventure. 

All of the errands of course took forever and by the time we got to the Botanical Gardens we were really hungry. My original idea was to buy food and have a little picnic in the gardens, but then we didn't see a place to buy food on the way so we ended up eating at the Tranquility Restaurant inside the park. From looking at it the restaurant it looked like a snack bar.  You place your order at the window and the seating is all outside. 

I'm not bashing snack bars. I have great memories of eating ice cream sandwiches and other goodies purchased at the snack bar at Lake Taghkanic State Park with my mom back in the 70's. Based on looks I expected a snack bar and what I got was different from what I expected.  I think that's the enchantment of living here. While many things do seem familiar, really it's all different and it's all new. 

We walked up to the counter and there were menus. Bound menus with all kinds of unexpected choices such as waffles with ice cream.  I ordered grilled cheese and tomato with chips. I am a pretty healthy eater but man I love grilled cheese. I also think ordering chips is way more fun than ordering fries and the only thing more fun than ordering chips is ordering frites. Anyway, there were two women behind the counter and one took our order and the other did the cooking. The food was all cooked to order. We tried to pay when we ordered (snack bar style) and the woman told us we pay later and we should go sit down and she would bring the food out to us. She gave us real glasses for our water. I know I keep mentioning real glassware versus plastic but I keep getting surprised when glassware is used outside. What's next? Running by the pool? 

The food came out on real plates and with real silverware. The woman brought us a tray of sauces including a little squeeze bottle of white vinegar and tomato sauce (which we would call ketchup.) The grilled cheese was cut into fancy quarters. 

The Tranquility Restaurant reminded me that I am in a new place and I don't know much about anything. There are surprises everywhere. 

Oh and the gardens were nice too. There were lot of people having little parties and people out walking dogs. I look forward to visiting again.

Emmarentia Dam

From the Rose Garden

Monday, March 9, 2015

If Petting Lion Cubs is Wrong, I Don't Want to be Right

And I know it's wrong. It's wrong in the way that zoos and SeaWorld and circuses are all not in the best interest of animals. So I'll try to explain myself although admittedly the explanation is pretty weak.

Mr. Deep headed off to Geneva on Sunday afternoon. He is gone until Thursday morning. I am alone in a country and on a continent. But that's a story for another day. Before he left, we needed a good activity for Sunday, something that would be fun yet close to home. I had heard that the Lion Park had cubs that you could hold. So we decided to check it out. 

The Lion Park is the opposite of Pilanesberg. The animals at the Lion Park, while not caged, are in fenced areas which you can drive through. You are guaranteed to see the animals at the Lion Park, whereas in Pilanesberg they are free and roaming across hundreds of acres, hunting their own food and living their lives to the fullest.

Here is a smattering of what we saw at the park. I know there is an annoying spot in the cub video. Something is wrong with my phone. But the cubs eating are so cute and so I had to post it. It's just a short video.

It costs a little bit of extra money to go to lion cub interaction where you can spend two minutes touching lion cubs.  You can't hold the cubs but you can pet them. The lion cubs were sleeping when we were there. We were told it was because they are nocturnal. I'm not going to lie, it was pretty awesome to touch them. They feel just like you would imagine. Not as soft as a cat, more like a course dog similar to the way a pug feels. 

We also went to cheetah interaction. This was different from the cubs as there was only one cheetah to touch, the cheetah was awake, and Mr. Deep and I were in there alone with him/her. Well, the trainer was with us but no other "touchers" were in there. 

The cheetah is softer than the lion and fluffy like a cat. Oh and it was purring! 

Oh, and while I usually try (I said try) not to judge other people's decisions I am pretty sure that this is a bad idea. Then again, I touched a cheetah so what do I know? 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Air Shipment Arrives

The air shipment is a package of select personal items that we were able to have shipped to us by air (you probably figured that out) rather than putting onto the slow boat. The thinking is that the items in the air shipment arrive much faster than anything on the slow boat (which takes seven weeks - it's really slow) and you don't have to carry everything in luggage on the plane. 

We were allowed to air ship up to 400 pounds of stuff. Luckily we did not! Right now we are living in a small studio apartment at the guest lodge. We already have filled our closets with clothes and hidden the smaller empty suitcases under our bed. The large empty suitcases are just propped up along the wall. The air shipment is four big boxes which are now stacked up in the kitchen area. 

Our belongings were packed up on January 28th, the day we moved out of our house. I really can't remember exactly what we put into the air shipment. The only things I know that are in there that I have been missing are some extra contact lenses, a yoga mat and our running watches. I could check my nifty inventory list and see what else we put in the shipment, but instead I decided to open the boxes and see. 

It turns out that yes, I did put a yoga mat in the air shipment. I was apparently under the impression that I'd be starting a yoga school within two weeks or arriving here because I put four yoga mats in the air shipment. Hmmm!

It also seems that we put the entire contents of a Walgreen's Drug store into the air shipment.  I guess we can store the extra supplies next to our Q-tip stockpile in the bathroom.

There were some useful items in the air shipment. Extra shirts that Mr. Deep can wear to work, a flashlight with batteries in case the power goes out which can happen a lot around here, some East Armageddon hot sauce that we like. You know, important stuff!

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About Me

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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.