If I Had To Do It All Again…

I’ve been in countless situations like it, especially in a work context. The condescending tone, remark, jibe at me communicating their superiority with a little dig at my work or clothes or music choices (yeah, even that). It was hard at first, but I think I got used to it. I had come to the realisation like so many other people of colour that we have to work twice as hard to get half as far because this is “their” world. It’s stifling and disheartening, your ideas are overlooked or repeated by someone with a lighter skin tone before they’re taken onboard. It’s all these little things that irritate, and after a long enough time it leaves its mark, psychologically.

It takes a while to break out of it. You have to sit with yourself and just shovel through all these feelings and thoughts and beliefs and values to just remember, at a basic level, who you are and what you stand for and why the things they’ve said or done to you are bullshit. You have to figure out what to do next, because you can’t carry on like that… who in their right mind would choose to carry on in that context? After that it just becomes clear what you need to do, what you need to change.

You see, it isn’t hard to do the right thing, it’s hard knowing what the right thing is. But, once you know what the right thing to do is… it’s hard not to do it. It will burrow a hole in your mind, day by day, until you do something about it.

I am thankful I am where I am now. With the clarity I have, the place I’m at, the work I’m doing, the people who are around me. But it took a hard journey to get here. But nothing worth having ever comes easy and even though it was so hard, I’d do it again. I treasure the journey as much as the destination. I wouldn’t be who I am without it. I’d be less… me.

And, because life is what it is, it’s probably not the end. Good and Bad come in waves. There’s always tests which make you pit your values and grit against the world. They’re there to see how you react, respond… What do you do? What do you give up? What do you protect?

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The Things I Hate and Love About Dubai

The gap in my blog posts recently was due to a trip to Dubai for my cousin’s wedding.  It was a very enlightening trip simply because, before, my perspective of Dubai was mired only in its total absorption in extravagance and overt luxury.  I couldn’t see anything else. Every trip there, work or otherwise had me rolling my eyes over eating food and shopping. There’s only so much you can do… and the heat kind of limits doing anything outside.

So anyway, let’s get to the list…


  1. Capitalism on Steroids – Everywhere… Luxury, Opulence and extravagance from the $30m licence plates to the upturned noses.   You cannot avoid the show of wealth and while it’s cool to gawk at the Lamborghini’s, Bentley’s, Rolls Royce’s, Muscle Cars, etc. After a while it infects you.  It’s a place for the insanely wealthy who want to show it and the those who aren’t insanely wealthy but aspire to be… or at least in its presence.  Maybe it would rub off on them like cheap perfume.
  2. No Soul – You feel the fake.  The country did come up from nowhere, with nothing nad now hitting records for what? Biggest building, biggest light show on the biggest building, etc. etc. They’re trying too hard man and as with all shows of wealth you can sense that something fundamental is missing.  You see it in the people too ,especially the expensive places… the disdain for everyone else, how they treat anyone who doesn’t live on their level.
  3. Growth for the Sake of Growth – The place is HUGE. It reminds me of Joburg it’s so big. Like it takes you at least a half hour from place to place and you’re generally surrounded by skyscrapers.  On this last trip, I’ve heard it seems the same problem like back in 2008, where contractors up and disappeared might be happening again. There is one hell of a lot of property in Dubai and I’m not sure there are enough people or businesses to fill up that space.  All of this growth also means it’s being built on cheap labour with dodgy labour practices.  It’s a shit show all the way through.

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.” – Edward Abbey


  1. The Desert – My cousin took me to the desert with a couple of friends, a place called “Maliha”. We stayed up till like 3.30am with a camp fire, talking and listening to music and drinking chai.  It was amazing.  The vastness of the desert and the stars makes it so much easier to take breath and introspect.  Think about Life and your place in it.  Answer all the big questions for yourself.  Making new friends in such an isolated place is also very easy.
  2. The Normal People – Away from the cars driving past willing you to look at them with your mouth open. There are normal, everyday people in Dubai just trying to live their lives and get by. But when you’re going there on holiday you don’t get to see it. It’s the guys who make karak chai on the corner, the local cafeteria’s making shawarma, the others getting by day to day in corporate jobs sending money back to families in other countries.  I was looking for a soul to Dubai, these people are it. They make Dubai what it is, both the extravagant and the quotidian.
  3. Family – This is specific to my time their recently where I got to spend time with my cousins who I’ve only seen off and on for short periods and over decades.  I’m also like 10 years older than all of them, so I got to really bond with them at an age where we’re more or less on the same level.  That and spending time with my aunt and getting involved with helping set up all the wedding bits ( as family does) was a really awesome experience.

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How To Live in Istanbul

Coming to Istanbul for a holiday is great. There’s so much to enjoy here. All the things to see, the history seeped into everything you look at. The interesting food you get to try out. The interesting culture you get to learn about.  There’s bad stuff too though, pickpockets, overzealous salesman, fake goods, nobody speaking english, etc.

But living here… is something different. Yeah, you get all the above but the volume gets turned down and it’s like looking behind a curtain.

The lack of English becomes a real problem and you can’t go on living by Google Translate and Charades for ever, so tip No. 1 is…  LEARN THE LANGUAGE. The simplest way is to use apps like Duolingo and Memrise. Also, the best Turkish/English dictionary app is called Sesli Sözlük. Google Translate is useful for quick things, but isn’t as accurate for the long term.  Admin is the hardest, trying to get anything done when someone doesn’t speak the same language as you (and they generally lose interest in you and shoo you away, literally) is the most infuriating thing ever.


Pickpockets are something to look out for at all the tourist spots, but when you’re an expat and venture further out, you still stand out and you still get targeted.  I’ve had friends and family experience theft of handbags, with wallets, passports, everything in posh, high end shopping malls like Zorlu, Mall of Istanbul, etc. with some very devious tricks. So Tip 2: Just be careful out there.

The food… is always fresh, but bland. The vegetables are amazing, I actually eat tomatoes raw here. Coming from a South African Indian background, the blandness is NOT a good thing. One week in and I was scouring the city for a good Indian restaurant… and there’s like 5. Not all that great though.  Okay, I’ve recently found one decent one, but I digress…You can survive with the food here, but you’re gonna need to find some home-made food at some point, so Tip 3: bring your own spices to cook your own or do a better job than me at shopping for what you need. But, since you are going to eat out at some point, get on YemekSepeti, it has an app too. You can use Chrome web browser, it automatically translates the site into English for ease of use.

Next, Getting around the place.  Public Transport is AMAZING here. Tip 4: Get an Istanbul Kart, it’s like an Oyster card in London, it’s cheaper than single tickets and works across busses, the metro and the ferries all over Istanbul. Next, Tip 5: Download Trafi, it’s an amazingly accurate public transport app which lets you know the fastest way to get where you need to go with Public transport. It’s like the Citymapper app in London and elsewhere, but specifically for Istanbul.


If you’re in a hurry and want to use a taxi cab, you can use the Bitaksi app, which you need to register with a Turkish mobile number. I would still recommend using Bitaksi anytime you require a taxi, simply becuase you’re far less likely to get ripped off. All details of the driver and their cars are stored in the app when they pick you up, plus they can get reviewed… and nobody wants a bad review because it means they will get less money.

UBER and CAREEM are also available. Pro-tip: Uber XL’s are the same price as taxi’s here… so you can luxuriously lounge in Mercedes Vito instead of a standard cab if you wish.  Just avoid Uber going to the airport, it’s apparently “banned” and there’s fines for the driver and the passenger if caught out… but it works everywhere else in Istanbul with no problem at all.  So Tip 6: Use Bitaksi, Uber and Careem whenever you can to have a more pleasant travel experience.


You could hire a car, but I don’t recommend that. Driving in Istanbul majorly stressful if only because the drivers work with a margin of error this big –> ||. So, unless you’re planning a road trip across all of Turkey (which I do HIGHLY recommend you do), just get taxis.

Making Friends… here’s a list of Facebook forums and groups you can join… Expats in Istanbul,  Istanbul Expat Centre, Foreign Women of Istanbul, Expat Events in Istanbul,   Istanbul Expats & Internationals Group, Expat @Savers and Cook’s Corner for Expats in Turkey. If you’re going to be doing the admin on your own, I recommend you make some Turkish friends fast that can help you out, otherwise it’s like navigating in the dark without a torch.

Lastly, if you need more than the tips above… My Merhaba.com, TimeOut Istanbul, yabangee.com,  The Guide Istanbul. I’m sure they’re more detailed for anything I’ve missed out like great places to eat, what’s hot and happening, etc. etc.

That’s about all you need to get started 🙂 Enjoy Istanbul… all things taken into account… it is a beautiful city.

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