Monthly Archives: April 2013

Dental tourism, anyone?

On Friday night, as I sat meditatively chewing a piece of pizza at home after getting off the flight from Plett, I noticed a strange, but depressingly familiar feeling. The crown on one of my teeth has broken, and this can best be described as the sensation of money leaving your bank account. Around R3000 – R5000, based on the last time I broke a crown.

It’s my bad luck to have been cursed with weak enamel. Because I grind my teeth, all of them will eventually have to be crowned. This is an astoundingly expensive exercise and one not covered by medical aid. It’s the equivalent of buying a car – quite literally. Or two, if you’re talking entry level: a Kia Picanto in the upper jaw and a Chevy Spark in the lower.

It could be worse. I could be living in Australia, where dentistry is so expensive and waiting lists so long that there’s a phenomenon known as dental tourism. Fly to Thailand or the Philippines, get your teeth fixed, have a nice holiday at a resort to recover – all for less than you’d pay in your home country.

My dentist is based in Parkwood and can look forward to making lots of money out of me this year. Sadly, no spa treatments will be involved.


Vigilance and the importance of a good view

Plett rainbow

Spending a week in Plett on a beach house with amazing views is probably one of the less onerous ways to readjust to South Africa after two weeks in Australia. My UK-based brother is out with his family, and coming here rather than going home to Joburg was the only way to spend any time with them. I know I am ridiculously privileged to be able to do this – to have the time without having to ask for leave (a big bonus with being self-employed), the funds to afford the air fare (paid for before I headed to Australia) and the access to a beautiful property.

Plett is still lovely, still Bahia Formosa: the beautiful bay as it was named by the Portuguese. Such a pity it was rechristened for a governor of the Cape, giving it a name that does it no justice at all. I saw many beautiful views in Australia, and the drive on the Great Ocean Road was magnificent, but I didn’t see a coastal town to match Plett’s setting. Robberg and the sweep of the beaches on one side through to the lagoon, the hills and mountains on the other offers a combination of vistas that is hard to match. It’s a pity that Plett architecture is largely rather banal, and far too much development has been allowed. And yes, in case anyone would like to forget that we live in a country of overwhelming inequality, there are Bossiesgif and Kwanokothula beyond the curio shop postcard views to remind us.

Seventeen years ago, when I was 21, I interviewed Lulama Mvimbi for Denis Beckett’s Sidelines magazine. He was then South Africa’s youngest mayor, posing for my brother on Central Beach in his mayoral chain and showing us his shack in Bossiesgif. He was very friendly and I liked him a lot, but he’s had a checkered history since then, marred, amongst other things, by allegations of intimidation and inappropriate spending, including employing a “private army”. He finally resigned last year.

Grand view

This was the view I enjoyed from The Grand Cafe and Rooms where I had a drink with a friend from Twitter. He’s a surgeon and had to rush back to Knysna to operate on a patient after getting a call while we were sitting together. I told him not to worry about dropping me off; I needed to buy ingredients for a lentil bobotie from the Spar and would walk home.

Shopping view 1

Walking home with the shopping isn’t too much of a hardship when you have views like these. My heart was filled with lightness and I made a point of taking real pleasure in the moment, even as I meditated on the problem of how difficult it is for women to walk alone, especially in South Africa. Earlier in the day, my mother had an unpleasant experience  when a building contractor working on a house down beach – who has effectively been stalking her for a couple of days – approached her when he saw her on her morning walk, told her she had a good body and that he would make a good husband for her (despite knowing full well that she is married). I didn’t encounter any problems, and I saw several other women walking alone – but it was broad daylight. I certainly wouldn’t walk alone at 11 o’clock at night as I did in Berlin.

Plett is filled with electric fences and ADT signs now. There are panic buttons in the house I’m staying in after someone broke in while my aunt and uncle were staying in it and took a handbag and a laptop. For the past two days we’ve had people coming in to fix the alarm and sort out the beams. That’s something you have to relearn when you come back here: constant vigilance. Mostly, things are fine, but you can’t take chances. I’d be lying if I said that not always having to be on my guard, not having to be fanatical about locked doors, was something I didn’t miss about Australia.

But yes, the views are lovely. This is the trick in this country, to always see the beauty, even though you know the truth behind it.

Shopping view 2

Going over the expenses

Reading over your credit card statement is part of the ritual of overseas travel for South Africans. With your currency in long term decline against everyone else’s, forcing yourself to come to terms with exactly how much you spent requires both fortitude and a commitment to living on baked beans for the next few months. Continue reading

Happiness is dolphins

The writing process has begun. Right now, it involves a lot of intense thinking as I walk on the beach, weighing over words in my mind, revisiting my trip to Australia, searching for the right tonality. A lot of my writing about my trek across Gondwanaland has been terribly serious, and I want to lighten that. This means working hard on finding a balance between comedy and despair. Eat, Pray, Love was one of those books that got this right, (don’t roll your eyes), and that was the secret to its success.

The Walters

The plan was to spend this morning working on the ebook. I’ve sketched some of the outline in my notebook, but this now needs to be converted into the more permanent form of pixels in Word.  That was before my family decided to go on a dolphin watching cruise in the bay.  Plett, if you’re lucky, is the equivalent of the Kruger Park for charismatic marine megafauna, with Cape Fur Seals, three species of dolphin, Orcas and three species of whales, depending on the season.  Continue reading

Scenes from leaving

Leaving for Sydney was hard; I sobbed from the moment I got out of my father’s car at the Gautrain station in Sandton. Leaving Sydney itself was easier, for reasons I’m still trying to work out. This is my trek back across Gondwanaland, told in pictures.

This is the tree kangaroo I bought from Taronga Zoo, and donated to the Lane Cove house as a thank you and a memento.

Tree Kangaroo

Continue reading

Searching for my namesake at the Taronga Zoo

Looking unintentionally mysterious while riding in the Sky Safari at Taronga.

Looking unintentionally mysterious while riding in the Sky Safari at Taronga.

On Twitter, I’m Anatinus. I joined up on March 26 2009, and because my real name was already taken, I grasped at the first thing that came to mind: the platypus I’d seen at the Taronga Zoo: Ornithorhyncus anatinus, which I’ve since embraced as a mascot. This is the icon I use on PowerPoint presentations to clients: Continue reading

More Australian signs and wonders

More signs spotted during my trip to Australia. This one is from a specialty butcher and greengrocer near Lane Cove where I bought a thank you gift for Chris and his housemates:


This is a standard Sydney parking sign. They’re pretty specific about the angle at which you may park:

45 angle parking

Across from the butchery was this sign at the local high school. If the image isn’t clear (my iPhone is useless in anything except bright light) it reads: “Good luck at state swimming Lachlan”. Every second male in Australia is called Lachlan. They used to be called Bruce, but that’s no longer the case. Jayden is also very popular these days, but is considered bogan.

Good luck Lachlan

Saw this as I walked into Sydney Airport and got into a bit of trouble for taking it.

Border Security

This snake warning sign is from Melbourne.

Snakes are found in these gardens

This list is from Taronga Zoo. I thought the Taipan was the most venomous, but apparently that honour goes to the aptly named Fierce snake.

Snake List

Coal seam gas is a big environmental issue in Sydney, where there are plans to mine it from under people’s houses in the west.

No coal seam gas

I spotted this one on the way back from Palm Beach, Sydney. On one stretch of Barrenjoey Road, there were several signs with messages for certain individuals. It seems to be a quirk specific to the area.

Welcome home Miles