The Storyteller Heading

Just Knock on the Tree

The Odyssey of the Coddiwompling Tortoise – Rozinante – and The Storyteller

(Coddiwomple: to travel in a purposeful manner toward a vague destination.)

An African Farm, an unusual shop and a Buddhist retreat with not a Buddhist anywhere in sight

When a farm works for the community and German teenagers learn about life at grassroots level, it expands my understanding of Marico people.

Jolene searches for lemon trees in the nursery. Image Judy Barnes.

For some inexplicable reason I still could not tear myself away from the Marico. Walking down the main road one day, I heard a voice call out … “Are you still here?! Most journalists spend two or three days and they’re gone.” (Maybe they hadn’t been touched by the Marico magic?) Of course, as a freelancer, my time was my own. I didn’t have pressing deadlines. It was Jolene and I had just visited her store, Many Hands, where Johanna Kotsedi, Darika Tshidi and Winnie Moatlhodi were knitting and sewing to produce those shoulder bags, I mentioned before and other products.

Jolene makes orange juice on the patio. Image Judy Barnes.

Hooking her arm through mine, Jolene steered me towards her car. “You haven’t seen my farm yet. Come on.”

Apart from Jolene’s absolutely enchanting farm — think dogs, cats, chickens and ducks, it was a genuine African experience of thatched accommodation, fireplaces and a polished, wooden staircase in the main house with a fluffy blanket hanging over it. It screamed for a visitor to relax, unwind and just enjoy a drink with a good conversation, which is exactly what we did. Interesting paintings adorned the house while many beaded animals peeked out from the myriad nooks and crannies on the patio. I sensed an artistic presence and even though he was away, it turned out Jolene’s husband, Louis, better known as Thabo, is an art teacher.

Jolene’s staff pack seeds for township families to grow their own food. Image Judy Barnes.

Marico people never seem to sit still. There are always projects on the go. When I visited the farm, we first stopped into a nursery where lemon trees were acquired and vegetable seeds were packaged for those in need, encouraging them to grow their own food. Johanna, Danika and Winnie pack the seeds for each household where people can start their own gardens.

The students love cosy evenings around the boma fire among the thatched buildings. Image Judy Barnes.

Jolene even invites German teenage volunteers to spend a year with her and Thabo – to experience her African-themed accommodation, with the domestic menagerie et al, to learn ‘how the other half lives’. The stark difference between Germany – a first-world country and a farm in South Africa is enchanting to them. They are expected to muck in and help with assisting the community, which, of course, is a great education – and, naturally, they each get to use one of those bicycles during their stay. If they can’t ride, they soon learn. By year end, many of them are in tears as they don’t wish to return home. The magic of Africa and the stark reality of how the less privileged live has captured their hearts. They helped. They made a difference.

Zelda, outside the very unusual shop with a little bit of whatever takes your fancy. Image Judy Barnes.

Zelda and Jen run the #14 Downtown Marico store. Jen said, “the town either makes or breaks you”. Zelda agrees, declaring, in Groot Marico you either “break through or breakdown”. Zelda promotes her Marico Mineral Mayhem products while Jen also teaches yoga and gives Swedish Massages – she hastens to add, “with no happy endings”. They serve weekend breakfasts plus delicious cheesecake and coffee and are planning evenings to show unusual films in their shop. Innovative thinking is always just below the surface.

The Buddhist Retreat – but not a Buddhist in sight. Image Judy Barnes.

Not too far from town is a Buddhist retreat, set among tangled bushes and trees and offering utter tranquility. That strange energy of the Marico is prevalent here too. The sculptor, Johann Moolman agrees with this so-called ‘energy’ and informs me that Buddhists always build their retreats on ley lines. If you research ley lines on Wikipedia, there’s a pretty extensive explanation. Not everyone believes in them though. I can only tell you that I felt the energy in this area immediately, whatever the reason for it.

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Hi, I’m Judy

My maiden name was Hawkins and perhaps that explains why I love travelling. Sir John Hawkins, who sailed for Queen Elizabeth I, was supposed to be related to me. Possibly, that may only be a fanciful notion on the part of my late father and in any case, I can’t be overly proud of the fact. Hawkins was responsible for discovering the use of tobacco by the Native Americans, returning to England with it and the process of smoking in 1565. Not to mention the dreadful fact that he was also a slave trader.

Perhaps none of us knows a lot about our ancestors. I grew up in the days when a person’s personal business was just that – personal. I like it that way but in this Blog you can peek around the edges of my life. I am a non-smoker and only raise a glass of champagne on special occasions. Otherwise … well, I’d like to think you’ll find me interesting.

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