Category Archives: Birth Place

Wanderings Day 30

We have arrived at the last day of this challenge to self – wander travel memory lane all through April 2020. A way of travelling virtually while in my lockdown bubble. Dreams of travelling again when this too has passed. An exercise in gratitude for all I have been given in this life already.

Going to finish with Kruger memories part two.

No more stories…. Just some Johnny Clegg wisdom… from the Johnny Clegg & Savuka song Great Heart

There’s a highway of stars across the heavens
There’s a whispering song of the wind in the grass
There’s the rolling thunder across the savanna
A hope and dream at the edge of the sky
And your life is a story like the wind
Your life is a story like the wind
I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart
To hold and stand me by
I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart
Under African sky

Guka ‘mzimba (body grow old)

Sala ‘nhliziyo (but heart remain behind)

Wanderings Day 29

Only two more posts to go for this virtual wander down my travel memory lane.

Two days of Kruger National Park memories… this is part one.

I was just looking down the list of rest camps in Kruger. It turns out over the many adventures there since childhood I have stayed at all but two.

My favourite area to wander would be from Satara northwards.

Pafuri is particularly magical with all those fever trees and glimpses of nyala in the shadows by the Luvuvhu River. That brings to mind the Nyala Walking Trail – sublime!

Actually any of Kruger’s walking trails are a fabulous experience. Lucky enough to have walked a few of these over the years too.

Kruger visits were so formative for me. I learned so much about ecology and how ecosystems work simply from soaking up all the info I could get my hands on. Here is where I fell in love with birds and took up birding under my wonderful Dad’s guidance.

Kruger has a distinct spirit of place. The air crackles with its magic as you arrive at the gate (any of the gates). I thought this might change over the years, grow dim somehow as I aged. But no. I got to visit again last year briefly and the magic is still there.

Now I probably need to say at this point that I am fully aware of Kruger’s history. Not all decisions made in regard to its management both for wildlife and for the surrounding communities have been sound or just over the years.

All I want to focus on right at this moment in time is the gratitude I feel for having had so many opportunities to pass through Kruger’s gates and get swallowed up in that bushveld magic.

Wanderings Day 26

Botswana Part 1:

So I got to call beautiful Botswana home for a few years. In particular, Maun and the heart of the Okavango Delta.

This isn’t just a travel memory. These next 3 days of virtual wandering are about highlighting moments in a chapter of my journey. A chapter that has shaped me profoundly.

Most of these “shaping” moments involve magical wildlife encounters. But this is also about people. People I still miss every day.

These “shaping” moments are bitter sweet. They are about love and they are about loss. A chapter of my life truly lived.

To me Botswana has a deep beauty. A rawness to her purity. A pure wild heart. I have never felt more myself anywhere, ever so at home. Here my soul sings.

My time in Botswana taught me this (even though I didn’t have these words then):

Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility

Susan David PhD, author of Emotional Agility

Wanderings Day 7

So we are back on the Panorama Route headed towards one of my most favourite places on earth.

Many happy childhood memories spent driving this route.  Our end destination today, Hoedspruit, holds a particularly special place in my heart. 

Wind your way along the R532 which hugs the edge of the escarpment.  Definitely a stop at the Three Rondavels lookout for photos of these iconic mountains and into the Blyde River Canyon below.  Mariepskop in the distance. 

The Three Rondavels with Mariepskop in the distance
Blyde River Canyon

The R532 meets up with the R36 at the Abel Erasmus Pass.  This pass takes you through the last of the mountains past interesting vegetation and rock formations.  As you are nearing the J G Strydom tunnel there’s a pretty waterfall if you know where to look amongst the cliffs.  Peregrine Falcon breeding spot apparently? 

The other side of the tunnel you will start a sharp descent into the lowveld of the Limpopo Province, the Olifants River to your left.  You gain a different perspective of those same mountains and cliffs of the escarpment from below. 

Another view of Mariepskop
Unique Kadishi Tufa Waterfall which you can see from a Blyde Dam boat cruise
Leaving Hoedspruit looking back at the mountains of the escarpment

Drive past the game farms and citrus orchards until you get to Hoedspruit.  So much to see and do in this area.  I highly recommend staying for a while. 

One particular recommendation is a tour around the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre…. And yes, that is a pic of the famous Stoffel, the honey badger Houdini.

Ritual, Food and Living Sustainably

As part of my journey with Dr Tererai Trent’s book – The Awakened Woman – I have been reflecting a lot about the place of ritual in daily life.

Dr Tererai Trent’s book with the companion journal from the Kikki K collection

She talks of the importance of ritual in helping her on the path towards her sacred dreams.  In the companion journal I am working through there is a section titled “grow your soul through ritual”.    She writes about the richness of her culture in the part of rural Zimbabwe where she was born. There is such beauty in the connection of her people with natural world and the rituals that result.  It is an inspiring read.

Dr Trent is not the first woman I have come across who speaks of the essential place of ritual in her life.

One of the prompts in the Awakened Woman journal was to list any rituals you practise already.  At first it was difficult to think of any rituals in my own life.  Looking to the past, my ancestry, the idea of a rich cultural history is fraught.  My ancestors come from a group of people who’s past actions and values I would prefer to distance myself from in many ways. 

Then I started thinking closer to home, to my family and my childhood.  I was lucky enough to grow up with my great grandparents and grandparents on both sides.  Family tradition in abundance.  As I began to list our family traditions a realisation occurred – it was me who turned many of these traditions into ritual.  Especially at this time of the year as we head towards the festive season I have become the keeper of my family’s rituals.  So without consciously thinking about this before, ritual has played an important place in my wellbeing – in feeling connected with the spirit of the past and in rooting deeply in the present to grow into the future.

There is another quote from the Awakened Woman journal I like,

“Rituals are the actions we can take to help us walk the path to our dreams.  They connect us to a more authentic version of ourselves, allow us to pause and focus on what’s important and strengthen our beliefs”.

So what can ritual look like?  I think it can be any action sacred to you, that you deliberately and thoughtfully repeat.  I believe ritual becomes a very personal thing.  I have rituals around prayer, meditation and a mindfulness practice… oooh and time on my Shakti mat!  Finding time for stillness in the day to day busyness of life has become essential for me.  Particularly as I currently live and work in a busy city – an environment that drains my energy.

The next prompt was to consider how the rituals you practise help move you closer to your dreams.  Definitely a concept I had never considered!

One of my dreams goes around treading lightly and respectfully on the Earth.  And so I got to thinking about whether ritual plays a part in my attempt at living sustainably.  And upon reflection it does.

My family has a lot of ritual around food.  We use food and precious family recipes as a way to commemorate family occasions, mark anniversaries and the passing of seasons.  As immigrants our food rituals connect us to a spirit of place and time as well. 

And what I now realise is that I have come to think of food and food preparation as a way to honour what Mother Earth provides – there is ritual in that.  I still choose to eat meat – not in large quantity and only if I know where and how it was produced.  I focus on what’s seasonal and grown locally.  In a country like New Zealand I am extremely lucky to easily know where and how meat, eggs, milk, butter, fresh fruit and veg are produced and make my consumer choices accordingly.  While cooking and preparing meals, I have now added in quirky little prayers of thanks to living things, plants and animals, that have given their energy to allow me mine.  A weird ritual perhaps but one that has given me “pause and focus on what’s important and strengthening my beliefs”.

All this has made me ponder the food thing when travelling.  How can you be comfortable without really knowing where the produce is coming from or how it was produced?  I then remembered my time as F&B manager at an ecolodge in the Okavango Delta.  The thought that went into sourcing food to provide a 4 star offering in a very remote location.  We did source locally as much as possible.  We did create menus based on seasonal availability.  So the food side of things became as considered in the journey towards a sustainable organisation as the energy use, green building materials or waste minimisation strategies.

Above are some images from my time in Okavango…. best office in the world!

So even on safari in really out of the way places, treading lightly and living sustainably is possible.  I take comfort in the knowledge that in their own way many eco-conscious tourism operations in Africa today do incorporate ritual.  Ritual that makes them respectful of the wildlife and wild space in which they operate. Ritual that makes them sensitive to the communities they impact and include in their conservation intention. Ritual that ensures their guests are supported to also tread as lightly as possible in their journey of exploration.

I am thinking again of kinds of organisations like Asilia Africa and Yellow Zebra Safaris… which I linked to in my previous post as well.

To Sustainability and Beyond!

On Friday 27 September 2019 I had the opportunity to participate in the Schools Strike 4 Climate Change in Auckland, New Zealand. As a conservation educator it was a thrilling moment to be able to march alongside my colleagues and the youth of the world as we speak up to secure our World’s future.  To continue to walk my talk of many years.

Image from Bitmoji App

Now not everyone agrees with Greta Thunberg’s or Severn Suzuki’s type of action.  But this is just one approach that supports countless others as we each work or fight for change in our own way.  The future of our planet really does rely on every individual, mindful action as well as policy change at the highest levels of government.

I was sixteen years old when 12-year-old Severn Suzuki gave her moving call to action at the UN Earth Summit in Rio 1992.  The South Africa I grew up in was only just emerging from the evil, tragic grip of apartheid.  Rio’s Earth Summit certainly did not play out widely in my troubled environment.  I didn’t even hear about Severn and the Rio Summit at the time.  I only got to hear about her and the Earth Charter at university a few years later while completing a degree in Environmental Science.

There was no such thing as recycling of rubbish while I was growing up.  But I did have an inspiring Geography teacher who talked about CFCs and the hole in the ozone layer, rising sea levels and global warming.

An immense amount of Good Work has been done since then.  Voices for action can derive hope from that, I think.  I know I do.

My personal journey with Sustainability started as a child, privileged to be surrounded by the magic of prolific wildlife.  Though back then I would not have described my passion as ‘in aid of Sustainability’. 

Wildlife conservation is my original passion.  For me, the heart of my desire to make a difference in the World has always been derived from my intense love of all things wild in Africa – wild, pure, open spaces and all the marvellous creatures that are so precious, deserving of their right to life and their perfect role in a thriving ecosystem – simply because they are, like I am! 

As I hit my tweens, I started to realise that the human world I had been born into was messy.    I became aware of the concept of Ubuntu.  In light of this ancient truth I could see that South Africa was in a dark place.  I am because we are – for me “we” is all aspects of Mama Africa, and by extension, Mother Earth.

The ‘wildlife’ concept of conservation had to be expanded to include human communities.  Some decades later I guess we would now refer to this more holistic approach as ‘Social Sustainability’.

My degree focused on Environmental Science and Conservation Biology.  I began to understand sustainability – the complexity of unsustainable human practices that focus on technological advancement, convenience and to some degree simply because we can…. pushing the human brain to its creative limits.  This level of advancement and focus on economics, profits and convenience is energy-intensive, to say the least, and the highest cost has been to Mother Earth.

Even to people whose compassion doesn’t extend beyond their own family it must be becoming alarmingly obvious that the outcomes of unsustainable practices, particularly since the start of the Industrial Revolution, will affect their future – health, ability to generate wealth, perhaps even their whole way of life.

You would think that I would be a sustainable living Champion, with all the information I have gleaned in my education and in the course of my professional life as an environmental scientist and conservation educator!  But it has been a journey of years to put  the picture puzzle pieces together and genuinely start living sustainably.

To be honest, my practical buy-in started really simply with the 3RsReduce, Reuse, Recycle.  What’s possible in terms of recycling looks different in diverse parts of the world, depending on infrastructure and resourcing.  It varies greatly between urban and rural areas in New Zealand, where I am currently living.  And it will continue to change over time, hopefully rapidly and for the better.  Even just getting the 3Rs right can be confusing, frustrating and certainly inconvenient, depending where you live.

Image from Bitmoji App

So here’s what I’ve learned … being mindful of how I tread on this planet, and making environmentally conscious decisions, has to supersede convenience.  I recognise that it is not my right to live conveniently at the cost of All around me.

These days I work with the 7Rs in mind – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rehome, Replant, Rot.  Here is an image of what that looks like, taken from ubuntunomad.com.

The 7Rs of waste-free living – ubuntunomad.com

I also like this image (below), with RETHINK at the centre, taken from a Google image search – Be mindful of your consumption, your relationship with “things” and your relationship with the Earth.

Google image search – difficult to trace the source of this image.

From a place of Rethink anything is possible.  This is motivation to mindfully, actively, continuously pursue the 7Rs strategy.  For example, we can find out about composting in our area.  For me a recent delightful discovery has been that my hair salon belongs to the Sustainable Salons initiative – I’m very happy to support ingenious organisations like this. 

There are so many amazing examples like this now.  Yes, it does take a little extra time and energy to do the research, but I believe it is worth it in the long run. Spending money with local businesses that have sound sustainability initiatives is a simple and practical contribution everyone can make.  I have found social media to be an invaluable tool in connecting with environmentally conscious groups and organisations I can support.

So that’s it in the daily micro-moments of my life. Turning off lights and electronics on standby, separating out the soft plastics for recycling, refusing disposable cups or straws or single use plastic bags, thinking about water use and saving where I can, being a mindful consumer as much as possible for everything from clothing to cosmetics, being aware of the palm oil predicament and only purchasing products containing certified sustainable palm oil.

The list goes on and I will make it longer as I learn to tread as lightly as I can.  I have to believe that each of our small mindful actions will make the necessary difference in the end.

In my bigger picture, I try to make my mark by taking my conservation education career very seriously – and I never forget about the beleaguered African wildlife that planted this seed in me that lead to greater knowledge of the plight of life everywhere . 

This year my focus has been to look at conservation and sustainability when travelling, which is another great love of mine.

I spent a number of years working in high end ecotourism lodges in Botswana.  Such an incredible time in my life!  What particularly stands out for me is the environmentally sensitive architecture used to construct these lodges –  the temporary footprint they are able to create, completely off the grid and very sustainable.  If this can be achieved in extremely isolated areas of the Okavango Delta, I think there is little excuse for organisations based in areas of the world which are better resourced!

I finally managed to get back to Mama Africa this year.  Previous blog posts cover this absolutely amazing Journey with Purpose.  I chose that particular trip because it ticked so many of the environmental and social sustainability boxes that I am trying to be mindful of in my travel choices.

On my bucket list, since always, is to visit East Africa, the birthplace of safari, so I constantly search in hopes that a perfect option and opportunity will arise.  I am looking for tourism organisations that focus on wildlife conservation, community conservation and sustainable practices in their delivery to guests.  My experience in Botswana tells me exactly what to look out for.

I have been following Asilia Africa on Instagram for a while now, and I find their authentic community conservation initiatives utterly inspiring.  Of course, their tourism offering looks stunning, too!  And Yellow Zebra Safaris appears to be a good bet to organise a truly caring, conservation-conscious safari in Kenya!  Their concern for solo travellers backs that up.

And so my journey dreams continue … next on my agenda is how to tackle the carbon footprint of air travel, especially from this part of the world?  For such a vast distance,  I’ll have to look further than contributing to the planting of thousands of trees.

I will finish off this rather long post with a thought-provoking excerpt from The Infinite Game – How to Live Well Together by Niki Harré:

“Well, changing the behaviour of other adults has always seemed to me both patronising and misguided. What we need, if we are going to promote human and ecological flourishing, is people working together on creative solutions, not experts training others like circus animals. The enormous beauty and power of our species lies in our capacity for collective innovation. It is an endless, uncertain task, improving this world of ours and trying to do so with love and joy. It takes both big, powerful players and small, discrete players each working within their sphere of influence – experimenting, adapting, and negotiating new practices; and the policies, laws and technological innovations that help hold these practices in place. We need to ignite that creative capacity in each other – not smother it with assumptions that ‘we’ (whoever ‘we’ may be) know best.”

Image by Bitmoji App

 

Dreaming

I am so excited to work through Dr Tererai Trent’s wonderful book, The Awakened Woman, a second time.

I first heard Dr Tererai speak on a podcast with Kikki K founder, Kristina Karlsson.  I loved listening to her delightful accent and the rhythm of her voice sent me right back to childhood and growing up in Southern Africa.  Listening to her read her story as an audiobook was a revelation.  Dr Tererai is a poet and wordsmith, the way she uses the English language is beautifully lyrical.

In The Awakened Women she shares her incredible story of dreams come true.  Using her experiences and insight to provide a guide for others which is so profound and yet so accessible.

So I now have the print version of the book along with the gorgeous journal that goes with it from Kikki K.  I have reread Chapter 1 and am now putting pen to paper in the matching chapter in the The Awakened Woman Journal… what dreams may come…

While I’m here I thought I would mention how very inspiring I found Kristina Karlsson’s book – Your Dream Life Starts Here

Ooh, also Melinda Gate’s book – The Moment of Lift – this is definitely worth a read!

Hey World!  How lucky are we to have these strong, empowered, beautiful women’s voices who grace us with their hard won wisdom!  They are so open and honest with their ordinary struggles, just like you and just like me.  They give me hope and I take comfort in that as I walk my own path.

The Extraordinary Voices of Ordinary Women

In 2007 I spent a year in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as a SANParks People and Conservation volunteer intern based at Twee Riveiren.

It’s difficult to put the isolation of this spectacular place in words but the experience of living in the Kalahari has been one of the most profound of my life.  My time in the Kalahari inspired the name of this blog – Pure Spaces.  Spaces/places have such significance for me.  The way they make me feel, the energy they give affects me emotionally and often spiritually. The space that is the Kalahari would definitely fall in the spiritual category.  And my name means “pure”.  So there you go…

What you quickly learn in a place like this is how important your small community is, you rely on each other for support, for companionship.  You have to get along because you don’t have a choice.  In my case the small community within the slightly bigger Park community were the residents of Blikkiesdorp (Tin Can Town).  Our lodgings being converted shipping containers.  Let’s pause for a moment to let that fact settle – a shipping container room in the Kalahari Desert!

So Blikkiesdorp, our little area of the staff accommodation of Twee Rivieren rest camp, was home to me, the intern, and two students studying Nature Conservation from Tshwane University.  Occasionally the field guides would visit for a braai.  But mostly it was just the three of us.  A resident cheetah researcher and his wife adopted me as did the border policeman and his wife which meant a welcome break from Blikkies for a yummy meal or even the luxury of watching a little television.

Don’t get me wrong though, I grew very fond of Blikkies as the year progressed and it brought out some very creative “decorating” in me.

Here is where I need to introduce Kerryn, one of those students I mentioned earlier.  A petite, feisty girl absolutely passionate about wildlife conservation.  Kerryn and I clicked almost immediately.  I say almost because she admits based on meeting my predecessor, she was determined NOT to like me.  But it seems our common love of the band Smashing Pumpkins broke the ice!  There is a good 10 year age gap between us, but I quickly began to admire her, particularly her determination to succeed in a (still to this day sadly) male dominated field of work.  I am thrilled to say that we remain very close friends today even with the many miles that separate us.

It started with Kerryn, this kernel of an idea.  By the time I had spent time getting to know Margie, the researcher’s wife, and Isabel, the policeman’s wife, as well women of the Khomani San community, I was overwhelmed by these extraordinary women I was meeting and the stories I was hearing.  None of them would describe themselves as extraordinary.  Most of their “voices” weren’t the voices of activists or feminists.  They were just ordinary women blooming where they were planted – creating, nurturing, learning, growing, caring, loving in that very unique way women do.

I have to share these “voices”, I thought.  Their stories deserve a place in the sun.  So here I am all these years later beginning this journey… I finally seem to have found my courage, to have found my voice.  This is the introduction to what I hope will be a series of posts over the coming months – the extraordinary voices of ordinary women.

Journey with Purpose: The Bigger Picture

What is the significance of finding your tribe?  You are in your element, time stands still leaving your open heart to soak up all you are experiencing, really seeing the people in front of you and really hearing their stories.  There might be no other purpose to this than for those people to be seen, to be heard.  But it could be that in this flow you are being given access to knowledge and understanding which moves you forward on your path.  For me those 14 days on our Journey with Purpose was the latter.  I feel compelled by all I have seen and heard to champion these stories, to spread the word about the incredible work of these passionate individuals working for wildlife and community.

Now I love nothing better than seeing the “bigger picture” and some of you reading will know how I love a good map!  And I didn’t see this straight away as we progressed through our itinerary, but I think I see it now…. What connects all our conservation and community stories from this expedition together is the increasing collaboration and building towards recognising the increasing value of Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs).

The Dream! Map source: https://www.peaceparks.org/about/the-dream/

Here is where I mention the Peace Parks Foundation.  Their single purpose is “to restore a tomorrow for life on Earth”.  Their dream – “to reconnect Africa’s wild spaces to create a future for man in harmony with nature.”  What does that look like in action?  Helping, guiding, supporting, facilitating TFCAs.  Creating a hub for a conservation collective in a particular region.  This hub transcends national borders and helps take these seemingly small, individual actions and bringing them together – the dragonfly effect

Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith are a husband and wife team who have applied what they term the dragonfly effect to using social media to affect social change.  Their book – The Dragonfly Effect: quick, effective and powerful ways to use social media to drive social change –  is an interesting read.  They talk about the dragonfly being the only insect to move deftly in any direction when all four wings work in unison.  This effect is similar to the ripple effect and is used in sociology, psychology and economic circles to show how small actions can create significant change.  While their focus is the use of social media, I think the effect applies to the situation I am describing here.

Greater Limpopo TFCA. Map source: https://www.peaceparks.org/tfcas/great-limpopo/

Our JWP01 South expedition took us into two significant TFCA areas – the Greater Limpopo TFCA and the Lubombo TFCA.  The people we got to meet and spend time with, the projects we got a little glimpse of on our journey were some of these small pieces working to their strengths and their passions.  Placed in the bigger picture of the TFCA landscape there is more than a little hope of significant, lasting change both for wildlife and wild spaces as well as the human communities coexisting here.

Lubombo TFCA. Map source: https://www.peaceparks.org/tfcas/lubombo/

For me this sort of hope is especially inspiring as I am on my own journey where I am currently planted to demonstrate how this dragonfly effect can work for conservation and community upliftment anywhere in the world.