South African Seasons: A map of South Africa

One of the strangest aspects of our global life, is that of time and place. The time zone of each country, and in some cases, the same country, where they have more than one time zone, sees us doing the same or similar activities at different times of the year.

With regards to time, for example, as part of my professional development, I attend a monthly webinar out of London. Their presentation time is usually 4 00pm United Kingdom time, which translates to about 11 pm Beijing time, the time zone I’m in. I frequently stay up late to attend, but have missed a few due to the late hour. What is so interesting about the webinar is that at the beginning everyone says hi and introduces their country – Brazil, Uruguay, the USA, the Middle East, North Africa, India, South East Asia and New Zealand. The narrator greets all with: “Good morning, good afternoon and good evening,” all at the same time.

Springbok in the dry winter veld, South Africa

Bloemfontein is famous for its winter Bloem Show

A similar aspect is the northern and southern hemispheres of our world. While China is having winter in the north, South Africa is enjoying their summer and vice versa. As such, July in South Africa is the cold month of the year, particularly in Bloemfontein where my husband and I lived for a few years before coming to China. Bloemfontein is famous for its winter Bloem Show, an agricultural event to market farm products and produce to farmers and the public, as well as to advertise game ranging and hunting. There are all sorts of stalls with good food, arts and crafts, woodwork, jewelry making and home-made items. My husband has a favourite snack, spiced minced lamb’s liver wrapped in sheep fat and grilled to perfection. These are commonly known as skilpadjies. My weakness is grilled halloumi cheese sticks, made from goat or sheep milk, and of course the ever present koeksusters in sticky syrup as well as cinnamon pancakes.

Vegetables always taste better when grown yourself.

Food is a wonderful antidote against cold weather. Stews with bread and dumplings, hot home-made vegetable soup and the best of all, oven baked desserts served with cream or hot custard. Generally, we all put on a few extra kgs during winter and we always get to work them off over summer, ha, ha. Another food tradition is roasts, roast meat, roast potatoes, rice, rich gravy, which all add to the wonderful feasts of winter. Vegetables always taste better when grown yourself, in my humble opinion. Especially garlic and onions to keep away germs. And when it comes to having something to drink with all these meals, not much beats hot chocolate with marshmallows and seductive Glühwein or Old Brown Sherry on cold nights.

On the beach at Hondeklip Baai, West Coast near Springbok, South Africa

My winter wardrobe is a comforting feature

We have moved home many times and in one of our homes in Kempton Park we had a fireplace. At the time my husband was working part-time as a tree feller and so we had a constant supply of fresh wood for the fireplace. Every evening, he would bring in a few logs and place them on the edge of the fireplace so that they could be added when needed. We often ate our baked dessert in front of the fire. Nothing is more romantic that eating dessert in front of the fire.

There are other comforting features about winter, clothing is one of them. Soft and warm, noisy windbreakers, polar neck shirts, waistcoats and boots. I love my winter wardrobe, with earth tones of brown and orange, yellows and reds. And where you live in the country also determines how thick or thin your winter wardrobe is. In Durban you need a cardigan and raincoat, on the Reef you need much thicker clothes and on the West coast you need even more. I bought a raincoat in Springbok that is like a sleeping bag and zips from head to toe. When we went to Clarens one year, I bought a traditional Lesotho blanket to keep warm and in China I bought snow boots and fleece lined pants and shirts.

I painted flowers on my cheeks and made my lips rosy

The first of September is the first day of spring in South Africa. It is often one of the coldest days but at least you know summer is on the way. On this day I like to dress in bright colours to welcome in the spring season. One year I painted flowers on my cheeks and made my lips rosy with make-up, and went to work singing like a lark. Everyone laughed and had fun. Spring in the northern hemisphere is very different. It is not designated to one day but falls at any time within the lunar calendar, usually around March. In the north of China the weather stays cold right through to May, and the underfloor heating has been turned off. Underfloor heating is really a luxury and I plan to install when I finally get back to South Africa. In the south of China, where we live now, spring brings the rain. April and May are known for their high rainfall and even further south, there are tropical storms and floods.

Winter in Wendeng, China by Peter Weddell

As South Africa is heading into summer, China is heading back into winter. So, if you are taking a flight from one of these countries to the other, remember to pack for the opposite season as well as for the return season for your flight back. Happy travelling.

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LeeAnne Waddell, a South African mom and grandmother who moved to live and work in China in 2017.

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