South African Vacation Here I Come!

May 24, 2016

Hello!  Joanna here.  Let's start with a little about me.  The vintage stuff is my jam, I work with the artisans, do most of the social media, the boring accounting stuff, some painting and whatever else needs to be done.  That’s my Fresh Digs life in a nutshell.

Here's a little of my backstory and how my vacation to South Africa to visit family came to be.

My husband, Rob Davies, hails from Hartbeespoort Dam, South Africa.  We met in Polokwane (near the Zimbabwean border) when I was a Peace Corps volunteer.  After I finished my two-year service we married, had two boys and lived there for the next few years.  In 2014 he was kind enough to relocate with me and the kids to the Midwest where we live right next door to my parents on a farm in rural Effingham, Illinois. 

The Peace Corps years.  As Peace Corps volunteers we weren't allowed to drive, however the owner of this fine ride had terrible cataracts and we were on a tedious drive so he asked me to. And yes this is a manual BMW with red fur and a red wheel.    : )

I'm struggling to find many pics of us during the date year.  This pretty much sums up how he wooed me.  Doesn't that bird look amazing?  And yes, that is Rob Davies.  

And then we got married.  One of my favorite pics.  The first time he came to the US he met my parents and got married.  He's just a little relieved in this photo.  Thanks, Andi Gelsthorpe. for capturing it.

And then we had kids.  This was taken in Ouma's (Rob's mom's) scullery.  The scullery is a wonderful room off of the kitchen where you hide the sink and the washer and dryer.  Check out the dutch door in the background.

That is how we’ve gotten to the cusp of our leaving for a month-long vacation in South Africa.  Yeah, a month.  Since plane tickets aren’t cheap and the flights are LONG, we’ve got to make the very most of our trip over.  Thank you Salina for holding down the fort while I’m gone.  And I need to give a shout-out to my mom for all of the work she has and will do for us both at the shop and in my house (the plants and animals thank you, too).  And Dad, thanks for letting Rosie (our dog) move in.  THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH!

My wonderful parents during their layover in London on their 2008 trip.


So how long is long?  Well, it’s a ten hour overnight flight from Chicago to London, a nine hour layover and another ten hour flight to Johannesburg.  Ugh.  Although I must say I am pretty excited about the layover in London.  My plan is to leave the airport and do a bit of touring with the kids.  Free mini vaca!  

In total, I lived in SA for almost seven years and since moving home I’ve been back for a visit only once.  I am missing it terribly.  Here’s a little bit of what I’m excited about as I’m ticking things off of my to-do list while slowly getting more and more excited about our impending departure.

(in no particular order)

·         Fresh fruit.  Living in rural Illinois does not afford me the opportunity to get fresh fruits such as mangoes, papaya, avocado and litchis.  I’m kind of bummed that we won’t be there for fresh mangoes but I will get fresh avocados, naartjies (Cuties), oranges by the giant bag-full and pears.   

My very cool coworker, Eden.  She had and still does have the best style.  Check out this locally made twist on a traditional dress.  

My very cool coworker, Eden.  She had and still does have the best style.  Check out this locally made twist on a traditional dress.  

·         Shopping at Woolworths.  It’s such a great department store.  They’ve got well-made classic pieces as well as an awesome grocery store.  And it’s not overwhelming.  Plus they have really cool market bags.  My plan is to stock up on their market bags and bring them back for the shop.  : )

·         Fabric – Oh the fabric.  African wax fabric is so awesome.  I had a stash when I lived there and it’s starting to get low even though I don’t really do anything with it except look at it and smell it from time to time.  That smell is so powerfully tied to South Africa for me.  It’s amazing how strong those associations can be.  I have big plans to return to my favorite fabric shops in Polowkane and replenish my stash and bring some back for the shop. 

·         Handicrafts – I’m super-excited to revisit all of my favorite places to find cool, handmade stuff.  I’m talking beaded wiener dogs, woven bowls, carved wooden crocodiles eating a man with large testicles (man I wish I could find that picture), and other random things.  

Man, I wish I knew when this pic of my mom was taken.  : )  I LOVE these birds.  


My friend and co-worker, Naledi (which means Star).  She's helping with "catering" for a BIG event.  Hence the giant pot.  

·         Catering – Having worked in local government I frequently attended meetings that included “catering”.  Catering is a lady and a crew of helpers who have prepared at home chicken, beef stew, mashed pumpkin, beetroot, coleslaw, pap (ground corn) and rice and brought it in tubs to the meeting.  We ate off of real plates and washed it all down with a groovy (can of pop, my choice was always Fanta Orange).  Man, that food is THE BEST.  And you can’t get it in restaurants, although there are stands alongside the road.  I’m either going to have to crash a catered meeting or find a roadside stand.  I can taste it already.

·         Ocean Basket – Ok, yeah, more food.  Ocean Basket is a seafood restaurant chain.  I’m usually not a chain gal but this one holds a lot of good memories for me/us.  And, ok, I love the butter-drenched prawns, the Greek salad with large squares of feta cheese and the ice in my white wine.  The Ocean Basket near my parents is located in a mall and has outdoor seating and a kids' play area, plus another restaurant down the way has an indoor trampoline.  Boom and boom.

·         House & Leisure magazine.  My favorite home décor mag ever.  There are some amazing homes in SA - unique, fantastically decorated and they always have a way of seamlessly merging the indoors and outdoors.  Rob went home last year and he was there so long that he could have brought me back THREE different H&Ls.  Which, by the way, were the only things I asked for.  How many did he bring me?  Zero.  None.  Not even one.  Let’s just say that I’m still using the Branches gift certificate he gave me when he got home. 

Lastly and mostly, I am most excited to see my family and friends.  Rob’s family hasn’t seen the kids in a few years and they have changed so much.  I am so excited for them to get to know each other again.  My in-laws, my brothers-in-law, friends, my former co-workers, NGOs I used to work with.  I can’t wait to catch up with them all. 

Oupa and Ouma with baby Roscoe.  : )


AH!  I’m so excited!  I wish my keyboard had emojis.  There would be a few dancing ladies (with blonde hair), a fist bump, the rock hand, the girl raising the roof, the Champagne bottle, a bunch of hearts and the heart eyes.  Yeah, that would almost sum it up.  Almost.

You can follow along (or not, luckily social media is a CHOICE) as I’ll be posting pics to Facebook, here and Instagram (technology-willing) during the trip. 

I’ll see you “that side”!