A Passion for Peace

Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.

"I had to go all over the world to collect your energy."

I suppose that's the hazard of global living: leaving piece of yourself wherever you land. That, weddings and other rites of passages of loved ones, and picking up interesting diseases. Ringworm (or some other fungal rash variation), now that's sexy. A red blotchy blow to the ego. (Which along with an unexpected haircut is on my list to embrace! embrace!)

Last Sunday was my only day off in a 3 week span. Plus, my workdays have been hovering around 14-hour zone; hence, the slow blogging. Two weeks ago we started a community food garden for our kids, with over 40 people pitching up to dig, hack, and generally get dirty. I was assigned to hands-in-dirt tasks the Zulu women didn't care for, and also because when I used the big tools they shook their heads and smiled and pointed to bigger ladies to do that job. That, and I screen-printed precisely a bazillion t-shirts to sell for Eco Saturday (and we sold, like, 10?). (Photo: busy digging holes for fruit trees!)

In an early celebration of Earth Day, last weekend we celebrated Eco Saturday. It was a well-attended (about 300 people) day of game drives, pita pockets (why are white people so much pickier about what goes in their pitas?), pony rides, Zulu dancing (from little kids in suits & white gloves to a professional troupe in traditional garb), face painting, a garden mural, and the general mayhem of a first-time event. I have never seen the employees work so hard, move so quickly, and smile so much. Some even thanked me for organizing it--after they'd worked their butts off for 8 hours straight! I think the staff were especially excited their families got to see where they work, and as a happy surprise, a bunch of my ladies showed up in traditional costume, adding even more color to a beautiful day. Looking at the rolls of resulting photos, I'm pleased to see people had so much fun. There's definitely room for improvement (one can never really advertise enough!), like making more money and having more learning activities for different ages. Overall, I'm pleased, for employee and community goodwill most of all. (Photo: learning to throw rubbish in the bin)

Between ladies telling me , "You came to Africa to work! You should stay!", community members smiling and waving as I drive by, a lady coming to say she wants to work with the kids (first time we have not actively recruited), and employees asking for additional conflict resolution reading, which I'm excitedly turning into a weekly course, I am overjoyed (and overwhelmed), to see such positive progress. Although all the work (and occasional loneliness of rural living) does get exhausting and I feel like I'm becoming uncentered. Giving to others and neglecting healthy selfishness takes a toll. So, the titular quote is from a bio energy healer I treated myself to yesterday. Warning: about to get metaphysical. (Photo: laughing on Eco Saturday--winter's a-comin!)

Massage/yoga/acupressure/tai chi/etc all unblock clogs in energy channels (think: those bioelectric energy fields viewed by medical machines/auras/prana/qi or whatever you want to call it). Most of us feel more open after massage/yoga/etc, and I had never felt something as strong as this bio energy healing. I literally felt energy coursing through me (a low-grade full body wave-orgasmic feeling, or a pleasant version of a limb falling asleep but waves of that energy pulsating through the body), from toe to head-top, and later felt toxic energy draining from my feet, followed by positive energy surging from my crown. I left feeling so revitalized and was sent with the message to "be aware of your expectations" (very apropos for overachiever me who even did some work for India amidst the recent craziness). Also had a vision/dream (of a skinny black man with braided hair holding 3 bundled babies onto a wooden plank like loaves of bread, and a hysterical lady crying and pleading for him not to take off their clothes, to which he turned his head away to ignore her), felt compelled to buckle my seat belt for the first time since I've been here (maybe this is part of taking care of myself, although on these roads being able to jump out more easily might arguably be safer), and as a reminder of my over-giving tendencies, still feel energy surging out of my third eye chakra (it's too open). (Photo: metaphysical VW in Pietermaritzburg)

She was the second to tell me my neck and head rash (ringworm? eczema? dry skin?) is related to thinking and not then speaking my piece. On that note, I've been reading about mind-healing ala the famous Louise Hay as well. Do I think one can control disease with the mind alone? Not really. Do I think negative thought patterns contribute to disease? Absolutely. (There's scientific data on that, and on the positive thought flip side, think of the placebo effect!) I'm working on banishing self- criticism and guilt (the other two big offenders are resentment and anger, which thankfully I'm light on). I find all of this metaphysical-ness extremely fascinating; apologies if it's not your cup of tea (mine, by the way, is herbal, sans sugar, sans milk). (Photo: second full double rainbow in a week outside the office)

P.S. Please, if I phone, don't worry what it costs. Besides food (which costs little fresh from the farm), it's my only personal expense (there are no tempting shops within 50 km). Talking to you is infinitely more valuable than buying some sweater or seeing a movie. Promise.

Posted byValerie at 2:40 PM 1 comments  

Less Traveled Roads

I’m starting to relish some country senses: the whispering swish swish swish of grass against my shins as my staccato steps scare away snakes, servils, tufted eagles and all other manner of grassland creatures astir. Despite my lingering fluishness, I can smell the menthol-like wild silvery bush plant the Zulu called imphepho. Likely the only Jew in at least a twenty-mile radius, for our farm Passover/Easter celebration I put together a seder plate and hid afikomen to explain the holiday to the kids. I spent the morning making my two favorite dishes from scratch: charoset and potato kugel (no Manishewitz mix out here!). Without a blender, I crushed the pecans with my fingers, feeling them crumble and oil in my hands (although I recommend a blender for those averse to blisters). I chopped green apples and fresh dates into fairy-sized bites, and drizzled and sprinkled the result with honey, wine, cinnamon, carob, and orange juice to glue the mortar-representation together. It took two hours to make a small number of human-sized bites, which I instructed everyone else to spread onto a matzo cracker for dessert. The kugel I had never made before, and I guessed at a recipe, combining mashed potatoes, eggs, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic. I plowed fork-tine lines across the top just like my grandmother does, set it in the oven on very low heat, and drove my coworker into town and back (aka 1 hour), and ran into the house, fingers crossed that the kugel hadn’t burned. It hadn’t. It was all very delicious. Even the picky six-year-old tasted a piece. (Photo: post-lunch stroll)

As for sense of sight, nothing compares to these African skies. At night, village lights twitter a weak reply to planets and stars swathed across the sky. City star-spotting (oh, look, there’s one!) gives way to true star-gazing, and sleeping a night on my veranda I surprisingly had to don my green Thai-warrior-inspired eye mask to blacken the bright glare of a mere half-moon. I wake and sleep with the sun, ayurveda-style: up by six, down by ten at the latest. When a long-tailed tufted mousebird slammed into my veranda wall, knocking himself on his back onto my porch, gasping for breath, I panicked. What could I do? He died in under a minute, and it ruined my afternoon. Yet how many pigeons have I seen run over in Bombay and walked past with a quick ‘oh, shame’ pout? Do “the little things” mean more in the country, or are they really “little” at all?

If you grow up out here, I don’t think it registers how beautiful it is. And in these small communities the little things mean a lot: rumors are the bane of my existence. A series of she said-she said-he said’s easily spins someone into a complete tizz. There’s no questioning: Is this rumor even plausible? Is this worth getting upset over? Can I talk to the earliest she in the string and see if it’s true and sort it out? Instead, the response is not just emotional immaturity but complete emotional incompetence. Think ostrich with head in sand, feet not planted into the ground but wildly kicking all around itself, til it falls over and starts watering its head-hole with hysterical tears. “I can’t work this way! I’m going to quit! These people are driving me crazy!” Enter Valerie: you don’t even know if any of that is true. Is this what you want to teach your children, that when something is hard, you run away? Even if you quit your job, you’ll still see all these people in the community (small town reality). And practically, you need the income and you can’t afford to pay us back for what we’ve invested in your training, which your contract says you owe us if you quit too soon. We must trust and believe the good in each other, or we’ll never get anything done. We’re all here working for the children. Yes, there are jealousies and problems, sure. We can only sort them out when we communicate and collaborate…etc. In addition to conflict resolution, I may need to put together decision-making workshops as well. (Photo: Northern Drackensbergs)


Why is it so hard to assume the good and so easy to focus on the negative? Feeling like a fluey mass of throbs, aches and phlegm last week I was having trouble getting motivated one morning and a friend said, “Really? You do such good work.” Sometimes a positive kick in the schlumpy-stained-and-slightly-torn-shouldn’t-be-worn-outside-the-house-but-somehow-it’s-okay-cause-you’re-sick skirt is just what one needs. That, and a lot of rest. Plus, a mini weekend trip to Lesotho can only help! It costs $1 to bring a vehicle into Lesotho. There are no visa fees. There are also no trees, as the entire country is above 1400 m (4593 ft), and 80% above 1800 m (5906 ft), and thus is home to the highest low in the world. Before the recent discovery of diamonds, Lesotho’s largest export was water, to South Africa. About 40% of the people live below the poverty line, and the few I saw were tall, thin shepherds wrapped sherpa-like in blankets. The round-ovals were made of rocks instead of South African clay, and when it’s not rainy and misty and chilly (which at that altitude is quite often), the Bastho people have quite epic views. Which probably does little to compensate for very, very rough roads (literally and figuratively) and hard lives. (Photo: View of our switchbacked road into Lesotho)

Speaking of roads, I thought I’d round out this rambling post with a couple more pictures of some roads I’ve been on recently, from a post-Easter meal walk to cosmos-lined glory. And a warm thanks to my parents for the loveliest of sweet-n-short visits. (Photo: cows block the road, and a cosmos-lined street near my house)

Posted byValerie at 3:03 PM 0 comments