Musings in paradise

“I have a farm in Africa” Karen Blixen wrote. Her words launched a book, a movie with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford and an idealized version of what it means to live in Africa. This ancient continent with it’s rituals, forests, peoples, deserts, clan warfare, rivers that give life, ubuntu and minerals.

I am white, like Karin, but I was born here. Like my farther, and grandfather and generations before him. But, liking it or not: part of my make up is also European (although I only visited Europe after the age of 40). Like apparently everyone on earth, my primordial DNA, carries a link to this continent. And although I like Europe, I love Africa. I kiss her soil on my return, salute her sun, bow my head to her blue mountains. And I live in paradise.

What I write, from (hopefully) the sublime to the (chances are) ridiculous, will be from one of 3 stoeps (like a verandah, but much more than that). On my farm (a very small one: it is in fact only an incurable romantic’s folly)  I have a stoep that overlooks a mountain range, its slopes covered by a mix of old indigenous forests and new imported, quick growing, pine plantations. My stoep faces north, for the winter sun. In summer it is in shadow: a hide-away from the blistering Africa sun. Behind the mountains to the north is semi-desert, proper desert and later rain forests. Then the Sahara. About 9 000 km away is the Mediterranean which you have to cross to get  to Greece. Some say Greece is where Western civilisation was born.


I stay 12 kilometers away from a village. It is a small village with 2 shops, 1 church, a post office, a primary school and mostly retired older people living on big erven. Some of them have mansions, but mostly it is just older houses. Houses with flowery gardens, big trees, vegetable patches. The mansions are only inhabitat over the holidays. Their trees were cut down for the view of the sea. There are no flowers, no vegetables, because for 11 months of the year, there is no one to smell them, to eat them. There are no street lights in this village, no pavements, two tarred roads; the rest are dirt. Horses sometimes canter down the roads. In this village one of the shops also have a stoep. To the east you look down the same mountain range. There is a wall to the west, which is great because it blocks the wind. Mad people frequent this stoep: conspiratonialists, old hippies, passers-by, cyclists on arduous routes. They serve good coffee here, and cake. And stories.

Like everywhere in South Africa there is also another village close to this village. Between my stoep and the village stoep lies a shanty town. Where houses were built with corrugated iron sheets, or old big grey cement blocks.  Many have tired walls, leaky roofs. Old rusted cars parked between over-populated houses and sagging fences. The people are also friendly here: they mostly live their lives in the dirt roads, the muddy streets after the rain. It should rain often here, this whole area is known as the “Garden Route” because of the abundant rain, the forests, the plants in the veld (also a South African word like “stoep”, that means more than just fields or grassland.) The government has built new houses here: small, side by side, brightly colored. With running water, working sewerage, solar powered geysers, some electricity. There are shops here too, but without stoeps. There is a church, but many people also attends “house-churches”. There is a new religion in town, it is called “tik”. Tik is an abbreviation of  crystal methamphetamine. It is cheap, highly addictive. And it kills: brain cells, relationships, the user. They also have a primary school. There are no horses in these roads. But there are mongrel dogs, cocks, pigs, even some cattle. There are mad people here too. Some are mad at life, some at the village just down the road. Some are mad at god, or apartheid, or the curent government. There are lots of good people as well. The majority, they are called. They have street lights here. At night I can see the light pollution, from my front door. But not from my stoep.

I often go to a third stoep. This is a further ten kilometers away from the village. A new luxurious restaurant, on the beach. Massive glass windows overlooking the sea to the east and south. A wooden deck with rustic tables and chairs. Cold beer, good food, decent wines. Nice coffee. I haven’t met mad people here yet. But then again: you don’t really meet people here. Mostly it is passersby: people on route from Cape Town to somewhere else, or somewhere else to Cape Town. Often it is holiday makers, just visiting Paradise for a few days. This is the third stoep I frequent. Not as often as the one at home, nor as often as the village stoep. But I like to pass by. I haven’t seen anyone from any of the two villages here yet, not even as waiters. Maybe this stoep is on another continent, maybe another planet.

Other people have muses to rival the Valkyries, or the Amasons. My muses are these three stoeps.


5 thoughts on “Musings in paradise

  1. Pingback: I Know This Place | I choose how I will spend the rest of my life

  2. Many years later looking back on some of my earlier posts, I came across yours. In rereading it is even more attractive to me but I think you have to be born there to appreciate its beauty both in its people and the beauty that surrounds everyone.Are you still blogging? I can’t find anything from you for the last few years. I hope that if you are no longer blogging it is because you have found something else to do. With best wishes for the New Year from far away in New Zealand.

  3. Pingback: A World Apart

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