A Day in the Life of Joburg Expat

It has been a quiet week, as we gear up for our next big trip to Mozambique on Thursday. Spencer has been working extra hard on school work. As for me, I thought I’d take this down time to give you an idea what I get up to to on an average day.

My office.

I wake up a little before 8:00, about when Spencer is heading off on his bike to campus. I make myself a cup of espresso and settle into my spot on the couch. I spend a lot of time in the one spot, because it gets the most sunlight and is on a very comfortable couch. I’m a bit like a cat when it comes to finding pools of sunshine to curl up in.

I spend the morning writing freelance articles for a couple of different websites. I have one contract for which I get a set list of job descriptions to fill out each week. Today I wrote about Information Architects, and IT job that I still don’t fully understand. On other website, TextBroker, I get to choose the articles that interest me, but the options are fairly limited. Today I wrote about “how to design the perfect circuit training workout,” and “five ways to be a better negotiator.” I am not an expert at either of these topics, but usually only a little research is needed to pump out the required 500 words or so. It is not at all a well-paying job, I usually make around 1 cent/word. Nor is it very rewarding, as my name will never be attached to the articles I write. But it gives me something to do and allows me to practice writing, so I’ll keep at it.


I spend about 3 hours a day writing. If I want a break, I might do some stitching on my latest knit-a-square blanket while listening to a book on tape, or sit out in the sunshine and read.

For lunch, I pull together something from whatever we happen to have in the kitchen at the time. Today it happened to be a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and a salad.


Because our kitchen is very small and our refrigerator is the size of a hotel snack bar, we can never buy too much food at once. This means I have to go to the grocery store at least three times a week. Unless I have other errands to run, I like to walk to the store. The closest grocery is a 20 minute walk away in the neighborhood of Parkview. To get there, I have to go down the famous Westcliff steps. It is a safe and quiet walk, and I enjoy it because it allows me to stretch my legs and peek between the fences at the beautiful homes and gardens of Westcliff.

At the top of the Westcliff Steps.

Parkview has a main street and shopping area on Tyrone Avenue. With its shady sidewalks and victorian shopfronts, it looks and feels like the village square of a small town. There is a family -run pharmacies, an old-fashioned bakery, a coffee shop, and a couple of restaurants. There is also a liquor store, post office, and groceries, so it has just about everything we need.

Tyrone Ave, the main street in Parkview.

I start my shop at the Tyrone Fruiterer. Fruiterers are what we would probably call grocers in the U.S, but is much more fun to say. They stock all kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as fresh meat and organic products. Regular stores also carry produce, but the quality and selection is way better at the fruiterers. I buy what I needed there, then headed next door to the Spar, a traditional grocery store.

The selection at the Fruiterers is great.

Grocery stores in South Africa have everything you need. They don’t have quite the same selection as you get in the States, and some of the brands are different, but it’s all here. At Spar, I pick up the essentials like milk and cereal.

At the bottom of the Westcliff steps.

I lug my purchases back up the 219 steps. The return trip takes 10 minutes longer than my descent did. I always regret my shopping choices at this point. Why did I think it was a good idea to buy a pineapple AND a big mango? Most days I do a workout of some kind, but not on grocery days.

Once home, I review my writing from the morning and submit then. I then spend the afternoon researching and planning travel. I do so much travel planning that it feels like a second part-time job, but this one I love because it gives me something new to look forward to. Our next trip is already all planned out, but I am planning ahead for when my sister, cousin, and two-year-old nephew come to visit in May.

Spencer gets home in the later afternoon or early evening. Usually I would have dinner ready, or we would make it together. Today we had errands to run at the mall, so we ate out.

Now I am back on my spot on the couch, writing this blog. I will probably spend the rest of my night here, glass of wine in hand, Spencer by my side. Not a terribly exciting Friday night, but tomorrow we have a beer festival and orienteering competition to attend, and need our rest.

I am quite enjoying being semi-retired at 28. Being home alone so often is not nearly as lonely or boring as I was afraid it would be. Most days, the time actually goes by more quickly than expected. Sometimes I miss the challenge and fulfillment of my career, but writing is teaching me new things every day. I constantly miss my family and friends, but am slowly making new friends and finding my place in the community here. Every day, I wake up thinking how lucky I am to be living this adventure in such an amazing place.

Our cozy cottage, where I am happy to spend my days.


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