Monday, August 31, 2015

Negative Nellie Gets a Piece of Candy

Remember when I wrote about the house we are living in going up for sale? And I told you that we wouldn't need to move? Well unfortunately it's looking like we might have to. And that really sucks.

It seems that a potential buyer has made an offer with the caveat that we move out of the house by March 31, 2016. Technically, the our lease should super cede the sale but it sounds like if this sale doesn't go through then the bank will repossess the house and the bank can then force us to move out. Sounds like fun right? 

So for now the ball is in our court. We can tell the prospective owners to go pound sand (that's a nice way of putting it) and see what happens. Or, we can negotiate a scenario where we agree to move out. Are we better off moving out now or rolling the dice and seeing what happens in the future? That is the question. A question we will have to ask a lawyer, a lawyer that we don't have yet.

In the meantime, I found it humorous that our landlord had the cajones to even ask us if we'd be willing to move? Does she think that we are just so nice that we would be happy to uproot everything just to make her life easier? I almost want to send her the reply below, but of course I won't.

Dear ,
Thanks so much for your email on Saturday morning inquiring as to whether or not we'd be willing to move out of the house by the end of March. We enjoy getting emails on Saturday that allow us to spend the weekend in deep contemplation and thought about important matters concerning our lives and our future. 

We discussed the situation we have come to the conclusion that it would be our pleasure to accommodate the request of the potential new owner, we are here to help!

After some introspection, we remembered that we love spending time going around with a realtor to look at houses. We are giddy with excitement as we imagine viewing a lot of homes that smell heavily of cigarette smoke and pet waste. We have to remember to ask our realtor to show us homes that have kitchens and bathrooms that haven't been updated since 1987. We both graduated high school in the 80's and we like a home that reminds us of this renowned period in decorating history. 

In addition we love packing and unpacking boxes filled with all of our belongings. In fact, we were just chatting the other night and saying to each other that life is so boring now that everything is put away. Unpacking is like Christmas morning each time we open a box. We actually searched the garage to see if we could find any boxes that we somehow forgot to unpack, so we could unpack and have some fun, but sadly, there weren't any. It is also one of our great pleasures  to inventory everything that we own and then develop a system to make sure that none of our possessions are lost or damaged. We are getting so excited just thinking about all of this activity that we doubt that we can wait until March to get started.

And finally, I can't wait to personally work with my great partners at Multichoice, DSTV, Telkom, the UIF and the many other utilities and services so we can change over all of our services to our new home.  I've been looking for an excuse to drive over to Randburg and visit Multichoice and now I have one. I like to play a little game when I go to Multichoice and see if I can get the same set of answers and instructions from two different customer service agents. So far it's never happened but now I'll have more chances to try. I've also missed seeing my favorite DSTV technician. I will now have an excuse to invite him over to my new house to help me get my decoders working, it usually takes about five visits from him to get everything sorted but luckily for me he is super patient and is happy to come by at any time as long as I pay him 400 rand per visit. 

While we appreciate that you so generously gave us until Tuesday to make our decision, there really is nothing to consider when the choice is so clear. Let's get out the bubble wrap and the packing tape and light this candle!

Yours Sincerely, 
The Deeps

Ok, I feel better. 

On another note, tomorrow is Spring Day, the unofficial first day of spring in South Africa. Today the Diepsloot Combined School grade three students did some colouring, cutting and pasting to celebrate spring as part of their lesson. While they were told they could take their artwork home, some of the kids gave me their pictures and one little girl gave me a piece of candy. 

He said he didn't want his picture taken but clearly he didn't mind too much.
Cutting out the flowers 
Goofing around
Very thoughtful of her to give me her candy

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fun Times at the Wickedfood Cooking School

Before I moved here I remember talking to several people about what my life in Joburg would be like and discussing ideas of types of activities I could enjoy with my new found free time. During these various conversations with different people more than one person said, "oh you can take a cooking class."

Either these people think I am a horrible cook and were trying to politely tell me to get it together, or, they themselves think it would be fun to take cooking classes and that is something they would do if they had the time. I would like to think the reason is option two, but can't be sure. 

Months ago I signed up for a one night Portuguese cooking class at the Wickedfood Cooking School in Sunninghill. I chose Portuguese because I have no experience cooking any dishes from Portugal and also because there is a huge Portuguese influence on the food here in South Africa. Unfortunately, the class was cancelled as not enough people signed up. Instead of getting a refund I chose another class. The new class was Jamie Oliver's Italian Cooking. No, Jamie would not be teaching the class personally.

I was less excited about the Jamie Oliver class than the original Portuguese class although I am not really sure why. I like Jamie and I love Italian food. Maybe it was because the class was from 6:00 - 9:30 and I like to go to bed at 9:30? Anyway, I spent a large part of the day leading up to the class wishing that I hadn't signed up. 

I did go to the class though and it was a ton of fun. At first I was a little nervous because the instruction started off very basic as in this is a teaspoon and this is a tablespoon. But things quickly improved and I did learn some new recipes and some interesting tips.

The class was taught by two very hip young dudes named Geoff and Andre. When I say hip I mean they had a lot of tattoos and seemed like former or current skateboarders. We began by sitting classroom style and Geoff talked to the class about Italian cooking, Jamie Oliver's cooking and the menu we would be making that night. As a team we were going to prepare eight dishes. Each person was assigned a dish and s/he would need to do all of the prep - cutting, chopping, measuring for that dish. Some dishes were easier than others so those were assigned to only one person. Other recipes were more complicated and two people were assigned. I was assigned with another woman to the dessert, not only the most complicated dish on the menu that night, but possibly the most complicated dish in the entire world. It was a fruit and almond tart with a frangipane filling and yes, we had to make the crust from scratch.

I felt badly for the woman I was paired with. I was kind of feeling like Jonah Hill's character Seth in the Home Ec scene of the movie Superbad. Not because I was making inappropriate sexual gestures with the cooking utensils but because I had no idea what I was doing. When I cook I don't use a scale and of course I don't know how much a gram is.

We all did our prep and then there was a demonstration to show how to assemble and cook each dish. I know a lot of readers back in the Northeastern part of the USA have a lot of zucchini (called courgettes) in season now and there are some good recipes at the end of the post that you might want to try. The dishes also included a lot of fresh herbs.

We tasted all of the food and my favorites were, the risotto (although I likely won't make that at home because it's kind of a pain) the baked spaghetti (very yummy but creamy and unhealthy) the fish, the brushette, the courgettes and the mushrooms. The caprese salad was o.k. but I I thought it needed salt which is easily remedied. The dessert came out as it was supposed to, which is a relief since it was the last thing we all ate and my partner and I were spared public embarrassment. I don't know if I would make the dessert again though as it's hard and also I didn't love it that much. It might be better with a different fruit. We used pears and I think peaches might taste better.

prep area
Risotto. It was good but I likely won't make it. 
baked spaghetti super yummy and very rich
Andre helping student cook the fish. He has a NY Yankees logo tattoo under his ear. 
courgettes aka zucchini
fish with the sauce was one of my favorites
The dessert! Not bad right?
Things I learned about cooking that I didn't know before the class:
  • Grape seed oil is a good oil to use at high heat. Olive Oil has a low smoke point (I did know that part) and also a strong flavor. Grape seed has no flavor and a high smoke point.
  • Italians do not brown their garlic when they cook but other styles of cooking like Thai and Indian may call for browned garlic in recipes. In Italian cooking it is better to err on the side of having your garlic raw rather than browned.
  • A true "pinch" of salt involves a pinch using three fingers - the thumb, index and middle.
  • The reason you cook pasta al dente is because when you mix it with hot sauce and let it sit on plate for a minute it continues to cook a bit.
  • If you keep mozzarella in the freezer it is easier to slice
  • Parmesan Cheese comes from a region in Italy and cheese that isn't made there is not supposed to be called Parmesan. In South Africa the type of cheese often used as a substitute for real Parmesan is called Grana Padano
  • To remove the seeds from a hot chili without having to touch them, cut off the top, invert the chili so the open top is facing down toward your counter top, massage and squeeze the chili so the seeds fall out
Things to know about the Wickedfood Cooking School:
If you are visiting or live in the Joburg area and want to check out the school, you can sign up for a class as a group with friends or do a work team building event there. Or, you can sign up as an individual. I really enjoyed the class and recommend it highly.

Here are a few of the recipes which can also be found in Jamie's book called Jamie's Italy.

Brushette and Crostini
1 loaf ciabatta bread cut into slices
1 large clove garlic peeled
quality EVOO

2 firm round smallish eggplants
2T salt dissolved in a bowl of water
4 medium zucchini
oil for sauteing

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup EVOO
2T flat leaf parsley finely chopped
1 clove garlic minced
salt and pepper
  • Grill the bread until golden on both sides. Rub gently with garlic clove and drizzle with EVOO.
  • Slice the eggplants thinly length wise and place in the bowl of salted water to prevent from browning and also to extract bitter juice. Allow to stand for 20 minutes and then squeeze dry.
  • Slice the zucchini length wise and sprinkle with a little salt. Layer in colander and allow to stand for 20 minutes. Rinse gently and squeeze dry. 
  • Heat oil in pan and cook vegetables in batches until brown on both sides. Put on paper towel following cooking to remove excess oil.
  • Mix all the dressing ingredients together and fold in the cooked vegetables and marinate for at least 2 hours. 
  • Place mounds of the mixture on the cooked bread slices and enjoy!

Baked Spaghetti Pie
4 chicken thighs boned, skinned and cut into bite size pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic peeled and finely sliced
a package of fresh white mushrooms cleaned with a paper towel (if needed) and sliced
1/2 cup white wine
250 grams (8.8 oz) dried spaghetti
250 ml (8.4 oz) heavy cream
100 grams (3.5 oz) Parmesan cheese (grated)
a spring of fresh basil leaves (leave leaves whole)
  • Preheat the oven to 200C or about 390F
  • Heat a large frying pan and pour in a splash of oil. 
  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown in the oil.
  • Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for 1-2 minutes
  • Add the wine and turn the heat down. Simmer until wine reduces and chicken is cooked through.
  • Cook the spaghetti in salted water according to package and drain.
  • Add the cream to the chicken pan and then bring to a boil and then turn the heat off.
  • Add additional salt and pepper to the creamy chicken if needed.
  • Add the spaghetti to the chicken and toss well. 
  • Add 2/3 of the Parmesan (reserve the rest for the top)
  • Add the basil leaves and stir well
  • Transfer to oven safe pan sprinkle rest of the cheese on top.
  • Bake until brown, bubbling and crisp.

Grilled Fish
juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic peeled and finely sliced
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves roughly sliced
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves roughly sliced

4 thin pieces of a white fish. We used Hake which is found in SA but you could use grouper, sole or even swordfish would be good.
lemon juice
3T flat leaf parsley finely chopped
  • To make the sauce squeeze the lemon juice into a bowl and add 3 times the amount of EVOO. Season with salt and pepper and add the garlic, mint and oregano.
  • Season the fish with salt and lemon juice and marinate for ten minutes.
  • Heat a pan with oil until very hot.
  • Cook the fish in the pan until brown on each side.
  • Plate the fish and serve with the sauce spooned over the top.

Fried Courgettes (not fried I noticed people say fry when it's more of a sauté)
8 firm medium courgettes
oil for sauteing
3 cloves garlic peeled and finely sliced
1/2 a fresh red chili seeds removed and sliced or you can use 1 small dried red chili crumbled
A handful of fresh marjoram or oregano, leaves picked or 1t dried oregano
3 good quality anchovy fillets in oil
1 lemon zest and juice of
a sprig of fresh mint leaves picked and chopped
  • Remove the ends from the courgettes and slice them into 1cm (less than half inch) coin like pieces
  • Put a few glugs of oil into pot on medium heat. 
  • Add the garlic and chili.
  • After 30 seconds add the courgettes, herbs, salt and pepper.
  • Make sure the pot is not too hot and mix everything together.
  • Put lid ajar on pot to let off steam while cooking.
  • Cook for 10-12 minutes stirring regularly.
  • For the last 2 minutes of cooking add the anchovy fillets and lemon zest. 
  • Once anchovies have melted, season to taste and add some lemon juice.
  • Serve straight away with chopped mint on top.

Monday, August 24, 2015


You know how sometimes you go to a funeral and during the eulogy while talking about the deceased someone will say, "and through it all she never complained, never asked why me? Not once." Or similarly they will say, "she never had a bad word to say about anybody."  

Not that I'm planning on dying any time soon but I can tell you that if anyone makes these remarks at my funeral she or he is either mistakenly speaking at the wrong funeral or lying.

While I like to think I'm a "glass half full" kind of gal, I definitely do complain and often the topic of my complaint is other people.

This post is proof.

If you have ever sold a home then you know what a pain it can be. Meeting with realtors (called Estate Agents in this country) making arrangements to be home or not to be home at certain times for showings and open houses (here in SA called show days), making sure the house is always in show condition, and more.

Now you might be wondering why I bring up this topic now when we don't own a home. Well that's the point. We rent a home here in SA and now our landlord needs to sell the home. Yes, the one that we are living in. 

The good news is that thanks to great foresight on the part of our relocation company, our lease was written in such a way that the new owner has to accept us as tenants and has to accept the agreed upon rental fees in our lease until the lease ends in 2018. So we aren't getting kicked out. The bad news is that all the annoying things about selling a home (see paragraph above) is now falling on us to handle. Or to be a bit more specific, falling on me to handle since I have the illustrious title of Senior Vice President of Household Operations. Like any job it's not all glamour.

When you're selling your own house you are motivated to sell. So you have to be out of the house for four hours on Saturday during a show day. No problem! Maybe this is the day a buyer will come and look. In my case, I really don't care if this house sells. My motivation is only to minimize my disruption so I guess if it sells the showings will stop but other than that I could care less. Plus in my humble opinion, but corroborated by Mr. Deep knower of all things financial, the house is priced way too high which means the fun will continue for a while.

And just in case you are thinking that I am overreacting I want to set the record straight as to how much of a pain this actually is.  If you are tapped to speak at my funeral one day, I want to be sure my side of the story is told. "Yes, she sometimes complained but her complaints were always very valid."

Since we found out the house was going on the market we (I) have had to:
1) meet the realtor and show him around
2) welcome the realtor back along with a photographer to take pictures
3) go all around the house to move things back to where they were prior to the photographer unplugging them, moving them, etc. You know from my last post that I don't like things out of order
4) schedule two on show days on two future Sundays when we can't be home
5) be home to meet a guy from the bank so he can measure the house and take his own photos
6) wonder if the guy from the bank is really from the bank or if he is instead a spy planting a bug in our house in the form of a pen or a clock (this is likely an unfounded concern it's just that I've been watching too much of a TV show called The Americans)
7) be home for a showing that then got moved to tomorrow
8) so be home for two showings tomorrow 


Sunday, August 16, 2015


In early September we will be taking a trip to Kruger National Park.  Kruger is one of the largest game reserves in Africa covering over 19,000 kilometers (7500 square miles.) Located in South Africa, the park borders Mozambique to the east and Zimbabwe to the north. Kruger is home to more species of mammals than any other African game reserve. We look forward to seeing big game, pretty scenery and birds. Reptiles, not so much.

The trip is five days, four nights on the Lebombo 4x4 Eco Trail which gives us the opportunity to drive the jeep through a large portion of the park. Only five 4x4 vehicles are allowed on the trail at any one time with a maximum of four people per vehicle. A guide leads the small group of vehicles in a separate 4x4. 

Each person must bring everything that s/he needs for the trip including, water, food, firewood, camping equipment, etc. We will camp every night and drive every day. From what we have read the trail is not overly challenging or technical but the road conditions are rough so a 4x4 is required.

As we have to be fully self sufficient and there is no room for error, Mr. Deep and I spent all of last Saturday going through our camping supplies and figuring out what we have and what we need. Preparing for a trip like this is something we both enjoy - but for different reasons. Mr. Deep loves preparedness and having whatever he needs on hand for any challenging or difficult situation. If you have watched the TV show Doomsday Preppers then you understand. He isn't as bad (aka crazy) as the people on the show, but the man loves preparedness, especially when combined with the outdoors and wilderness situations.

I love organization. I love the fact that if we are organized and pack properly we will not only have everything we need but we will be able to find it and quickly without unpacking our whole truck. I also love planning and list making and double checking everything for accuracy.
The list with my detailed notes and follow up action items
So you are thinking, "that's great. It must have been an easy process to go through everything given that you are both on the same page."

Well not quite. What I learned is while we both desire the same outcome, we each have a completely different approach to the same task.

My approach is to go through the list that is posted on the trip website in order (very important to go in order), find each recommended item, make sure it works, is clean, etc. and then move onto the next item on the list. If we don't have something listed, then we need to put it on another list to make sure we either buy it or take it from where it lives in the house prior to the trip.

Mr. Deep's approach is to get completely sidetracked at every opportunity. Oh, the list says we need to bring a hatchet? Great, he will sharpen both of our hatchets now and then continue to sharpen every other dull tool that we own regardless of whether or not we need to bring it on the trip with us. He also sees no purpose in reviewing the list in order. Instead he prefers to shout out things that he thinks we might need as they pop into his head. "Sleeping bags!" "GPS!" "Sunblock!" He also thinks it's fun to comment about how stupid some of the things on the list are and proceed to tell me at length why we don't really need to bring this thing or that thing.

Sharpening the hatchet
The good news is that even though he was driving me bonkers throughout the planning process (and I am sure I was driving him nuts as well by not being a free thinker and engaging in what he clearly thought was a brainstorming session) I have no doubt that we will be the most prepared people on the trip. And that's good because that's another trait that we share, our competitive nature. The other people on the trip have no idea that we are secretly competing to out-prepare them. Our biggest triumph will be if we can lend a fellow camper something that he or she needs but doesn't have or forgot.  If that happens, we will be celebrating for days.

Talking through the pros and cons of bringing along the tie-down straps. Yes, they were on the list.
Testing out the camping stove

Thursday, August 13, 2015

EduFun and The Diepsloot Combined School

The administration building at the Diepsloot Combined School
Since June I have been volunteering twice a week with a group called EduFun. EduFun is a non-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers with the main objective of helping the third grade students and some of the fourth grade students at the Diepsloot Combined School to become proficient in reading and writing English. EduFun was established in 2003 at the request of the then principal of Diepsloot Combined School. 

I became interested in Diepsloot, you will remember, when I drove our cleaning lady to her home there one day. While I had seen townships in passing, I will never forget being in the middle of Diepsloot. The crowds, the garbage, the shacks, the shops - Diepsloot is sensory overload. After that I was obsessed with Diepsloot and I wanted to figure out a way to get involved with that community. 

I am just as surprised as anyone that I chose kids and education as my volunteer focus. I am not one of those people who is enamored with children. I am not automatically fascinated by someone just because they are younger and smaller than I am. Also, I never particularly loved school or classrooms.  Even recently when I took a photography class, a class that I wanted to take, I felt a little trapped sitting in the classroom. It was a little unnerving to realize I had to sit there until the class was over and try to pay attention the whole time. But helping out in the school seems like the way to have the greatest impact for Diepsloot. If these kids can grow up and be completely literate in English, they will certainly have a chance at a better future. Plus I can read and write English (just don't ask me to diagram a sentence) so it seemed a good use of my skills. 

All of the students at the Diepsloot school can speak and understand English when spoken to, but English is their second language as they likely speak Northern Sotho, Zulu or another African language as their first.  While they can speak English, they definitely need help with their reading, reading comprehension, spelling and writing. We all know English is a complicated language. Working with the kids I realize just how complicated it is. The other day one of the kids read the word knee as can-nee. 

The kids at the Diepsloot Combined School don't have it easy. Some come from homes with no plumbing or electricity and about half of the adults in Diepsloot are unemployed. The kids get free breakfast and lunch at school each day and also are given uniforms.  There are over 1600 students at the Diepsloot Combined School and the average number of students in a classroom is 53. We hear a lot throughout our lives about classroom size and now I know why. I don't know how any teacher can manage 30 kids at one time let alone 50 something.  It must be an impossible task to effectively teach that many kids. The advanced ones get bored and the struggling ones fall through the cracks. It would take a special kind of kid to successfully learn in this difficult environment. 

On Friday afternoon, Avril, the co-founder of EduFun, emails the grade three lesson plan for the following Monday to all of the volunteers. The lesson plan involves working with a small group of kids on something specific, for example words that contain the letters W and Z. The lesson plans are meant to be engaging for the kids, with activities like word find puzzles, putting a group of words into the right order so that they become a sentence, doing worksheets to practice spelling and memory games with cards like the game concentration that I used to play when I was a kid.

A little girl from grade three. I can't remember her name but she is a very good student.
On Monday mornings, the volunteers helping with grade three meet in the parking lot of a shopping center and carpool to the school. There are volunteers from all over the world who live here in Joburg and come to help. I've met volunteers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Britain, Netherlands, Japan, Scotland, Uganda and of course South Africa. The kids at the Diepsloot school are not only practicing their English when they work with us but they are also hearing a lot of different accents.

When we arrive at school, the volunteers break up into smaller groups and visit the three third grade classrooms. From there the students in each classroom noisily move their desks and chairs around and break into smaller groups throughout the classroom. When they pick up their metal chairs to move them it is important to be careful or you could lose an eye! Depending on the number of volunteers that day, each volunteer works with about eight to ten kids and conducts the lesson. 

Eight to ten third grade kids is still a lot. Usually three are working hard to do the lesson, two are busy goofing off and poking each other with their pencils, two are staring off into space and one just wants to hug the volunteer and touch a white person's hair. It is not easy to find a way to keep all of the kids focused on what they are supposed to be doing. You have to glare, encourage, congratulate and high five, yell, call on the ones who are spacing out, get the smarter ones to help the weaker ones and more just to get them to pay attention...and it doesn't always work. After this experience professional teachers have my utmost respect. 
A rare moment of quiet in one of the third grade classrooms
Tuesdays, we work with a select group of 20 grade four students.  These lessons are a lot less chaotic as the kids come to the library where it is quieter and easier to keep their attention. Also on Tuesdays, each volunteer only works with five kids, which is a lot more manageable. Avril told me that they'd like to assist more grade four students but there just aren't enough volunteers to do so. She said that in working with grade four, they try to choose the 20 students who can read but are who are struggling or could use improvement. I am sure it is a hard choice to make because most of the students could probably benefit from extra help, but in Diepsloot resources are always limited. The grade four kids need to practice reading so in the small groups each student takes a turn reading aloud and we pause during the story to ask them questions and make sure they understand what they are reading. Then, we do some kind of activity based on the book we read such as a puppet show, art project, worksheet or game.

The EduFun volunteers bring the pencils, the notebooks, reading books and other supplies in with them to conduct the lessons. The supplies are then brought out when we leave so that they can be safeguarded against theft. 

There will certainly be more blog posts to come about the kids and EduFun. Here are some photos of the school and the students. 
With students from grade three. It's not that they love me so much, they just want to be in the picture.
Grade four students practicing reading in the library. Much of the materials for the library was donated by a Rotary club in the U.K.
This is Kagiso. He is in grade four and has a great smile. He used to be shy about reading aloud but now volunteers to do so. 
The school has some  modular classrooms and some brick buildings.
After we read a story about a flowering tree, we made these flowers, leaves and birds out of paper. For weeks the boy on the left would not read or participate but then this week he read and participated. I would like to think it's due to my great teaching ability but I think it's just that he got a good night sleep.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Hoop Dreams

As you read this blog you fortunately or unfortunately end up reading about the type of activities that Mr. Deep and I enjoy. So here's another post about another one of our favorite pastimes, NBA basketball. 

While we have a few friends who enjoy watching NBA games, it something that most people we know could care less about. I'm not sure why people don't care for it. 

I will tell you why I like basketball better than any other professional sport. First, it's fast. Baseball is the opposite of fast and football keeps stopping play. Second, it's high scoring and there are a lot of lead changes. Third, basketball is a wonderful combination of strength, grace, strategy and teamwork. Finally, I love that a player can be posterized with a block, knocked down on his butt, mortified by missing an easy shot and other embarrassments and that person's job is to get back up the floor like it never happened. A great metaphor for life.  I know deep thoughts right? Well I don't call this blog "my thoughts from the deep end" for nothing.

Recently the first ever NBA basketball game was played on the continent of Africa and was held here in Joburg.  The two teams consisted of players who are from or whose parents are from Africa (Team Africa) vs. players from around the world on the other team (Team World.)  The purpose of the game was to raise the visibility of the sport in Africa in an effort to try to increase the number of professional players coming out of Africa in the future.

Unfortunately, someone in the Deep household operations department fell down on the job and didn't buy tickets to the game when they went on sale. The game sold out very quickly and the Deep family was sadly going to have to watch the game on TV at home, rather than attending in person. 

Luckily, we became aware that a live broadcast of the game and a fan zone area was going to be held at the Montecasino right near our house. I haven't written about the Montecasino before. It's a huge entertainment complex that consists of a casino (obvs), hotels, restaurants, stores, movies, bowling alley, bars and an open air piazza with a giant television. The whole thing is built in a Tuscan style. Really it's a little big Vegas and Disney World ish and the kind of thing a lot of people would love to hate if it wasn't such a fun place to hang out and entertain yourself.

Luol Deng, a member of the NBA's Miami Heat, Mr. Deep and my favorite team, was captain of Team Africa.  Luol was born in Sudan (in the part that is now South Sudan) and then emigrated with his family as a child to Egypt and later to the U.K. during the second Sudanese Civil War.  

Team Africa was leading much of the game, but then Chris Paul hit a few three point shots and Team World came back and ended up winning. It was an exciting game, especially when two African born NBA legends, Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Ulajuwon, who are age 49 and 52 respectively, joined the game for a few minutes. The fans from Africa went crazy. 

The guy with the microphone is Muggsy Bogues. He is the shortest player (5 feet 3" or 1.6 meters) ever to play in the NBA. He was the special guest and ran the shooting contest for the fans.
Watching on the big screen with the Montecasino Tuscan architechure in the background.
People lining up to shoot hoops
Hanging out with Luol Deng
The Toronto Raptor mascot. He was not a huge fan of my Miami Heat shirt.
Mr. Deep poses with the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship trophy

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Bioscope Independent Cinema

We love going to the movies. Whether it's an excuse to eat popcorn blockbuster style movie or a film no one has ever heard of, Mr. Deep and I really enjoy spending a few hours in a dark cinema.

When we lived near Newburgh, NY there was a small, independent movie theater called the Downing Film Center and it was one of our regular hang outs.  The Downing was located along the Hudson River waterfront, a revitalized area in the midst of a very run down city of Newburgh. The theater was owned by two retired teachers and was housed in the basement of an old brick building which used to be an art gallery and before that was probably a factory of some kind. There were only about 50-60 seats in the whole place and you had to get their early to get one of the "good chairs." The good chairs were large, came with pillows and reclined a little. The bad chairs were like something you'd sit on in a police station while your statement was being taken. We would often arrive early, sit at the bar across the street, watch the theater out the window and when people started going in we would throw money on the bar, run out and over to the theater to make sure we got a good seat. The Downing had home-made popcorn and you could also bring in your own food and wine if you wanted. 

Then when we moved to White Plains, NY and things got fancier. If you have been to this part of New York you know that everything is fancier in Westchester County. While living there we would visit the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville. Much more upscale than the Downing, Jacob Burns had multiple screens but showed a lot of unusual movies that you wouldn't find in the regular theater. We liked to go and have lunch at this place by the train station, where the maitre d' was always extremely excited to see us, greeting us like we were long lost cousins, even though we only went there a few times. Following lunch we would walk over the movie.

Given this extensive history, you can imagine how thrilled we were when we first laid eyes on the Bioscope Independent Cinema in downtown Joburg. Shortly after we arrived some friends of friends who live here took us to the market on main in the Maboneng area of Joburg. Maboneng is like a little oasis of gentrification in the much vilified Joburg CBD. Maboneng actually means place of light in Sotho. While we were in Maboneng we saw the cinema and agreed to come back and see a movie there. 

Of course life got in the way and we never did go - until this past weekend.

The movie we saw was called Soaked in Bleach and was about the last days of Curt Cobain's life, the front man for the band Nirvana, the biggest rock star for our generation back in the 90s, as well as the reason we all wore a lot of flannel back in the day (and some of us still do.)

Cobain's death had been a ruled a suicide, but the movie casts down on that theory and indicates that he may have been murdered. 

The movie was a little bit too TV police drama for me with reenactments of Courtney Love holed (pun intended) up in a hotel room in LA barking out orders to her minions and such, but it was interesting. Mr. Deep really enjoyed the movie, but Mr. Deep as you may know LOVES a good conspiracy theory so the fact that he liked this movie is not a surprise.

I will admit when we were heading down to the theater, we, or at least I was wondering if was a good idea. All of that talk about staying out of the city is in your head and there were people in park keeping warm by a fire in a trash can, lots of burned out buildings and such, all making you think you might turn into a statistic.

We made it safely and had some time to kill so we went to the restaurant next door called the Pata Pata Restaurant. In looking at their website they refer to themselves as an African Diner. What a great place! Mr. Deep ate an Impala leg dinner while we were waiting. 
cork and bottle cap collection at the Pata Pata
Impala leg dinner
Next time I will have to try the crocodile wors (sausage) with chakalaka
When we walked over to the theater, the box office was in a bar/cafe. We had purchased upgraded tickets that included pizza and a glass of beer or wine. Mr. Deep passed on the pizza since he was full on Impala. I expected that we would get a slice of pizza but no, you get a whole personal size pizza and you can even get toppings if you want. The woman at the counter said they would bring the pizza into the cinema and deliver it to us when it was ready. We also each got a drink with our tickets and we could go out and buy more drinks if we wanted.  At this point, I think I could end this post because clearly the Bioscope IS the greatest movie theater on earth.
A picture of the outside of the theater. I found this online since I didn't take a good one.
I will continue the post because I want to share a bit about the inside of the theater. The seats are all seats from cars. No more bad seats or good seats like at the Downing. Also even though there are only about 50 seats there is stadium seating so there is truly not a bad seat in the house. 
Just noticing that each seat is named for a movie star. I don't know who Sam Dalais is? 
I can't wait to return to the Bioscope to see another movie. If you live in the area, or will be visiting, here are the websites for the Bioscope Independent Cinema and Pata Pata. I highly recommend both.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Putting up a Hotel on Baltic Avenue

Mr. Deep asked me a really good question the other day. He asked, "are you thinking in rand yet?" Keep in mind the man is an accountant so this type of question is equivalent to him asking me the meaning of life. 

What he meant was, when I see prices in South African rand do I still convert the price to U.S. dollars in my head? And, do I have a sense of how much is reasonable to pay for something in rand? Because what I would be willing to pay for that same item in dollars isn't relevant.

I think most of us can relate to being on vacation in another country, not bothering to really think about the currency, because it looks fake to us, handing a cashier a wad of money and hoping for the best. Or the worst example, going to some place like Disney World and getting that God awful bracelet that you can wave around and pay for anything and everything with. "Giant turkey legs for everyone on me!" Really fun until you get the bill. This strategy may work when you are on vacation (or not) but it's not a good way to live your life for three years.

When you have lived in one country your whole life, you just know things. If you're from the U.S. You know how long a foot is, what 70 degrees feels like and how much is reasonable to pay for a loaf of bread. It's really just a feeling, a sense that you have for these things based on your experience. That sense is something I am trying to develop here because I don't think it's in my best interest to spend three years and be converting things to a dollars the entire time.  Better to try to get comfortable with these scales and measurements. 

Here's how I first knew I was starting to think in rand. I went to a fancy - well more fancy than the supermarket where I usually shop - wine store. I told the woman working there I wanted a Pinotage which is a great South African red wine that you should run right out and try today. She immediately directed me to a really expensive bottle. I think it was like 280 rand or something. And I just knew the answer was no. I didn't convert it I just told her, no that's too expensive.  But I knew I was starting to think in rand in my head, starting to know what was reasonable and what was not and starting to also know whether or not I wanted to pay that price for it. Progress!

Some South African Currency. All the new bills have Mandela on the front and one of the big five game animals on the back. The coin is 5 Rand. 10 rand is the smallest bill available.
Now, onto working on my knowledge of Celsius because reciting this rhyme (while cute) is not going to cut it for three years.
zero is freezing
ten is not
twenty is warm
thirty is hot

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.