Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Letter to Newbies

Two new Rooftops Canada interns are coming to Jozi in June!  How exciting is that?

After being introduced via email, I wrote them the super long message below that I then decided to post here because
a)      some of you readers might want a list of things to do in J’burg, and
b)      I was too lazy to type a new entry.




Hello ladies,

I’ve been reaching into the depths of my memory, trying to remember what it felt like to move last year from Canada to a completely unknown place with a terrible reputation.  I remember I emailed the Rooftops Canada interns who were already here, but they were unresponsive.  I hope I can be more helpful to you.

So, as I already told one of you, my biggest piece of advice is to pack warm clothes.  It gets seriously cold here at night.  You probably don’t need a winter jacket, but I’d recommend thick socks, long johns and other clothes you can layer, a hat – stuff like that that you can sleep in.

I’m not sure what else to tell you because I want you to love Joyburg as much as I do, but I also don’t want to lull you into a false sense of security.  Honestly, this city is amazing.  The people are really friendly and I’ve made lots of friends here.  On the other hand, you have to be careful.  Last week I was hijacked and I watched a man punch his sister in the face while my friends told me to stay back because he most likely had a weapon.  But stuff like that probably (hopefully) won’t happen to you.  It didn’t happen to any of the last three interns who were here.  I get myself into these situations by being straight up dumb.

I could write you a long list of safety recommendations, but – if your experience was anything like mine – everyone you know who knows someone who knows someone from South Africa has already given you tons of advice.  I was sick of getting advice before I even got on the plane!

Haha I think my biggest concern before moving here was asking everyone “What would you recommend?  Where should I go?  What should I do?”

In that vein, I’ve compiled some lists for you!

Things to do in Jozi:

  • Visit the Neighbourgoods market on Saturdays
  • Visit Arts on Main on Sundays and the first Thursday of every month
  • Visit the Bryanston Night Market in December (they have a weekly markets too)
  • Visit the Rosebank African Market on Sundays
  • Go to the Johannesburg Art Gallery in the CBD (it’s free)
  • Go to a play at the Market Theatre in the CBD
  • Go to the Apartheid Museum
  • Go to Warm Up Jozi, a rooftop party in the CBD on the first Saturday of every month
  • Eat pizza at Jolly Rogers in Parkhurst (half price on Wednesdays and Sundays) – I highly recommend the chocolate cake shooters
  • Eat at Possum in Parkhurst
  • Go for drinks on 7th Ave in Melville (the Lucky Bean has great cocktails, although I’m not a fan of their food)
  • Eat sushi at Koi
  • Party at Kitchener’s Bar and the Great Dane (right beside each other) in the CBD
  • Go for drinks at the Baron in Sandton before going clubbing
  • Go dancing in Greenside (I personally find the area lame and yuppie, but it’s also super safe)
  • Buy orange juice from Tyrone Fruiterers on Tyrone Street in Parkview (one Canadian used the OJ as his pick up strategy for a girl he liked.  No joke)
  • Do “springbok” shots (Amarula + crème de menthe, similar to a “polar bear”)
  • Walk along Vilakazi Street in Soweto
  • Go to a soccer or rugby or cricket game


Things to do just outside Jozi

  • Check out Hartbeesporte, especially on a Sunday for trashy Afrikaner types
  • Go to the Cradle of Humankind
  • Check out the Magaliesburg
  • Check out Blyder Canyon
  • Go to MonkeyTown monkey sanctuary (near Hartebeesporte)
  • Kruger Park


Places to visit in South Africa

  • Durban (easy to take the overnight train)
  • Cape Town and the Garden Route
  • The Drakensberg


Places to visit outside South Africa

  • Lesotho
  • Tofo Beach in Mozambique (worth the 6 hour drive from Maputo)
  • Victoria Falls (I was recommended the Zambia side, but I never went to Zim so can’t compare)
  • Malawi


If you have questions about any of those places, please feel free to ask.  I’ve received and written lists of things to do in CT and Durban for other friends, so I can easily pass on the info.

I know Kamba recommended that you read my blog, but I wouldn’t if I were you.  I mean, I’d like to say that everything I’ve written is brilliant and eloquent, but the truth is that most of it won’t be useful to you.  If you’re super bored (ie if you have a job like mine), however, here are some posts that you might find interesting.

Jozi is awesome, but complicated

Taking Minibus Taxis

Taking the train to Durban

Hiking the Drakensberg


Kruger Park

Dealing with racism

Dealing with aggressive men

Dealing with safety concerns

Getting mugged

Getting hijacked

Whoa, that quickly turned into a long list.  Bhahaha I have no idea what type of people you two are – the kinds who like research or the kinds who just jump in.  I’m a jumper, thus I won’t feel insulted whatsoever if you don’t click on any of those links.

I hope you’re here by the June 8/9 weekend since I’ll be back in Jozi to celebrate my friend’s birthday plus my going-away party.  A couple days ago my roommate asked, “What should we do for your going-away party?”  and I responded, “Get black out drunk and bring strangers home.”  She said, completely deadpan, “I think we can manage that.”

Not that that’s actually going to happen – but I think it should be a fun weekend nonetheless!

Sorry if this email is information overload.  Enjoy your next couple weeks in Canada and can’t wait to meet you in Joburg!



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