Category Archives: Ordinary Women

August in Mzansi

August is Women’s Month here in South Africa and we have just celebrated National Women’s Day on 9 August.

Finding home again in this land of my birth, I have spent a little time reflecting on why the need for a day, a whole month even, to celebrate women. My bestie reckons every day should be women’s day and he is right. But then I do wonder if these ‘days’ provide a good time to pause and consider the theme of that ‘day’. For example, we acknowledge Lions on 10 August and Elephants on 12 August. Actually I love that these two species’ ‘days’ fall in Women’s Month. A chance to champion Matriarchs and Lionesses in all their wisdom and fierceness!

My ponderings this August have largely centred around my femininity and how I feel about being a woman in the world today. I realise this is an incredibly personal experience and I am only speaking for myself in what I am relating here.

My femininity is something I have never struggled with. I am innately feminine despite many interests perceived as more masculine in nature.

Feminism, on the other hand, is something I have struggled with over the years. I should not struggle with the concept of Feminism, right? With the definition as ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of gender equality’, what is there to struggle with?

I suppose part of it comes down to that human failing of taking things to extremes. Our quest as a species for equality and balance seems a constant challenge. So, where perhaps many others have been faced with toxic masculinity in their early life experience, I have come into contact more with toxic femininity labelled as feminism.

Not in my family, please understand. I have the most phenomenal of female role models amongst my relatives and I could not be more overwhelmed with gratitude to my mom, sister, grannies, great grannies, aunts and cousins for their love, support and ‘sisterhood’.

Female friendships are what I have found difficult over the years. Being part of a group of girls always seemed complicated with lots of mind games I was not cut out for. That stuff utterly perplexed me, still does. I wear my heart on my sleeve and so was totally out of my depth in this ‘mean girls’ world. As a result, most of my closest friends growing up were male.

What I am learning is that much of the negative experience around female friendships is born from trauma and disillusionment with society’s expectations of us as females. I think many of us have repeated, unconscious societal messages that pit us against one another instead of fostering kindness and compassion and embracing each other in our shared feminine experience. More recently, as I have started to delve into the concept of ‘Sisterhood’, I am beginning to realise the magic that lies here. The first time I was really intrigued by the Sisterhood concept was in reading The Awakened Woman: remembering & reigniting our sacred dreams by Dr Tererai Trent. I am currently working through the book again, this time as an audiobook which is read by the author. The beautiful African lilt of her voice makes experiencing this book an extra special experience. Dr Tererai has a whole section of her book talking through the power of female friendships and forming a sacred sisterhood.

Sisterhood
the feeling of kinship with and closeness to a group of women, an association, society, or community of women linked by a common interest

I have become aware that my strong bond with the females of my family is a form of Sisterhood. I have also become aware that I have stumbled into a Sisterhood of women in Conservation – our love of Wild truly connects us. I think to some extent it is that shared trauma and disillusionment with society’s expectations of us as females that I mentioned previously that connects us. I started trying to list the names of these phenomenal women I recognise as part of this Sisterhood. I lost count. Wow, what a privilege! How is this my life!? To be aligned with these ecowarriors, to know their names, to have shared the road, to have spent time fireside under starry African skies, to have belly laughed and ugly cried together in our shared Sisterhood is a beyond-words honour.

And on top of all this, I have my Anam Ċara (Soul-friend) Sisterhood….

Anam Ċara is a Celtic phrase that loosely translates as “soul friend.” It describes a sacred relationship that is founded in connection, authenticity, trust and respect….. a Celtic philosophy….. that two souls that experience a unique and deeply personal connection will be stronger together than they are apart.”

So this month of August here in Mzansi, I am full of love and gratitude for all the amazing women in my life – my Sisterhood. I am thankful for what it means for me to be a woman in my world. It is safe and full of love and care unlike the female experience of so many other women in this world. I am also aware in appreciation for the wonderful men in my life and how they are just as much a part of this celebration as my Sisterhood. I see you all. I am because We are.

Wanderings Day 27

Botswana Part 2…

Another set of pics remembering my time in beautiful Botswana.

Today I am thinking about the Botswana rhythm. There is a wonderful rhythm to the seasons and natural cycles. The flooding then drying of the Okavango Delta. The migration of the zebra and the elephant.

A time for marula trees to bear fruit which brings the elephants.

September is amazing…. a deep breath before the rains arrive. Unexpected flowers bloom. Babies abound – impala, lechwe, zebra.

January is prickly hot. But some afternoons turn black on the horizon and then the lightening and thunder and rain arrive. The cuckoos and Woodland Kingfisher call continuously. A good time to venture into the reeds in a mokoro hoping for a glimpse of the elusive sitatunga. At Xigera Lagoon the African Skimmers are nesting.

The people of Botswana have a rhythm too. A time to plant. A time to harvest. A time to move the cattle. A time to gather from the wild.

There is a beautiful kinship that weaves the Ba-Tswana together as a people but also connects them to this land. It was so easy to fall into this rhythm and be mesmerised by its beat.

Dream then Do

A year ago I gifted myself Kristina Karlsson’s intriguing book – Your Dream Life Starts Here. I got the Dream Life Journal at the same time and got stuck into the business of dreaming.

I decided to take my time with this process unsure of where it would take me.

Chapter 2 is titled “Be inspired by the dreams of others”. At the end of this chapter is such an inspiring story, that of Dr Tererai Trent. Discovering her story sidetracked me from the Dream Life Journal for a number of months as I explored Dr Tererai’s magical idea of sacred dreams and tapping into your Great Hunger.

By August I had 3 delicious dreams safely encased in my Dream Tin! I don’t have a suitable place to bury my dreams, like Dr Tererai did, so the tin travels with me wherever I go.

This part of the process was so uplifting and hope-inducing, particularly on the back of a previous few months of difficult times to push through.

But there’s dreaming and then there’s doing, right!

Back to the Dream Life Journal which I have now completed. Dr Tererai’s inspiration of the sacred and Kristina’s insights into the practicalities of dreaming have dove-tailed beautifully. Those 3 dreams buried in the Dream Tin now have very specific dates assigned and a master action list for each…. a couple of actions have even been ticked off already in the last couple of days!

I have always been a bit of dreamer… a day dreamer wandering wistfully through memories or drifting into future hopes.

As Master Yoda says of Luke ” Never his mind on where he was… what he was doing!”

This is dreaming of a different kind…. a dream life that is tangible and oh so possible… if I keep my end of the deal, stick to my action list and the Universe meets me half way… this time next year will look really different. Let’s see, shall we?

Extraordinary voices of ordinary women: Carla Geyser

Longing to experience the real, authentic Mama Africa in all her grit and glory? Love a good road trip? What about great banter around a campfire, sipping a gin and tonic, pausing every now and then to listen to the soundscape that only a night under the African sky can bring?  How about magical sunrises and sunsets? Or an impromptu coffee stop in the middle of somewhere intrepid?  Want your African experience to include some boots on the ground time for wildlife conservation and community empowerment?

That all important coffee break along the way…. Maputo Special Reserve, Mozambique

Then you need to meet my gorgeous friend, Carla Geyser.  Her Journeys with Purpose are all of the above and then some!

Carla with Izzy (another kindred spirit) on a boat… a day exploring the waters of Maputo Bay, Mozambique

I first came across Carla’s story in 2016 when she embarked on her epic Elephant Ignite Expedition – travelling 16 000km across 10 countries. Carla and her team visited 37 conservation organisations, engaging with communities along the way and distributing 20 000 educational booklets. The idea for this expedition was sparked by the plight of elephants across Africa – their plummeting numbers due to poaching and human wildlife conflict.

Then in 2018 I followed Carla’s next adventure, The Rise of the Matriarch, on social media.  This time an international all women crew set out with Carla for a 50 day, 11 000km journey through 4 countries.  This expedition raised global awareness for the plight of African wildlife, raising funds for conservation groups and empowering local youth, especially girls. 

I still have the diary from that time and scribbled in a margin is “Blue Sky Society Trust – next time”.

In May of this year I got to meet Carla in person.  She picked me to be part of her crew for a 2019 Journey with Purpose.  I have recorded this incredible adventure in previous posts:

Carla is a great expedition leader – the perfect blend of happy-go-lucky and down to earth pragmatism.  She knows Africa well and understands how to travel wisely.  Able to go with the flow while at the same time being uber prepared for every eventuality – a real skill in this environment!

Carla overseeing production of a delicious potjie… on top of the world in eSwatini

I love Carla’s attitude to life which is incorporated into the name of her not-for-profit – The Blue Sky Society.  Read here how the name came about.  She is a kindred spirit… we share a passion for Mama Africa, our birthplace.  Yet Carla’s personality is such that anyone from anywhere could not help but enjoy her company and be swept away in her enthusiasm for life and her work.

I consider it one of the greatest experiences of my life, that May Journey with Purpose.  I also consider it an honour and privilege to have shared the road with Carla Geyser and her fabulous landy, Dora.  And I cannot wait to go again and be a part of another Blue Sky Society Journey with Purpose!

Dora the Landy in Kruger National Park… this photo taken shortly after two spectacular leopard sightings

Carla is an ordinary woman just like me.  But her big dreams, her belief in the infinite possibilities of life and her “just do it” attitude make her voice extraordinary….

Four incredible Journeys with Purpose are planned for 2020 (click on the links to find out more):

Chasing Waterfalls

The Great Zambezi

Aqua Earth

Trekking Giants

Go!  Travel with Carla. Let Mama Africa embrace you.  Wander the road less travelled.  It will change your life.

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.