Remembering fires & wildlife storytelling from a beautiful garden

I’m sitting writing in full view of a wild garden. Overhanging tree at the front door, furry pussycat on mosaic step, ferns and rocks abound. Jasmin scent permeates the air.  Aside from cheeky monkeys who visited a few weeks ago and ate all fruit in sight, leaving behind a handful of pawpaw seeds on the stairs, it’s quiet and lovely here. I am blessed. To top it, there is a constant cacaphony of bird sounds – rare these days, but typical of older gardens in this country.

Wildfires featured across the eSwatini landscape for most of July and early August. Per usual they were deliberately lit, but due to poor climate conditions, were more damaging than ever. Without rain, the cattle have had to do with very dry grass,yet some green shoots sprouted soon after the fires.

Mid -July, we (i.e. Clford and I),  visited, as Earth Lessons, two Elukwatini schools to do some environmental storytelling, specifically on wildlife protection.  I drove through the border at the height of a bad cold, achy and miserable. Cliford, my facilitator made me laugh, and by the time we arrived, my spirits had lifted considerably.

As for the storytelling,  I heard myself start off with a booming voice on the first day, but clearly struggled to get it out by the second day; it had risen to a high pitch and probably sounded not unlike the hyaena in the story I was telling! Imagine the school kids at both the schools, who’d apparently never seen a white woman, let alone one with long hair and a squeaky voice – How had they experienced me? I wished I knew more SiSwati – Language always connects us better. This was where, Cliford Ndlovu, my super talented facilitator saved the day. I told the story and he brought each character to life in mostly siSwati.

The night in between we stayed in an old dwelling in the depths of a nearby game reserve; it was cold and the generator hummed for a number of hours. We’d been warned not to go out at night as wild animals were known to come onto the stoep. I’d gone straight to bed at 5:30 pm,   and slept soundly. Cliford reported early the next morning, that as he’d stepped outside to switch off the generator, he’d spotted a porcupine.. . At least I hadn’t missed much!


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