Mid-winter. The sun makes its way over the horizon here on the main site at 7.10 am, lighting up a sparkling frosty scene. From my top stoep I look down on the frozen bird bath and see frustrated birds arriving to skate and peck away at hard water until I make it down there to empty my still warm ‘hottie’ to thaw the water for them.
This time of year has a certain beauty with its freezing nights when the best thing to do is put on layers upon layers, light the wood burner stove, and tuck in. These are followed by lovely hot days with clear blue skies, with cold creeping in as evening arrives. Layers of clothing on and off!
No retreats are held during June so we can have time off to recharge our personal batteries, and to catch up on endless upkeep within our financial and manpower means.
My, and much of Coen’s energy (with Megan hugely supportive in the background) has been focused on the building of my retirement home, which is now really beginning to feel like a possible future home as the roof beams go on.
The crèche is slowly shrinking as more people move out of the area, but continues to function with about 7 – 9 children attending daily, supervised by Rebecca and Maria. Birthdays are the highlights for the children when chocolate cake and balloons appear, most balloons bursting within the first 10 minutes of being handed out.
The slow relocation of the Modibate community (‘Die Stadt’) has also taken up a lot of time and resources. There is a definite feeling of the community slowly breaking apart as some of the key people move away. It is very much a case of one foot in and one foot out as many seem to want to hang on here even when they are spending most of their time away. Breaking up a community is no easy process, and is closely watched by the politically minded. During this time of racial tension around white owned farms and land redistribution deliberations, it is a bit of a tight rope walk.
This past weekend has been busy with Modibate moves. This mostly involves James. He helps to demolish huts, loads the old TRC bakkie and trailer with the building materials, and then drives them to various destinations. (Over)Loading is a skill picked up years ago when he worked on loading busses in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Anyone who has seen Zimbabwe public transport on the move knows what that means! This Saturday he took out 2 loads of tin, poles and basic furniture to Rietvaly and Sunday two large loads to Zeerust.
My solid house has taken many months to build, slowly and sturdily, while their basic tin huts are demolished and re-built elsewhere in a matter of a few hours. We have such different karma! Today’s move of Refilwe’s* last possessions here really pulled at my heart strings. The last ‘mukukus’ of a once fairly large and united family headed up by a strong old matriarch Mitta – mother, grandmother, and great grandmother to so many. She now lives on in her relocated mukuku in Rietvaly but many of the next generations have already have died. Refilwe with the 3 children she cares for is likely to be the next. As she pulled heaps of dirty children’s clothes, and bits and pieces of furniture out of the collapsing mukuku, a big family of rats was disturbed which scattered in every direction followed by hungry dogs. What future for those children, with a mother who lives on alcohol with many men in and out of her life (the fathers of all 4 of her children having died of aids). All of the children are such slow developers which is hardly surprising as their mother drank throughout her pregnancies, and since arriving in this world they have been abused, undernourished, and under-stimulated except when attending the crèche. They are going to be based in Zeerust close to her brother, the clever owner of 2 RDP Houses! This is a family that I have been involved with for many years. There seems so little hope of breaking the chain of a pretty hopeless future.
All current support in the moving of the community is being carried out with welcome funding from Rokpa International. We have purchased 3 new tin huts, some roofing materials, and provided hundreds of kilometers in transport.
On the home front weather and hungry creatures are a challenge to growing food and nurturing the more delicate plants. We are only able to grow food in the Zone 1 garden designed and put up by Coen and Megan. The enclosed area is able to keep out the hungry birds, but not the huge infestation of aphids, which are as keen to eat the curly kale and other veggies as we and the lady birds are.
On the bigger environmental scene, we are eagerly awaiting news of the decision on the hoped for declaration of a biosphere which is due at the end of June.
The ongoing challenge to mining applications through the dedicated work of Mmutlwa wa Noko (MWN ie Jeanne and Brian), with the support of a crack team of highly skilled volunteer lawyers including Jeanne’s brother, continues with the submission of an appeal against the granting of prospecting rights to de Beers at the High Court in Pretoria, their earlier appeal to the Minister having been rejected. It is a courageous venture. One response from the Minister was that downstream communities depending on the Marico water for their livelihood were not relevant. One of these communities, ‘Koffiekraal’, is much affected. A MWN subcommittee of 4 includes Peter Mpefo, a very dynamic bright Koffiekraal community leader. At a meeting last week he recommended that all the community chiefs from the traditional areas which will be affected should jointly go and visit the chiefs HQ in Mafikeng, to make their concerns known. Should the area be declared a biosphere de Beers might have to withdraw from prospecting in the area.
Akong Rinpoche in his 2004 visit to TRC foresaw the mining threats of which we were unaware at that stage. He said more and more is going to be removed from the earth to satisfy peoples’ growing needs. Mining can’t be stopped but wherever possible try to keep it out of TRC and surrounding areas. He advised to base challenges on clean water, and the law, which is now happening. On his last visit in 2010 he buried bumpas (consecrated vases containing precious substances) in a ceremony on top of Temple Hill that he said was to give back to the earth for all we are taking from her.
July will begin with a weekend of committed people, attached and involved with TRC attending a ‘envisioning’ meeting facilitated by Paddy Grey to jointly explore the way forward for this precious centre as I pull back and Brenda Shelley comes in as the Main site/retreat manager.
As I write this I wish to share extracts from a transcript of Akong Rinpoches talk in his unique English to a gathering of all present during his visit to TRC in 2006. He began by saying:
“Everyone here is important.”
“We have to share responsibility, and coordination is very important. You must think that what we are doing is not for a few years, we are doing something we hope for many thousand of years, we are the people planting seeds, the growth, maturity is how to nourish the seed and how to make it mature.. not thinking I am too tired this project is wrong, mistake. You are all doing something very precious .. maybe you are doing something benefit the whole world for thousands of years benefit. “