Winter sunset

Lockdown Journal: Day 33 (Winter)

If you’re new to this blog series and don’t know what’s happening with South Africa’s 21-day (now 35-day) lockdown, my first post  has all the details. Or read all my lockdown posts.

Welcome to Day 33 of the South African lockdown. It’s very cold today by South African standards (drizzly and 13 degrees Celsius/55 Fahrenheit, and that’s probably the warmest it will get). I’m dreading the onset of winter.

Winter sunset in Melville
Lockdown photo 33: A late winter sunset, September 2011.

Today is the second day of my supposed “morning schedule” for lockdown journaling. It’s a few minutes before noon and I’m just getting started, so I guess technically I’m still on that schedule. I feel very scattered mentally, and the cold isn’t helping. (Before you scoff at me, remember South African homes don’t have central heating or proper insulation. I’m fortunate enough to have a gas fireplace, which I’m currently huddled beside.)

I think I’m losing my mind a little bit.

Before writing this post, I spent some time trying to research what’s in store for us when we move to the new phase of lockdown (from “Level 5” to “Level 4”) on Friday. I’m still confused about a lot of things and it’s hard to find official guidance, and this scares me because I’ve become obsessed with following instructions.

After five weeks of living under this incredibly strict, government-mandated lockdown, in which I’ve been prohibited by law from making almost any decisions about how to live my life, I now don’t know how I’m going to function when this reality changes. Suspending all decision-making has come to feel comfortable — blissful, in fact. Staying at home because I know there is no other choice feels…delicious. I don’t want it to end.

My friend Albert just sent me this article by Mandy Weiner about Stockholm Syndrome, and how many of us may have developed an emotional connection to our “captors” — in this case the South African government and the coronavirus itself. The article describes my own feelings so accurately, it’s frightening.

In other news, I ran 40 laps around my house this morning. That felt good.

Lockdown Around the World

As I promised a couple of days ago, I’m going to feature short accounts of other people’s locked-down lives, in South Africa and around the world.

My first submission comes from my friend Marcelle Bosch, who is currently in the Netherlands. Marcelle’s story makes me very sad. She and her husband Aart are the owners of the beautiful Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge in Limpopo, which I visited last year. Marcelle and Aart are from the Netherlands but they’ve lived in South Africa for more than 20 years.

Madi a Thavha view
The view from my terrace at Madi Thavha last July. What I wouldn’t give to be there right now.

Marcelle and Aart went back to the Netherlands for what was supposed to be a short holiday; their daughter was about to give birth and they wanted to be there for the arrival of their grandchild. While they were there, the pandemic hit. They had a flight booked to return just before the travel ban started, but both Marcelle and Aart came down with the flu (they don’t think it was COVID-19) and they weren’t able to travel.

Now Madi a Thavha is indefinitely closed, like all lodges in South Africa, and Marcelle and Aart are indefinitely in the Netherlands. Here’s what Marcelle sent me yesterday:

Today, it is Kings Day in the Netherlands, normally the country turns orange with everybody being
outdoors enjoying the games, music, car boot sales and street food. Because of the coronavirus it is
different, we call it the ‘new normal’. We started this morning with singing the National Anthem in
front of our houses, supported by the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra and ‘meeting’ the royal family at
their home.

What started for us as a visit to our children is now being locked down in the Netherlands. We got
flu and were not anymore able to come back to South Africa. Physically we are here, but our minds
are in South Africa. We can only dream how it would be to be locked down with our staff at Madi a
Thavha, our beautiful lodge in the Soutpansberg mountains. We miss our CraftArt centre at Victoria
Yards, that was always such a vibrant place full of creativity.

As many people in the tourism sector we are concerned about the future of our staff, the artists and
crafters in the Limpopo villages and at Victoria Yards in Joburg and of course we think about our
own future. Tourism directly and indirectly employs so many people and all of us are so proud to let
overseas people experience our beautiful country and its people.

We are impressed that, despite all the financial concerns, people carry on promoting their lodges, B
and Bs, cultural experiences, game reserves and tours. Overseas people are already making plans to
travel again to South Africa. As long as this won’t be possible, I hope that South Africans themselves
get the opportunity soon, to explore their own city, neighbourhood, park, small town or close by
countryside.

For now, we can only enjoy our Virtual Kings Day in the Netherlands and dream about South Africa.

Please send your best thoughts to the Madi a Thavha staff, the artists in northern Limpopo, and everyone employed in the South African tourism industry.

Patreon

I want to send another thank-you to everyone who has signed up to support me on Patreon. I continue to feel amazed and grateful every time someone new signs up.

Here’s a shout-out to the recent sign-ups:

Carrolle Perry Devonish
John Sneed
Ingrid Stahlman

It’s becoming more and more apparent that my #10SouthAfricanTowns campaign will not continue for quite a long time — possibly not in 2020 at all. So I’m starting to think about where my blog will go from here (after the lockdown journal ends) and what kind of products I can offer my Patreon members in place of #10SouthAfricanTowns meet-ups or books.

Even if a #10SouthAfricanTowns book doesn’t happen, I promise there will be a book of some sort. I’m also thinking about photo prints. Stay tuned and feel free to send me your own ideas.

If you haven’t joined me on Patreon yet, just a reminder that a contribution as little as $1 per month will get you a weekly audio voice note and my monthly newsletter. (The next newsletter is coming out this Thursday.) If you have questions about how to sign up, please ask me.

Today’s Worthy Cause

Today I’m featuring the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve. Thinking about the Melville Koppies also makes me sad. It’s a beautiful nature reserve, just steps from my house, and no one has been able to visit it for the past five weeks. There’s no telling when Joburg’s parks and nature reserves will open again.

Melville Koppies 2016
One of at least 1000 photos I’ve taken on the Melville Koppies over the years.

The Melville Koppies as we know it today probably wouldn’t exist without the Friends of the Melville Koppies (FOMK), led by activist Wendy Carstens. FOMK relies on donations from the public, as well as income generated from their weekly guided koppie walks, to keep the nature reserve clean and functioning. Obviously those walks are not happening now. But Wendy is posting lovely little daily stories on the Melville Koppies Facebook page, every day of the lockdown.

Please follow the Facebook page, read Wendy’s stories, and consider donating to the Melville Koppies of you can.

See you tomorrow.

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10 Comments

  • Reply Rosemary April 28, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    Thanks Heather- really appreciate your posts. Consider having a look at Jamie Oliver’s Cheat’s Deep Pan pizza recipe- you can see it on Facebook as well.

    • Reply 2summers April 28, 2020 at 3:12 pm

      Sounds delicious! Will look.

  • Reply Catrina April 28, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    First of all, WELL DONE for running 40 laps around your house! That is awesome and takes mental strength!
    Secondly, thanks for sharing that interesting article by Mandy Wiener. She has a valid point. However, I think that humans are more resilient than we think – as soon as restrictions will be lifted, people will find their voices and the mental space to make their own decisions again.
    And finally: thank you for the report by Marcelle Bosch. We are one of those overseas people, waiting for the first opportunity to return to South Africa. Can’t wait.

    • Reply 2summers April 28, 2020 at 3:47 pm

      Hahaha, thanks! It was about 3.5 kms. I think 40 laps is the most I can do without losing my mind 😂 Come to think of it, I’m sure you’re right about what will happen after lockdown. It’s hard to conceive of now but I guess we’ll all find our motivations again.

  • Reply AutumnAshbough April 28, 2020 at 3:59 pm

    If you have a decent income and food and shelter, you live in a world with overwhelming choices. Sometimes choices are exciting to navigate: “Where should I travel next or get lunch?!” Sometimes they are exhausting: “If I do X, will there be repercussions like Y?” And when you are self-employed, you make all the decisions. If you’re a woman with kids, you make all the decisions for them, too.

    All the women I know are guiltily enjoying a little break from exercising so much executive function and running all over creation.

    • Reply 2summers April 28, 2020 at 4:06 pm

      Yes, totally. I’m only realizing now how unbelievably stressed out decision-making makes me.

  • Reply dizzylexa April 28, 2020 at 8:15 pm

    I said to my sister today that I’m beginning to get too comfortable with this life and not sure I want it to end, she feels the same and I’m sure there are many more who feel this way. It’s going to be difficult adjusting for those that need to get back out there working to earn an income.

    • Reply 2summers April 28, 2020 at 8:19 pm

      Yes, totally. It’s the weirdest feeling!

  • Reply Momo Street April 29, 2020 at 7:25 am

    Thank you for sharing Marcelle’s message. We’ve known Marcelle and Aart for years as my wife used to work with Marcelle at Girl Guides SA. We thought they were crazy when they told us they were buying a tomato farm in Limpopo. They knew nothing about farming and I remember the story of their first harvest that became a disaster as they let the tomatoes ripen too much before picking them. It is amazing how they have transformed that farm into such a beautiful centre of local art set against the majestic background of the Soutpansberg Mountains. On the running side, if you have a GPS watch, try recording your run around the house–I’ve done it here at my place and it results in a hilarious looking running map of a crazed person looking for exercise. Take care, Michael

    • Reply 2summers April 29, 2020 at 7:31 am

      Hahahaha. Great stories. Thanks Michael 🙂

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