Winter was quiet and offered time for all to plan for the spring retreats, and carry on with endless needed maintenance on the property. Our resident team of myself, Megan, Coen,  Alan, Ina, our neighbour and bookkeeper, Sean and staff, were joined by volunteers Dean on the Tikologo side. and Cheri, Bronwyn and David for various times.

Drupon Rinpoche, Lama Katen with our Alan

The biggest and most inspiring retreat was the one with Drupon Rinpoche and Lama Katen with Kunga as tireless translator, and Jampa Dorje for French translation in Zimbabwe. This was an important first visit to Africa for Drupon Rinpoche, who is now the main spiritual guide for the Samye Ling mandala, and Lama Katen, deputy Abbot of Samye Ling. It was an endless cliff hanger with conflicting news filtering out weekly as tireless folk like Mignon, Sylva, Lea and Kunga beavered away on getting the complicated visa. It was truly worthwhile as the retreat was inspiring and hugely beneficial to all. Many thanks to Jeanne who (wo)manned the kitchen, with many challenges, including producing an unplanned lunch on the last day for the retreat participants plus another 80 from Die Stad as Rinpoche’s guests.
A big disappointment to many was the cancellation of the Dalai Lama’s attendance at the Mind and Life conference in Gaborone due to exhaustion, but we went ahead with the retreats bracketing the visit, hosting the Thich Naht Hanh sangha and participants for a joyous long weekend, and the Compassion retreat and Training with Choden and Lucy. It has been relatively quiet since then other than a well attended and enjoyed Yin/Yang Yoga retreat over the heritage weekend but we hope to see many at the forthcoming retreats.

Mud brick making

Coen, using his combined architectural and permaculture skills has also been heavily involved in the building of my new retirement small home which will be an eco home built from compressed earth bricks. As with all eco building, it is a learning process and inevitably takes much longer than planned. The huge strong foundations are finished, ponds dug, and brick making has begun which will take at least another month before walls begin to rise.
The MRCA alien tree felling group are carrying on with their river side clearing which has changed the landscape around the stream quite a bit. With the welcome spring rains regrowth is phenomenal. It feels as if they would have to work for at least 10 years to succeed in removing the trees and reeds. We are still partnering MRCA in their ongoing bid to have the area proclaimed a conservation zone, and helping passionate environmental warriors Jeanne and Brian of Mmutlwa wa Noko where we try to stave off both many prospecting applications and are appealing against a mining right which has been granted in the essential catchment area of the 3 dolomitic eyes which are the essential water sources of some of the cleanest water left in the country. All of you who have enjoyed swimming in the eye know of this pristine water. Needless to say all the mining companies are very well resourced. Sadly in the current economic environment, mining gets far greater political backing than conservation.
Our community involvement continues with the running of Tirisano crèche currently with 17 children who at break time were all having fun playing in the post rain mud this morning. Maria, the facilitator, is dedicated and relatively constant but the assistants do change on a regular basis. We hope Cheri will return to offer another boost of ideas.
The Modibate “Die Stad” relocation process continues. Almost every week we transport materials for at least one family to either Groot Marico, Rietvaly or Zeerust. Most now have largely non-serviced stands but many have not yet moved from TRC land. All have been promised RDP houses at some point in the future, but the annual funds allocated for housing seem to disappear very fast. Groot Marico town has agreed to spend R6 million on the Jacob Zuma cultural centre, but other than a strange monument and a few mud huts there is little to be seen for that.
Another area in which I am involved is the ongoing neutering of  “Die Stadt” animals. We are fortunate that a dedicated vet, Alan, who helps at the animal welfare society in Zeerust does operations on site, and if anyone would like to offer donations for this, they would be passed on to the voluntary service.
On site we have had 3 useful volunteers helping out for different amount of time – Cheri, Bronwyn and David offering their different skills. We are always looking for volunteers as there is endless need for help. Volunteers, apart from their work commitments, would have time and space for personal practice and attending retreats.

Tashi received a blessing from Drupon Rinpoche

On the front I sadly bid Tashi cat farewell. He had been suffering with cancer of his eyes, face and nose for over 2 years. He arrived from the bush as an emaciated kitten with a scabby skin on the first Xmas retreat at TRC, which I attended as a volunteer, having just left Zimbabwe in 2002. TRC was not lived in at the time. Kind retreat participants donated funds for food and vet care and Jeanne who was helping with catering, took him in and cared for him until well and strong enough to be returned to TRC to be fed by William the caretaker. He was here to welcome me when I arrived on site in June 2003 and has been my constant companion and boss since then. He both befriended and challenged many retreatants over the years especially when he either gave rise to compassion or revulsion for his ravaged face. May his onward journey be peaceful.
We are hugely grateful to many off-site people, especially Lucy and Sylva who tirelessly work at manning the emails and bookings, planning retreats, publicity and many other tasks in order to encourage volunteers and visitors, without whose support it would be difficult to operate.