Expat life – when your friends become your family

The decision to move from home, family and friends and go start over in another city; let alone a city on a whole other country and continent is not an easy one. In 2009, just after we got married, we left our perfectly comfortable life in Johannesburg, South Africa to come and live in the UK.  Fast forward six years later and we have a son called Neo and call London our home.

When we first came to London, we were drawn to other South Africans in London and quickly made friends with a few of them. They reminded me of home and I was less homesick when I still continued to speak my home language and we would all get together to cook and eat food from South Africa.

It was only when I got pregnant late in 2010 and we joined National Childbirth Trust (NCT) after a suggestion from a colleague that our circle of friends expanded. Sometimes, all it takes is to have one thing in common and in the case of NCT: we are all having our first child and we are all clueless, nervous and scared! When our babies were born all within weeks of each other and we started spending more time together while on maternity leave, I started to realise other things we have in common with people who would otherwise be complete strangers. And these are the people I now, and still call my friends.

Of course, there were people we met who we didn’t immediately connect with; or who we lost along the way and stopped being friends with. It took me a long time to appreciate that it’s ok because real friends can never be lost!

My good friend Gugu once said that friends are the family you choose; this could not be any truer when you are an expat.

I get a different kind of fuzzy feeling when I reflect back on the friends we have made here. Sure, they are not many and they don’t need to be. What matters is that we are there for each other and that our friendship has grown to more than the fact that we have children the same age or are from South Africa.

It is less about having a lot of people around you and rather about having few trusted and quality friends. The ones you can call at short notice to baby sit or come around for a braai (barbeque). Or ones where you spend the whole afternoon and evening talking and laughing and only realising when the children run past you screaming and laughing that it is way past their bed time. The friends where, even after spending so many hours together, you realise you still have so much to talk about.

These are the people in our lives that just bring so much joy. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that our life in London is full with our very own hand-picked family!

Do you have any experience/stories as an expat? I would love to hear them in the comments section below.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kgomotso xx

Friendship is a sheltering tree

Friendship is a sheltering tree

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London with Kids – 16 to 18 January 2015

London always has so much to offer for families that sometimes it can be overwhelming if you have nothing planned for the week-end and would like to know what’s going on.  If like us, you live for the weekend and want fun things to do, then I have rounded up some lovely child friendly activities in London.

 

Free Range Urban Kids

Free Range Urban Kids is Hackney’s first outdoor nursery inspired by Germany and Scandinavian outdoor nurseries. Parents can drop off their children for a day of climbing and planting trees, crafts and learning to be safe in nature.

Millfields Park, Lea Bridge Road, E5 0AR

£16 per session

Ages three to five years

 

Polar Bears Go Wild

Image from Unicorn Theatre

Image from Unicorn Theatre

London seems to be having the perfect weather for polar bears. Polar Bears Go Wild is a play about two cheeky polar bears that go on a fun musical adventure. This is sure to keep the little ones entertained.

Unicorn Theater for Children, 147 Tooley Street, SE1 2HZ

£16 for an adult

For ages two and older

 

Kooza

Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil

 

Cirque du Soleil is returning to London’s Royal Albert Hall with Kooza, a show combining two circus traditions – acrobatic performance and the art of clowning.

Royal Albert Hall

Tickets from £52.50 for an adult

Perfect for ages three and older

 

Red Riding Hood

The Puppet Theatre Barge in London presents Red Riding Hood And The Wolf Who Tried To Eat Her. The show is set to be delightful to both adults and kids alike.

Puppet Theatre Barge, Little Venice, W9 2PF

Tickets from £8.50

Good for ages three and older

 

This should be enough to fill the week-end; are you and yours doing anything fun this week-end?

 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Kgomotso

London New Year’s Day Parade

Our New Year’s Eve was like any other… Neo went to bed at the usual bed time; PJ and I stayed in, listened to some music and we watched the fireworks on television at midnight. We are living on the edge!

We woke up on New Year’s Day bright, chirpy and not hung-over and headed off to Trafalgar Square in central London to watch the London New Year’s Day Parade. I never realised that parades were a thing in London and so we went there with no expectations. We went to Trafalgar Square to catch the middle of the route and hoped it was less crowded.

 

This year the London New Year’s Day Parade hosted more than 8,500 performers that included cheerleaders, circus performers, marching bands and just about everything in between.

 

Great spot to see all the performers

Great spot to see all the performers

 

Universal Cheerleaders Association performed to Taylor Swift's 'Shake it Off'

Universal Cheerleaders Association performed to Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off’

 

The Foresters Scooter Club & Friends - These  guys were cool and definitely young at heart

The Foresters Scooter Club & Friends – These guys were cool and definitely young at heart

 

Gilbert High School Tiger Pride Marching Band - Neo loved the tiger mascot

Gilbert High School Tiger Pride Marching Band – Neo loved the tiger mascot

 

The London Borough of Havering - who doens't love trains?

The London Borough of Havering – who doens’t love trains?

 

Trafalgar Square Nelson's Column

Trafalgar Square Nelson’s Column

We were there long enough to see a handful of bands and cheerleaders but not too long that we got too cold or our feet got sore from standing. The crowds were not too bad and we were able to find a good spot to see all the performers going past.

 

Our tips for 2016

  • If you would like to see all the performers, then it’s a good idea to but tickets and get a place to sit in the grandstands.
  • There is no need to be there for the entire duration of the parade if you don’t have tickets booked, especially with a young child.
  • Pick a spot close to a grandstand where performers stop to perform their skit as opposed just walking/marching/running past the crowds.
  • Trafalgar Square seems to provide the middle ground between the beginning and the end of the parade route.

 

What did you do on New Year’s Day?

 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Kgomotso xx

Our perfectly imperfect Christmas

I blogged a little while ago about making our Christmas a little more South African and I am happy with how our day turned out. We had…

 

Our Christmas tree

 

Our messy Christmas Tree

Our messy Christmas Tree

 

Neo's snowman

Neo’s snowman

 

Zulu Beaded Star

Zulu Beaded Star

 

We got ours from the local florist on our high road and decorated it with a snowman Neo did at nursery, some Zulu love letters that I found in the house and my old necklaces. It was a mess and it was just perfect!

 

Gifts

We have been blessed this year and we agreed to exchange gifts and get a few for Neo too. Thanks to the Black Friday sales, I managed to get a few gifts for at a discount! Score!

 

Christmas lunch/dinner

 

We have two other friends in London who are also from South Africa and who would have otherwise spent Christmas alone if we had not arranged for all us to get together and spent Christmas together. And to eat… A gold ol’ South African braai (barbecue)! That’s what we would have been having if we were back in sunny South Africa.

For dinner we had:

  • Magwinya – Also called vetkoek or fat cake in English, this is deep fried dough bread.
  • Chakalaka – This is a relish and everyone has their own recipe of what to include. It typically consists of onions, carrots, tomatoes and can be hot.
  • Tomato and onion relish – made from onions and tomatoes and an alternative to the hot chakalaka.
  • Creamed spinach.
  • Potato salad – made with sour cream, mayonnaise and chives.
  • Mielie Pap – made from refined corn, this is a staple dish in many southern African countries and is similar to polenta or cous cous.
  • Lamb chops – seasoned just with Robertson’s Steak and Chops spice. Lamb generally takes care of itself.
  • Boerewors – a South African sausage made primarily of beef.
  • Chicken – left overnight in a barbecue marinate.

 

Magwinya aka vetkoeks

Magwinya aka vetkoeks

 

The meats - the chicken is looking a little charred though

The meats – the chicken is looking a little charred though

 

Dinner!

Dinner!

For dessert, we had a peppermint crisp tart made with cream, crème caramel, peppermint crisp chocolate and tennis biscuits.

 

Peppermint Surprise dessert

Peppermint Surprise dessert

 

At the end of the day we were feeling happy, content and a little homesick.

 

How did you spend your Christmas Day?

 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Kgomotso xx

Our visit to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

At three years old, Neo experienced his first ever winter Christmas; we’ve spent the last three Christmases during the summer either with family in South Africa or in Dubai. What better way to experience the fun of a winter Christmas than to visit Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. Neo was feeling a little under the weather and needed cheering up; this is exactly what the doctor ordered.

 

I had read on different forums that it gets busy at the weekend so it as a lovely coincidence that PJ and I were both home on a Tuesday to experience winter wonderland together.

 

The great thing about winter wonderland is that it’s free but I do have to warn that the costs of rides tend to add up.

 

We got there not long after it opened and started with Santa Land to meet Santa. There was no waiting and we were done in less than 10 minutes. We hung around Santa Land while Neo was trying to make up his mind on which ride to go on. After one ride, we decided to go on the Giant Observation Wheel. This can be pre-booked online but because it was a Tuesday morning and not busy, we were able to go on it and even have the pod to ourselves!

 

The other attractions that also need to be pre-booked are the Magical Ice Kingdom, the ice rink (minimum age of four years old), Circus and Bar Ice. If, like us, you are with a small child, you are limited to the Giant Wheel, Magical Ice Kingdom and the circus.

 

We then wondered around the market and I even managed to buy myself a pair of hoop earrings for just £5.00.

 

Most of the cool, fast rides had a minimum age of four years so although Neo was very keen to go on the high-speed rides, he wasn’t allowed on most of them – our little dare-devil! We found a handful that we could go on to and they were good fun. We could only manage a handful though as we had to pay about four tokens (one token = £1) per person per ride!

 

After all that walking, it was time for lunch. The park has a few food selections but they are a bit pricey and there aren’t loads of warm places to sit down. There are lots of options though and we were spoilt for choice!

 

All in all it was a great way to spend the morning and was very memorable for Neo. There was a nice Christmas vibe and lots to see and do.

 

Our top tips for winter wonderland

  1. Go during the week if you can – it is less crowded and you get a much better experience.
  2. Download the map of the park and decide on which rides are non-negotiable and start with them.
  3. Bring cash.
  4. Have a budget and stick with it – it’s so easy to spend a couple of hundred pounds in a matter of a few hours.
  5. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes that layer.
  6. Pre-booking rides helps with fast tracking, especially when it’s busy.
  7. Check TFL for the closest station if travelling on the tube or using the bus. There is also an underground parking right next to the park for people who prefer to drive in.

 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Kgomotso xx