Learning by experience

By Eleanor Muller

I grew up on an isolated farm in the Karoo, a semi desert part of South Africa. So there is little wonder that I am not daunted by the enormous distances that are the reality of the lives of the people who live at !Xaus Lodge. On a recent visit I listened to a conversation between one of our younger guests and the Chef. The request was for something we didn’t have in the pantry – and the little one didn’t seem to understand that it was just not possible to “pop down” to the supermarket and get some. That’s a 720km trip and you can’t just do it between afternoon tea and supper.

The conversations brought back a long-forgotten memory from my childhood. We’d friends who would arrive every winter holiday to stay, and one of the first times they came, their youngest son aged about five, had a similar complaint: he wanted more cheese with his supper. My Mom explained patiently that town was 80kms away, but he’d slept that part of the trip, and didn’t realise how far away it all was.

He had a good line in nagging, so eventually Mom fetched her purse, gave him some money and suggested that he just pop out of the back door, and go down to the shop himself. He was delighted and headed off. Like the Kalahari, the Karoo nights are very black, and the stars are very bright. It would have been a beautiful, but utterly remote sight that greeted him. It wasn’t long and he was back. Nothing was said as he got back onto his seat and he eyed the options. “Please may I have some strawberry jam?” he asked.

Experience is often the best teacher!