(I wrote this on election day, when I was nervous. I had some extra energy to devote to a long-overdue blog post while waiting for the returns. Out here in California, it was a long night, even as we had the jump on the East coast with our 3-hour time difference.)
I haven’t posted since May, and I was intent on sharing our experiences in South Africa earlier in the year. We went to visit a friend of mine from college, Steven, and his wife Cindy, who retired to the small town of Memel in Free State, South Africa after long careers at the UN. We had a magical time while we were there.
While we stayed on their organic farm, I envisioned hosting a women’s retreat there. And I’m so pleased and excited (and nervous) about the “You Are the Change You Seek” Women’s retreat in South Africa in February 2019. I’ve worked hard over the last few months to bring it to fruition, and registration has just opened!! Part personal inquiry and restoration, part service project, and part unique South African tourism, there’s a lot more information, video, words and pictures of all the goodness we’ve got planned here. (And if this sparks your interest, please note that there is a substantial discount for this all-inclusive retreat during the Early Bird Registration window, which ends on Sunday, November 18!)
What I haven’t yet shared was this “thing” that happened while we were there: we made an offer on a 1,300+ acre ranch (it is called a ‘farm’ in South Africa), complete with a 15 bedroom house. The house was originally a smallish farm house with traditional one foot-thick sandstone block walls, which the previous owners expanded by adding, over time, three wings of additional rooms. Their vision was to host church and recovery groups in this beautiful and healing setting. The property is at altitude (about 6,000 feet), and nestles up against the continental divide and the Drakensburg/ Maluti Mountains. It is spectacular country: green and open, with the beginning of the Klip River that runs right through the valley and ultimately brings water to Johannesburg.
It is a heady and exciting experience. And we are both surprised – did we even imagine we would be buying property in South Africa on our first visit there? No way! – and we are enlivened by this experience. David, my spouse, has been navigating the ins and outs of getting our business, Normandien Pass Ranch (Pty) Ltd established, bank accounts set up and other practical and foundational details before we can do much of everything. (There’s a great shot of the house from the ridge line at the link just above.)
Our offer was accepted and the deal closed in mid-August. So now we are owners of this land and house, and we have visions of operating an eco-tourism guest lodge, and potentially offering the sorts of retreats that a location and property like this can support: wellness retreats with hikes and fresh organic food, and writers and artist retreats. All to be developed of course. And we hope to ultimately put the land in conservancy, as well as to operate an animal reserve where we could partner with a local business to do animal husbandry. Our vision is to be good stewards of the land, while creating opportunities for jobs and economic development. We’ll be working closely with our friends Steven and Cindy, who have already done a great deal in the area towards economic and social development. (Visit Memel.Global to learn more).
For my part, I’m hoping to flesh out plans for the guests we’ll host on the “Ranch” and the retreat weeks we might offer once we are there. Our first season, January-April 2019, will focus on figuring out what we need to do to run the place during the peak season of South African Spring through Fall between October through May. We’ve invited friends and family to be our “pilot” guests! (We bought the place fully furnished, including sheets and towels for 15 bedrooms, and dishes and cutlery and furniture for us and our guests. The decor isn’t necessarily our taste, but the house is pretty much ‘plug and play,’ which is a wonderful way to start. We’ll upgrade as we go!)
I have said, only a little tongue in cheek, that if this eco-lodge or animal husbandry thing doesn’t work out, we’ll at least have an expensive and somewhat inconvenient vacation home to enjoy. What’s so bad about that?
I continue to be delighted and surprised by this adventure. We are now on a path we couldn’t even have imagined 7 or 8 months ago, with possibilities around every corner. This is what being alive is: being curious and open to seizing some of the surprises the universe sends our way.