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When you re new to Johannesburg, it s great to have a good to-do list to start out with. And I don t mean the kind of list telling you to call Eskom to set up your electricity (or, most likely to complain about an error on your bill) or calling the City of Joburg to alert them about the broken robot at the nearest intersection. We all have those lists and know that they are terrible and never go away. What I m talking about is a list telling you about all the exciting things you can do in the sprawling city you now call home, so that you can dive right in and get to know it. Joburg teems with exciting happenings at any given time, and the sooner you start, the more you ll fall in love with this young and vibrant city.A bit farther down I ll tell you about a great new tool to get real-time news about what s happening in Joburg. But let s go over the must-see sights first.

In What To Do in Joburg you ll find a comprehensive list, but here is a quick summary depending on your area of interest: Apartheid Museum History and Culture Your list should include the Apartheid Museum, Hector Pieterson Memorial, Mandela House, Walter Sisulu Square, and Regina Mundi Church, all of them in Soweto. Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia is offers another great history lesson. Or Kruger House Museum in Pretoria a bit farther afield. Graffiti Tour with Past Experiences On Foot If you’re adventurous, go on a graffiti walking tour with Past Experiences, join Dlala Nje s Streets of Hillbrow. or go on MainStreetWalk s Underground Pub Crawl.

Join the Joburg Photowalkers on one of their Sunday walks, or find a tour that ventures into Alexandra, one of the most infamous (and historic) townships in the area. JoziX With Children If you have kids or are adventurous yourself, start with Gold Reef City, the Bird Gardens at Montecasino, the Maropeng Visitor Centre and Sterkfontein Caves in the Cradle of Humankind, JoziX, which is a bit like the TV Show Wipeout, the Magaliesberg Canopy Tour, and Avalanche, an artificial ski slope. Elephant Sanctuary Wildlife The best way to see animals is to venture into Joburg s surroundings for the Elephant Sanctuary or the Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary near Hartbeespoort Dam, or the Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre at De Wildt. Less than two hours away, you can explore Pilanesberg National Park in your own car and see the Big Five in their natural habitat. Dainfern Square Shopping Johannesburg, more than any other African city, is for shoppers. People still flock from all over the continent to stock up in a place that seemingly has it all.

Don t miss Sandton City, the new Mall of Africa, Rosebank Rooftop Market on a Sunday, Bryanston Organic Market, and Dainfern Square. View from Northcliff Hill Enjoy the View Be sure to drive up to Northcliff Hill, Johannesburg s 2nd highest point. Another great view can be had from the top of the Carlton Centre, the Soweto Water Towers (which you can also bungy-jump off of!), the balloon at Montecasino, or the Melville Koppies. Introducing VibeScout All the above are mostly places any well-read tourist will know about.

What if there was a way to get the true vibe of Johannesburg, by diving right into the scene whenever things are happening in one of its many suburbs? What if you knew about more authentic local experiences you could join, like live music, a food festival, an art exhibition, or anything else that is going on at this very moment in Johannesburg? I ve recently come across a service that is right on the pulse of these happenings in Joburg. VibeScout is a new tool that brings you fun things to do in Johannesburg (as well as other metropolitan areas like Pretoria and Cape Town).

It s a cool and completely free and easy to navigate entertainment guide for Johannesburg created by brothers Paul and Jonathan Myburgh. On VibeScout, you ll find events as varied as this week s Holiday crafts and animal feeding event for kids at the Johannesburg Zoo, the African Summer Christmas Picnic featuring iced drinks, a band, and African-inspired carols at Joziburg Lane, or if you re lucky a raffle of free Johnny Clegg tickets for the first 100 patrons registering for one of his outdoor concerts on Facebook. To find out more about how VibeScout came about and what new features it has in store, read the back story here. I hope you ll give VibeScout a try (make sure you also check it out before your next trip to Cape Town, Durban, or Stellenbosch). The sooner you start diving into the street scene of Jozi, the City of Gold, the sooner you ll hopelessly fall in love with it like so many who have gone before you.

Trust me on this. The problem with lists is that you never prioritize them properly. Things that are most decidedly not a matter of life and death are invariably at the top. Finding an internet provider so that your kids don t have to go without Snapchat for a minute too long, assembling the paperwork for your Traffic Register Number, booking your first safari because you can t wait to find out what the big fuss is about the Big Five - those are most likely the issues you re grappling with during your first week in South Africa.

It happened to me after just a few weeks in South Africa. I brought back tick bite fever from our first foray into the Waterberg, and I was so miserable I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. I had no idea what ailed me or where to go for relief. While you ll be happy you did prioritize the internet connection so that you can research doctors online, it s no joy doing it while your head feels like it s split open by a cleaver. Much better to have all your healthcare ducks in a row before disaster strikes. The good news is, South Africa isn t a particularly disease-ridden country.

But you need to be aware of what lurks out there so you can be prepared. And you need to be up-to-date on your immunizations. Let s start with the aforementioned tick bite fever.

As the name suggests, it s transmitted by ticks. But unlike its ugly American cousin, Lyme disease, it s relatively harmless and can be treated with antibiotics. When you go hiking in the bush in the wet season, wear long pants to protect against tick bites. Some seasoned Africa travelers often carry antibiotics with them just in case they re needed when there is no access to doctors, but it s never a good idea to take them preventively.

Also note that pets can be infected by tick bite fever as well, so treat your cats and dogs against fleas and ticks regularly. Malaria is practically non-existent in South Africa. If you go to Kruger Park during summer from October to March, you should consider taking malaria prophylaxis such as Malanil (or Malarone in the U.S.). Other than that, South Africa is malaria-free year-round. You will need immunizations for Hepatitis B, DTP, MMR, and Polio before moving to South Africa.

Hepatitis A is recommended but not required. (If you travel to a yellow fever risk area outside the country, such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Kenya, see a doctor before you leave to obtain a certificate.) In rural areas, you might be exposed to typhoid fever, cholera, and rabies - take the necessary precautions before prolonged stays in such parts. If you re not in South Africa for missionary or humanitarian work, most likely you will live in a metropolitan area and this will be of no concern to you. HIV/AIDS poses a very small risk for expats.

If you have small children and consider employing a nanny, tuberculosis is a larger risk factor. It is recommended to request TB screenings before hiring domestic help (maid referral services typically provide them). Many expats have a global health plan that allows them to keep the same insurer as they go from one assignment to the next. In that case, you usually pay for your medical bills up front and claim your refund later by providing the invoice. Local medical aid plans likely offer better rates - with the exception of orthodontists, doctor and hospital fees are generally much lower in South Africa than in many Western countries - and let you avoid having to pay upfront, but if you re expecting to move again in the not too distant future, having to switch plans again might be cumbersome.

Your best option might be a combination of the two, like Hollard Cigna Health, a partnership between local underwriter Hollard and global health service provider Cigna, offering you both local know-how and global reach. This merger hadn t happened at the time we lived in South Africa so I don t have first-hand experience, but we did use Hollard to cover our house inventory and car insurance, and were very happy with their prompt and professional service. Make sure you research your options while you plan your move and set up an appointment with a local broker for your first week in South Africa if you haven t already obtained coverage before your move. For any check-ups and minor problems such as colds and immunizations, your entire family will see a general practitioner or family doctor. Intercare, which operates offices around the country and offers a wide range of medical services such as prenatal care, psychiatry, dentistry, surgery, a travel clinic and x-ray labs all under one roof, is a solid choice if you re looking for a larger practice. However, there are also many 1-person doctor s offices that provide excellent care.

Asking your neighbors and fellow school parents where they go is a good strategy, but try to stay relatively close to home as traffic can make your commute very lengthy. The level of training and care at South Africa’s private hospitals is excellent. There are three major private healthcare providers: Life Healthcare, Netcare, and Medi-Clinic, each with a number of branches in the major metropolitan areas.

All of these have excellent reputations and offer world-class care. Again, pick one close to where you live and make that your go-to place for emergencies. We lived in the Dainfern area and were very happy with the convenience as well as service at Life Fourways. If you don t have local medical aid, make sure you bring a credit card (preferably not AMEX) when checking in at a private hospital.

You might have to pay each service separately, like x-rays, blood work, doctor, or anesthesiologist. Insist on a detailed receipt to submit to your health insurance. We ve had to chase South Africa’s bureaucracy for receipts after the fact and it s no cakewalk. If you schedule a larger procedure ahead of time, try to get approval from your healthcare provider beforehand. Please note that the above advice is geared toward private hospitals. Even though some South African government hospitals are internationally acclaimed and well-known for their research – let s not forget that the first human heart transplant in the world was performed by Christiaan Barnard at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town in 1967 – be mindful that service quality tends to be lower than at private facilities.

First, the terminology. You won t get far with drug store when looking for one. Chemist” is what drugstores or pharmacies are called in South Africa. The major chemist chains are Dis-Chem, Clicks and MediRite. Clicks outlets are often conveniently located right next to an Intercare practice so that you can pick up your drugs right after seeing the doctor.

MediRite pharmacies can often be found in Shoprite and Checkers stores. Dis-Chem is the nicest of them all and the closest to an American CVS or Walgreens, often offering additional services like mail-order and courier delivery, clinics and vision screenings. Your first week in South Africa, make a point of visiting all three chains so you know what they carry.

I ran around frantically the first few weeks looking for night lights and an electric toothbrush charger. I felt such relief flooding through me when I finally discovered them at Dis-Chem which sells more or less everything from vitamins to bags of dried mango to small appliances. The fun part when going to a chemist in South Africa is the little metal cage. You go to the counter - even for non-prescription drugs - and ask for antibiotic cream and ear drops. The pharmacist will pull them from the shelf and drop everything into a small lunch-box sized metal cage and seal it with a zip-tie.

You then wander through the store doing the rest of your errands, feeling a bit weird with your cage like Harry Potter carrying Hedwig to the Hogwarts Express, but you take comfort in the fact that everyone else carries the silly little cage too. At the cash register, the seal is broken and your items released so you can pay for them. Quaint. I don t think I ve ever lived in a country with so many emergency phone numbers as South Africa.

Writing them all down the very first day you arrive in the country and posting them in a central location is an absolute must. Call 911 is something you and your kids will have to get out of your head when living in South Africa. Many cities have different numbers for police, fire, and medical emergencies. However, if you are calling from a mobile phone the universal number for all emergencies is 112 - make sure to program it into everyone’s mobile phone the first day.

While you re at it, locate your emergency room of choice from above and save it in your Google Maps. Being well prepared in the event of an emergency is a little bit like carrying an umbrella: Having it with you, according to Murphy s Law, pretty much guarantees it ll never rain. So go ahead and follow the above steps so that your time in South Africa can be spent on safari and not in the emergency room. Learn more at As you well know, all things expat are my passion, especially when pertaining to South Africa. Books and writing are my other passion.

When these two worlds overlap, I m in heaven. So perhaps you can imagine my excitement when Tony Park - who has been hailed as Africa s next Wilbur Smith - agreed to give an interview and have it published right here on Joburg Expat! Tony Park is an Australian author who writes novels set in southern Africa, with a focus on South Africa. His books are sold around the world with two, Ivory and The Delta, so far available in the U.S.

(However, I ve been able to buy three others, African Dawn, African Sky, and The Hunter via Amazon 3rd party sellers.) He recently launched his 13th novel, Red Earth, which is set in KwaZulu Natal. He is an expat of sorts, spending six months of every year in Africa where he has a house near the Kruger Park, and the remainder of the year in Sydney. I hope you ll pour yourself a cup of coffee or Rooibos tea, sit back, and enjoy reading what Tony has to say about the inspiration for his novels, how he likes to spend a Saturday afternoon, his favorite This is Africa moment, and why now now gets him into fights with his editor. And oh, I ll be raffling away a copy of The Delta among those of you who leave comments and questions for Tony, so don t be shy!

I promise you The Delta makes for great beach reading with the school holidays looming. Joburg Expat: How (and when) did you come to South Africa for the first time, and what made you fall in love with it? Tony Park: My wife Nicola, the planner in our relationship, decided in 1995 that we would go for a once-in-a-lifetime safari to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. That one-off trip proved to be anything but. Within the first few days of arriving in South Africa we were bitten by something, drank something, or breathed something in - but the continent hooked us. I guess it was a combination of the amazing wildlife, incredible scenery and the fascinating stories that everyone seemed to have that made us book our second trip to Africa before that first one was over.

With the exception of 2002, when I was called on to serve with the Australian Army in Afghanistan (I’m an army reservist), we’ve been back to Africa every year since. JE: Ha! If it weren t for our spouses, we writers would never go to the places we need to see so we can write about them! Were you a writer before coming to SA or did SA inspire your writing career? TP: Ever since I was a little kid the one thing in life I always wanted to do was write a novel. Around the time of my first or second trip to Africa I left my full time job in public relations to try and write a novel.

I wrote a turkey of a book set in the Australian outback and fortunately that manuscript never saw the light of day. It was dreadful. It was on our third trip to Africa, a four-month self drive safari, that I sat down to try and write a book again, and it was then and there that I found my inspiration, my ‘muse’, Africa.

JE: You are killing me! As a fellow author, but one who had no aspirations to write books when I was a little kid, I somehow always feel envious when others say that. though I m a bit mollified about the dreadful manuscript :-) What do you love most about Africa?

Every Day is a New Adventure Tony with a hand reared young black rhino at a rhino breeding facility in Zimbabwe that gave him the inspiration for hisbook African Dawn, about rhino poaching. TP: The unpredictability. Good, bad or otherwise, every day is a new adventure.

That goes for game drives in the bush - you never know, literally, what’s lurking just around the corner - and for life in general. Countries that were doing quite well when we first visited in 1995 - Zimbabwe is a case in point - are a basket case now, but on the upside, places that were war zones or devastated by tragedy 21 years ago are thriving, go-ahead places today. I’m a positive person and I see no end of evidence of the indomitable human spirit on my travels in Africa.

JE: Are your characters inspired by real people you know? TP: No, the characters per se in my books are not inspired by real people but some of the things my fictional characters go through are based on real events and real stories told to me by people I’ve.

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