Expat Tales: Following her heart to South Africa
Nelsonian Francesca Alice volunteers for a human rights and HIV organisation in Cape Town.
What inspired your move, and how long have you been there?
The first time it was love for people and social justice - I came over to work at the Oxfam Australia office in South Africa in 2014. Then I met my partner in Durban, and we moved to Tanzania in 2015. We've been back in Cape Town since mid-2016.
What do you do there?
I'm an international development project manager, specialising in research and knowledge transfer. Currently I'm here with an international volunteer programme, working for a regional human rights and HIV organisation with key populations across Africa.
What are the greatest advantages to living there?
The lifestyle. It's very easy to live here and there's something about the people's passion and energy that keeps me coming back.
It's very far from my friends and family back home, but I'm slowly getting them over to visit, one by one.
How expensive is it compared to New Zealand? How much is a beer?
I think it's cheaper, but it depends on where you live as Durban is much cheaper than Cape Town for rent, groceries, entertainment etc. Overall though, you get much greater value for money here and the quality is just as good. A standard beer is about NZ$2.65 (more if you're into craft beer, of which there are many local options) and coffee is about NZ$1.90-NZ$2.10.
What do you do in your spare time?
Lots of exploring (beaches, bush, desert, mountains etc). From the city to the country, there's always a lot to see and do! I'm also a big foodie so I like to check out restaurants, wine farms, food markets and festivals.
What's the local delicacy and would you recommend eating it?
This varies from city to city. Durban-style (i.e. hot!) curry is still my favourite and my mother-in-law makes the best chicken curry and roti. Bunny chow (curry in a hollowed out quarter or half loaf of bread) is a signature Durban dish. Cape Town is known for its Cape Malay food - a slightly sweeter and less spicy style of curry. Samosas of all flavours are big here, as are boerewors (a kind of sausage) rolls and koeksisters (syrup-drenched donuts)!
Easiest way to get around?
Minibus taxis are in every city and cheap. Uber is readily available. Cape Town also has two bus lines, MyCiti and Golden Arrow, which take you most places. Car hire is also much cheaper than in NZ.
What's the shopping like?
Excellent. There are so many amazing (and very affordable) local designers and artists with styles reminiscent of Wellington fashionistas. All the big brands can be found here too.
Best after-dark activity?
Full moon hikes up Lion's Head (next to Table Mountain) are a big thing. There's always something on in Cape Town - arts, theatre or the nightlife on Bree and Long streets.
Best time of year to visit?
November to March is nice. It's still warm and there's lots on for visitors.
What are the top three things you recommend for visitors?
There is a lot of magnificent coast to explore. In Cape Town, you can start in Seapoint and drive past Camps Bay to Hout Bay and from Chapman's Peak around to Muizenberg (with many beach towns to stop at along the way). You should definitely go on a game drive (safari). I like Hluhluwe-Imfolozi in KwaZulu-Natal because you can self drive, all the big five are there and there are places to stay in the parks. Because I'm a foodie, I'd also suggest a wine farm tour. In the Western Cape, Franschhoek has a lovely French vibe, Durbanville has treasures like Altydgedacht wine farm that still use traditional winemaking methods and host lovely Sunday lunches. And of course there are Stellenbosch and Constantia which have some of the oldest wine farms in the country.
Besides family and friends, what do you miss most about home?
How easy is it for you to get back to NZ?
It's much more affordable to travel to the continent from NZ than it used to be - many big airlines offer good deals now. The hardest thing for me is the time. It takes about 24 hours by plane, including transfers.
For Kiwis looking to move there, which industries are seeking fresh talent?
There are some really interesting innovations happening in the agricultural livelihoods sector related to climate change and food security. Kiwis have done well introducing new farming technologies elsewhere on the continent (such as in Tanzania). In my sector (international development), there are interesting opportunities to get involved with formal volunteering programs like AVI or VSO. They are looking for people across a number of sectors all the time.
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