So Koeksisters is back! Well I’m not sure if I will juggle two blogs very well but will try my best (Travelling Roystons is up and running while Husband and I travel the world).

What is it about a gorgeous, deluxe hotel? I can spend hours surfing the net ogling over OTT hotel rooms and intimidating lobbies, over cutting edge design and dream restaurants, over perfect locations and xtreme attention to detail with no immediate intention of ever staying at the lustworthy hotel in question. During the last 2 months in South America, Husband and I have stayed in our fair share of dubious places and a couple of days ago Hotel Garden sent me over the edge … I don’t expect a lot but we have managed to stay at some lovely budget places, e.g. Hostel Macondo in Cuenca, Ecuador, and Hostel Akari II in Cusco, Peru – places that are clean and comfortable, friendly and warm. Beds you look forward to climbing into at the the end of a long day. Hotel Garden was not – it was dirty and worn, tired and unappealing and brought to my mind imagined hourly rates. That’s when we realised we had strayed from our Flashpacker roots – hotels do matter to us and do affect our experiences. Who were we trying to kid? So our approach has changed, we are back on track and our level of discernment will not flag in the face of a budget, after all this is OUR dream trip so we should have sweet dreams (even if they’re not in the Gansevoort just yet).

P.S. Glad to report that we are now snugly tucked in at La Escondida, a charming B&B in Mendoza, Argentina!

American novelist Thomas Wolfe said “One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” It’s a welcoming thought but I didn’t feel I belonged from the moment I stepped off the plane. I felt overwhelmed. I felt excited. But I felt like a stranger in a city of strangers. The other school of thought says you have to earn your stripes as a New Yorker. Well, the 25th of this month marked, to the day, my arrival in New York two years ago. And I now feel I belong. This amazes me. I have been living in New York for two years!!! I had the dreams that many have of experiencing New York  but I never imagined it would be the city I would come to call my second home.

So I would like to make a toast, to the greatest city in the world:
Here’s to waking up one day and seeing the beauty in the city’s dirty streets
Here’s to once living in a room with one window, and to views of brick walls.
Here’s to thinking a studio the size of a walk-in closet is a great find.
Here’s to my five-floor walk-up.
Here’s to hailing down cabs in peak traffic. In the rain.
Here’s to cab ride stories. And to the enviable driving skills of the drivers.
Here’s to cheering with the audience at Bryant Park when New York is mentioned in a film.
Here’s to wearing black.
Here’s to knowing where to get the best cup of coffee.
Here’s to the best bagels in the world.
Here’s to Saturday brunch in the village. And runs along the Hudson. To late night dinners and later night parties.
Here’s to a city that never sleeps.
Here’s to the delicate intricacies of the different neighborhoods. To countless cities on one island. To discovering a different world on your doorstep each day.
Here’s to getting around without a map. To knowing which way is uptown. To understanding the subway.
Here’s to the one train. To the art of jaywalking. To waiting inches away from speeding traffic rather than waiting safely on the sidewalk to cross the street.
Here’s to New Yorkers. To those that make you laugh. And cry. To those that drive you insane. To those that make you know why you live here.
Here’s to my Mexican flower vendor, my Israeli grocer, my fellow South Africans, my Italian super, my Korean postman, my Japanese flatmate, my Canadian best friend and my American friends, my Chinese laundry guy, my favorite Croatian bartender, and my Indian newsstand man. To the strangers. And the people I’ve yet to meet.
Here’s to the firemen. And the gentlemen. And the whistles of the builders.
Here’s to fire escapes. And rooftops. And to Central Park.
Here’s to not noticing sirens anymore. To a silence that never is. To sweltering summers and subzero winters.
Here’s to extremes.
Here’s the changing colors of the Empire State Building at night. To the lights above the skyscrapers, the closest thing we have to stars. To infinite possibility.
Here’s to you, New York.

This is a true story. It happened (or is happening???) to some one you know. Yours truly.

Jamba Juice is a smoothie chain. My favourite drink is a medium carrot and oragnge juice. Yummo. Ok, so last week I go into Jamba and am told about a special offer- get a free smoothie if you buy a Jamba card for $25. The card works like a voucher so I thought why not… They don’t expire and I go there often enough. Going through the process, the machine (or whatever it is that activates these cards) refuses to work. So I said, don’t worry about it, I will just buy a single medium carrot and orange juice. The lady serving me felt so bad that the card didn’t work that she gave me the juice for free anyway!

A few days later I go back to the same branch and, recognizing me, the lady said the machine is now working and I can get the card. Great. Especially considering I had already had the free juice. But she gave me another free one anyway.

A day or two after that I pop into another Jamba branch (going through a carrot-orange obsession at the mo) and order a medium carrot and orange juice. They by mistake made a a large (which in American terms is HUGE), apologised and gave me the large at no extra cost.

The next time I go to Jamba, yet another branch, the exact same thing happens.

And wait, the story does not end there…

Yesterday I ran into Jamba before calss to get, yes, you guessed it, a medium carrot and orange juice. But alas, they had run out of carrots. The lady that was serving me (the original one) felt so bad that she gave me a voucher for a free smoothie next time I go in!

Here is a little poem for you. Someone gave it to me…

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

Oh, they do care.

Having interned as a trend spotter in New York for a season I am fully aware of the industry involved in searching out the coolest looks on the street to inspire next month’s look of the moment. I spent many a day on a street corner in Williamsburg or downtown Manhattan taking pics of the genius style found in this city. I still enjoy blogs like Facehunter and The Satorialist, and sites such as Refinery29 to see what’s happening in street fashion in New York and beyond.

So the other day when I came across Ugly Outfits New York, I have to admit (with a bit of guilt) that I had a little chuckle. This blog documents, in their words, “every wrong ensemble in New York City” with the aim to “school the fashion retarded” and eliminate all the uggs on the planet. Genuis I tell you- Until the day I see myself (God forbid) on their pages!!!

People say that you can wear what you like in New York City and no one cares. I agree you can wear what you like, but they certainly do care.

I returned to classes at Alliance today after our 3 week break which has resulted in me asking why can I not learn this french language? I am in the perfect situation to learn the language: full time language classes and living in the country, I have also taken the initiative of making my own flash cards, loading french language Cd’s onto my ipod and listening to it constantly. I even play a french radio in my room and have every single extra book “learn french in 15 minutes a day” and “how to pronounce french” “your french guide” “beginners guide to french” and yet i still feel hopeless. Perhaps I am not one for languages… I have been speaking (pretty much not stop) English for 21 and a half years and yet I still make the most basic English spelling mistakes, I did Zulu for the whole of primary school and I can not claim any proficiency in that language whatsoever… and  considering I did 12 years of Afrikaans at school and went to extra lessons for probably 11 of them, plus I went to an Afrikaans university and dated 3 Afrikaans boys (not at the same time) my Afrikaans is an embarrassment. What made me think that 6 months in Paris would make me speak French?

This whole weekend my human tried to encourage me to order for us in french or buy metro tickets in the language, the person serving us still looks at me blankly and then says “I speak the English” or when they don’t “speak the English” the human seems better at ordering or getting what we need than I am- he has been here 2 nights, I have been here 2 months!

When i returned to Alliance I knew I would be in level 3 and yet still not be able to ask for the menu, so, because of this, I decided I would demote myself to a lower level class. Well, thank heavens I did as I am still clueless, vocabless and tenseless! My new class is as interesting as the old ones- there are only 8 of us and as I am the “nouvelle fille” i know nobody’s names and they don’t know mine. And in case you were wondering, yes, the humiliation does continue. An Indian boy sat next to me, we had a interesting conversation about our likes and dislikes of food: he is vegetarian and I am a good old South African girl who can think of nothing better than a “bleu fillet” (the one thing I am able to order)! The teacher is entertaining if you find someone who answers your questions of “why?” with “because” entertaining. I say “pourquoi” and she replies “parce que”.

So why can I no speak French? My answer is “Parce que” (because). Will I ever be able to speak french? If it wasn’t for my handy dictionary my answer would probably still be “parce que” but rather it is “avec un peu de chance”!

Laundry day sucks no matter which city you live in. Today was my laundry day! Once moving into my tiny room, about a month ago, I was told (and I quote) that I “live in the wrong arrondissement for laundromats” which makes laundry day that much more of a mission. Little one doing her laundry is a massive process that starts with the need to build up the energy, once I feel that i have enough energy, I strip the bed and throw the sheets in my big, black (unfortunately not magical) bag. Today I notice that the bottom is the bed is falling off but I have chosen to ignore it until a human visits again to sort it out. I then collect all my dirty laundry _ and I must that by the time I feel the need to actually do laundry there is a lot of it. I put it all in the big, black bag. I sit and breathe, again gathering the energy to start the trek. I then pack another bag, this one filled with french homework, postcards (hence you always getting post 5 days after my laundry day) and my trashy novel. I then close my door and lock it, pick up the big black bag (now wishing it was magical) and make my way down the 6 flights of stairs, across the courtyard and around the block… NO the laundromat is not there. I then get onto the metro, go 2 stops and change metros (who has to change lines in order to do laundry!?) and go another 2 stops. I then reach the fanciest part of town and walk through this area dragging the big, black bag (which was bought on some dodgy street in Jozi) while the other people who wonder these streets are dressed in head-to-toe designer labels and have people to drag their Louis Vuittons for them! I walk 2 blocks and reach the laundry.

At this point (to give Paris and the laundry trip some credit) I must mention that the setting of the laundromat is as french as one could get. It over looks a quaint square which today happens to have a fresh produce market going on in it. There are gorgeous cafes and the laundromat has old fashion magazines for one to read.

The first time I did laundry here I collected my coins for about a week before, but I have since learnt there is a “change giving” machine. I throw my load in and get out one of my many choices of activities. Every now and then someone runs in from the market with a bunch of raw veggies in one hand and gets change from the machine, today someone ran in with a piece of raw salmon in one hand a 20euro note in the other!

I feel like I am a regular n the laundromat now, I have worked out how everything works and today felt so proud of myself when someone struggled to ask me in french if i could speak English and explain to them what to do. I think the pride came from two tings: firstly, that they thought that I was french and secondly that I knew how to use the machines and this middle aged couple didn’t. I also got some (sick) satisfaction of hearing them struggle with the french and then answering in perfect English, although at the same time I wanted to say “take me with you to your English speaking land or at least out for an English speaking meal” but I restrained myself and once helped them went back to my activity of the moment.

After laundry I rewarded myself with a “tarte de pomme” from my favourite cafe which happens to be right there. I am not sure that successful laundry deserves a reward but at least its a good excuse.