Tonito Returns… Albeit briefly!

It has been a very long time since I last blogged. Too long in fact, but over the last year changing circumstances in my life has made blogging very, very hard (I’m not sure one can stack very, but oh well, one can try). The changes have occurred in all the arenas of our lives, personal and professional.

The first major change was our move in Johannesburg from a small one bedroom apartment into a three bedroom house, complete with added benefits (and burden) of a garden and pool. This move took over a lot of time as furnishing for a three bedroom house is no small ordeal. It is time consuming especially if you are looking for bargains on good furniture, which is what we did. This meant that our relaxing weekends exploring Johannesburg, turned into tiring weekends of furniture hunting, taking away time for blogging.

If moving into a new house isn’t enough to keep you busy, then you might as well add starting a Master’s degree into the mix. Due to a change in career direction a couple of years ago, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree to add theoretical knowledge to experience I had gained over the last couple of years. Just when furniture hunting when winding down, studying started to dominate my time, initially on week days but this started spilling over into weekends as well.

It seemed like all the stars were aligned to keep me busy, as my job started becoming more intense and work hours started creeping up from eight hours to more than I care for. It is the nature of the work that this happens occasionally, but unfortunately it was becoming the norm and not the exception. Not only was this the case for me, but Raquel was suffering the same curse.

There’s always a cherry on the cake, and here is ours… On 4 December 2015, Raquel and I welcomed the arrival of our daughter into this crazy world. Yes! A baby! For those who do not have children, you will not imagine how much time these little babies can consume and how much sleep they can steal! For those with children, I feel no need to explain myself further.

With all of this going on in our lives, it was virtually impossible to blog and hence this prolonged absence. However, as I am a man that loves a challenge, I decided that there was not enough to prevent me from blogging so I decided to move again. Yes. We have moved… abroad… to Qatar.

That’s where I leave you for now, but keep your eyes and ears open as I intend to relaunch Travelling Tonito pretty soon, as there is nothing better than a new country to reignite blogging fever.

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Photo of the Week: Making my mark!

On the 7th of May 2014, just over twenty years after the birth of democracy in South Africa, I voted for the first time in a South African election. It was a proud moment for me as for the first time in my life I was able to choose who I wanted to govern my county. I was too young to take part in our first two elections and as I was abroad for the following two, I was ineligible to vote in those, which meant that at the “ripe old age” of thirty I voted for the first time. Having lived in two dictatorships, the UAE, which I don’t know how to classify, but it surely can’t be considered a democracy, I realize how important the ability to vote is, and therefore I refuse to take this right, so hard-fought by great South Africans, for granted.

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Photo of the Week: Home Improvements

This week is going to be a big one for Raquel and I as we will be moving into our new house, but before we do, there is a mad rush to get the little improvements to the house, one of which is the painting. As we need to move in by this weekend, I brought my little lego friend to give us a helping hand.

Always ready to help

Always ready to help

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Photo of the Week: Winter is coming…

Having had a nice decent summer, suddenly Jozi’s evenings are getting chillier so much so that sometimes you feel the need to wear a jumper or sweater, so much so that the other day during a night out a friend of Raquel’s said “Winter is coming” which made me laugh as it is a famous line from one of my favourite TV shows and books, A Song of Fire and Ice, otherwise known as Game of Thrones. So here’s my tribute to the coming winter…

Winter is coming!

Winter is coming!

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One year of Jozi

A year ago Raquel and I were driving from my hometown with both our cars filled to the brim with the little possessions we had to start our new life in Joburg. I think under normal circumstances we might have been nervous about what possibly lay ahead, but having spent five months in my hometown, desperately looking for work, there were no nerves present, only insatiable excitement.

The excitement about the move was motivated by several things. Finally being on our own; diving head first into an unknown city; creating a new life for ourselves in this country which I had called home for a long time, but lost its significance due my prolonged absence.

When we signed the lease agreement to our apartment, it was the first time Raquel and I were not sharing a house with one or more people. We had the one bedroom apartment to ourselves and nobody else. As odd as this may sound to some people, I was excited that for once I could walk around in my underwear (or less) in living space in without freaking someone out.

Moving in one year ago

Moving in one year ago

Raquel and I have lived in shared accommodation since university, so to have a place where we were its sole inhabitants was initially odd as there is no else’s bad and good habits to get used to; no else who needed to be informed of possible dinner companions; no need to label food or have separate food cabinets. The place was ours; we could do whatever we wanted.

Outside of the apartment, we had a new city to get used to and explore. Where to get groceries; get a haircut; get your nails done (obviously this one is more focused towards Raquel); your pizza place when you don’t want make dinner; or the place where you go and have a relaxed chill brunch on the weekend. All those little things you need to discover as part of adapting to a new home.

I think for both Raquel and I another big plus was that this would be the first time we would be working in the same continent, let alone city, so for the first time in our relationship, the end of a working day meant going home to the person we love and not roommates, colleagues or anything else (which most of the time we love, but in a very different way).

The new life in Jozi and the apartment allowed the freedom of entertaining friends and family for dinner, with one of our first dinner guests being an American couple we met in Sapa, Vietnam. Despite the apartment not lending itself to entertaining, we now had the option to have people over and enjoy lunching and dining with them.

Our first dinner guests (Photo Credit: This Kentucky  Girl)

Our first dinner guests (Photo Credit: This Kentucky Girl)

If we weren’t having dinner at home with friends, we were trying different restaurants with the friends we have in Jozi, which ranged from the weekend markets in the Maboneng Precinct to the roof market in Kramerville, or heading out to Cyrildene’s China town, or simply trying out the variety of different restaurants in the area we live in.

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Jozi is by no means London when it comes to the cultural entertainment the city has to offer, but it certainly is better than Tripoli, Beira and Conakry which were my host cities over the last 4 years. We were fortunate that over the last year we were able to enjoy a schmorgus board of things in Jozi ranging from stand-up comedy in the form of Eddie Izzard and local favourite Trevor Noah; to ballet with the St Petersburg State Ballet performing Swan Lake; to some cultural fun with the annual Turkish festival and a Fado Exhinition; to the messy faux Holi dance festival; to some major music with the Dave Mathews Band; to naturally some sport like the Bafana vs Spain match; and finally to walks in the city like last weekend in the Maboneng Precinct.

I confess that the list is not as large as we’d hoped, as work had kept us quite through November last year, but this year we definitely want to improve this seeing more that’s on offer in Jozi.

However sometimes it’s the simple things going to a Movie or the gym together that make this city enjoyable too. The fact that we can create a nest and a network of places and people we interact in and with it what has made our first year in Jozi so enjoyable.

With a fantastic year behind us, it is only quite fitting that the year anniversary of our lives here, marks another great and exciting change for us as we will be moving into our first house together. This will finally be the place where we can make our mark and call HOME. This house will almost be the full stop to the change process and allow us root ourselves to this remarkable city.

Thank you Jozi for opening your arms to us!

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Mariachi Mario’s Makeover – Part 1

Mariachi Mario is a Lego figurine I got a couple of weeks ago, however soon after his arrival, his twin Mariachi Jose joined us as well, leaving us with a little bit of a predicament as to who is who. Mario realizing our problem decided to take matters into his own hands and has been trying our some new looks to distinguish himself from Joe. Here are some exclusive photos of the process so far:

Mariachi Mario's before shot

Mariachi Mario’s before shot

Maybe removing the poncho and the sombrero might be start and replacing with baseball cap... Too informal...

Maybe removing the poncho and the sombrero might be start and replacing with baseball cap… Too informal…

Ummm... Too formal!

Ummm… Too formal!

Too heavy metal for my liking...

Too heavy metal for my liking…

No, I'm not in the Beatles tribute band...

No, I’m not in the Beatles tribute band…

No I don't want to look like a ginger Russell Brand

No I don’t want to look like a ginger Russell Brand

Stay tuned for more of his transformation!

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Discovering Jeppestown on foot

Last weekend a friend of ours asked us if we wanted to join her for an urban walk in Jeppestown in central Jozi’s. We’ve been to the Maboneng Precinct a couple of times already but we usually only stick to the Market on Main area where we tend to find a bite to eat and don’t explore further afield than that. As this was something Raquel and I have wanted to do for a while and for once we had a free morning, we decided to take up the invitation and discover a bit more of the area we have only seen parts of.

The walking tour was jointly organized by the Joburg Photowalkers group, the Funseekers group and the Kensington Heritage Trust, which joined forced to bring a short tour, which included some the oldest buildings in Johannesburg.

We started the tour on Main Street, which was the site of the Natal Camp and the first shopping precinct during the gold rush to Johannesburg. We followed on through towards Fox Street and some the interesting Victorian Neo Baroque Style buildings, which sit alongside corrugated Iron structures.

One of the interesting things you see in the area is the melange  of great Graffiti Art on display on the sides of buildings and some of the gates. To add to this some of the older building are being restored to a decent state giving the area a whole lot more of curb appeal, however too much is still in a state of disrepair, but the Maboneng development project looks to improve the situation immensely over th next couple of years.

One of our final stops was the Saint Mary the Less Church which is the second oldest building in Johannesburg. There was still a service going on, but we were allowed in and have a look and photograph if we wanted, but  I was not too keen photograph the church while residents were worshipping.

One of the funnier moments on the tour was when we were approaching one of the derelict areas of Jeppestown suddenly we hear young voices shouting in Zulu “The whites are coming!!”. I can only imagine what it must be like for the kids who are not used seeing large of groups of white people wandering around their neighbourhood.

The walk finished back at Arts on Main, but Raquel, Joedi and I decided to just have lunch before retiring back to the North.

It was great walk and good explore Jeppestown beyond the Maboneng developments and see the gutsy parts of the town. The walk also whetted our appetite to try more of some of the walks and tours on offer in Johannesburg.

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Photo of the Walk: Urban Walking

Last weekend Raquel, I and a friend did an urban walk in the Maboneng Precinct which is in Joburg’s inner city, something which both of us have wanted to do for a while and never really made time for. Fortunately our friend Joedi, who is new to Jozi as well, kind of made us make time for this walk on this Sunday, which was fantastic for me as I got to explore the Maboneng precinct beyond Arts on Main. There will be a follow up on the walk but for now I leave you with a photo of a great way of showing the name of the precinct under the bridge of Berea street.

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I love how they put the name of the project under the bridge

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Fishing for a (Lego) dream

This little Eskimo was the first Lego minifigure Raquel got me while we were dating. This fellow has travelled with me from London to Beira, Mozambique to Conakry, Guinea and now permanently resides in Johannesburg, South Africa. With a growing Lego collection (encouraged by my wife) which I now am really interested in photographing, I thought I’d take out my Eskimo friend fishing in the apartment’s water feature.

A lonely day for Eskimo

A lonely day for Eskimo

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Photo of the Week: Itchy feet!

The other day, while watching TV, Raquel looked over and told me that she misses travelling. We haven’t travelled since our trip to Cape Town in September last year and that was only a couple of days. Either way, there won’t be much travelling for us this year as we won’t have too much opportunities to do so, so I leave you with the travels of some Lego minifigures to Pisa, Italy.

Sightseeing silliness

Sightseeing silliness

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Photo of the Week: Human Rights Day

Human rights day in South Africa is celebrated today as remembrance for for the Sharpeville Massacre in which 69 black South Africans were killed by police for protesting against the pass laws (read more here). I’ve decided to add a photo of statues of South Africa’s four Nobel Peace Prize winners in Cape Town, each of which did some part in South Africa’s fight for human rights (Yes, even FW De Klerk did his bit). Continue reading

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Language Fail – Episode 6: The time I was addressed by my price…

Translating can be a difficult task especially when you have no training in the skill and I found that out the hard while working for my previous company when asked to translate meetings for non-English speakers. Continue reading

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Middle Earth in a Jozi garden (Lego style)!

I think you might have noticed that I have been photographing Lego a lot lately, but I’ve been pretty inspired with a few things I’ve found online and on instagram, especially the Legographer series by photographer Andrew Whyte and instagrammer that_toy_guy. So I decided to play around a bit with some of the figures I have. I have been thinking of using the Dwarves and Elves I have and playing around with them in the Garden. So over the weekend after a long day out of the house, I created a small little adventure for Lego Legolass, Tuariel, Fili and Kili (Yes, I have those Lego characters from The Hobbit).

Fili and Kili venturing through the forest

Fili and Kili venturing through the forest

Tauriel and Legolas keep tabs of their foes from higher up...

Tauriel and Legolas keep tabs of their foes from higher up…

Fili and Kili get themselves in a sticky situation...

Fili and Kili get themselves in a sticky situation…

Fili and Kili survive their close call, but Tauriel and Legolas are waiting for them...

Fili and Kili survive their close call, but Tauriel and Legolas are waiting for them…

To be continued…

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The fall of the Burj Khalifa!

I was bored at home waiting for a football match to start, so decided to play with some the Lego figurines I have and my Lego Burj Khalifa… All I can say I had fun playing with Lego and you can definitely expect more Lego photography on this blog! Continue reading

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A late Valentine’s Balloon trip over the Magalies Valley

Raquel and I have a particular Valentines tradition which entails that every year we alternate who organizes Valentine’s Day and associated gifts. I get a lot of frowns from people who think I’m not being romantic enough, but our arrangement works well. Continue reading

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Photo of the Week: Just a lot of hot air!

This weekend Raquel and I finally used my Valentines Day gift (I’ll explain later) which was a hot air balloon ride over the Magaliesberg which now completes our trio of long standing bucket list items of aerial travel by aeroplane, helicopter and hot air balloon! The experience was amazing and not nearly as terrifying as we anticipated it be! There will be a follow up post with much more photos but for now, I leave you with a photo of one of the balloons backed by the dark clouds. Continue reading

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Photo of the Week: Lego Nation Army

I love Lego but that does not mean that I want my house to be decorated with Lego all over the place. That is until I saw this brilliant sculpture at House on Fire Studio in Swaziland. It’s awesome and I wanted one, but our lack of income, jobs and home meant that it would be a bit of a pointless purchase. So if anyone out there wants to sponsor something to Travelling Tonito, you know what to get me! Continue reading

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Photo of the Week: Urban Tranquility

This week’s photo comes from Irene Country Lodge in Centurion. It’s an extremely tranquil setting in which the green fields and the man-made lake on the grounds lulls your senses into submission, making it believe that you are far off  and away from the hustle and bustle of urban life when in fact a quick drive will take you to the city. It is within this little oasis that I’m spending the night and I could not resist taking a photo of this stunning setting. Enjoy.

Great setting to relax in

Great setting to relax in

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Language Fail – Episode 5: The time I asked for the wrong thing around the dinner table

Meeting your in-laws is always a big deal and making a good first impression is extremely important and can define the relationship for its duration. That’s why when I met Raquel’s family I was even more polite than my usual self and more importantly I tried not to involuntarily distribute any curse or rude words in front of them. Continue reading

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The only real failure is the failure to try – One year (and bit) in South Africa

I’m a sentimental fool and I enjoy celebrating ‘versaries’, be it yearly, monthly or weekly (I did not write anniversaries as I don’t want to annoy the Grammar Nazis among you with more mistakes!) Continue reading

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