Recently the simple act of turning on my radio showed that Aristotle and Ubuntu are alive at Londolozi.
“Christina Life, come in, Christina”. (I am Christina. Life is my department.)
Duncan, our General Manager’s commanding voice rings out again.
“Christina Life, come in, Christina”.
Continued radio silence…
My radio is turned off. The way I like that intrusive, large Nokia-circa-1990-lookalike to be.
My lovely neighbour and artist-in-residence, Roxy, flings open my door, “Duncan is radioing you!” Roxy is a gentle, creative presence who has that wonderful quality of using her words sparingly but effectively. She can draw a picture with your words and beautifully summarize and interpret what you are trying to say.
I start to make my way to the top office via the treatment room, backtracking slightly. I pass Victor from stores. “Duncan is radioing you,” he informs me with a friendly smile. I check my phone while I’m walking up and find two voice notes from caring colleagues encouraging me to turn on my radio because I am being called. It is one of the things that I love about this place. If someone misses a cue, they are likely to bump into at least a dozen people who will let them know what needs to be conveyed.
Here, staff operate with radios to communicate. Much of the information conveyed on our radios is mundane and not particularly riveting but there are tiny pieces of vital information that make sure that we are where we need to be so that every guest’s need is seen to and anticipated with seemingly minimal effort. So if one of us is switched off, it can have a chain effect that can cause a ball to be dropped somewhere down the line.
On my way, I pass by July. He is one of a few of the caretakers at Varty Camp. He is busy at work between the Sparta rondavels, using his trusty self-made broom. His methodical care in sweeping these spaces transforms the area in a subtle yet very noticeable way. He prefers the traditional way of using the branches and leaves of a guarrie tree, gathered together to sweep the pathways. He is one of the sometimes-unseen members of the Londolozi family whose life story is intricately woven into the history of this wondrous place.
I spot Mama Lina, a Shangaan elder, on the pathway. She is a short, round lady with a quick wit. If you have been on a village walk here, you would most likely have met this remarkable woman who still sleeps in one of the traditional huts in the village. She is a shrewd card player and quite the philosophical soul, as well as a skilled dancer and drummer. She asks me how the weather is today; an exchange we have had for a while now. It is our way of asking how the other’s day is going. She gives me a quizzical look and an all-encompassing hug (if ever you need a good hug, ask Lina or Will Ford, our Operations Manager, they are equally adept in the art of comfort). I explain that the weather is great but with chances of clouds, depending on the next meeting’s outcome. Nora comes around the corner with her wide smile. Nora, one of Varty’s Housekeepers, is the mother of Victor in stores and Aaron in Bush Banqueting. They have both inherited their mother’s warm smile. She is also a Sangoma – a traditional healer – and has a quiet, commanding presence. She asks me how many mats will be needed for the yoga deck and I say eight as an optimistic guess. Nora’s English is broken but her understanding is complete and she is more sussed than most.
By now I’m almost at top office and Cranky shouts to me, “Answer your radio, Vader”. Rob Crankshaw, aka ‘Cranky’, has recently taken to calling me Vader. I have been christened this by Cranky based on the sound I make on the radio when I end a transmission; breathing out I apparently sound something akin to the Star Wars bad guy.
And now I get to my point. All these seemingly random interactions and moments showed me something significant about life and community.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
This quote by Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, spoke of holism.
The idea that the total effectiveness of a group of things, each interacting with one another, is different to or greater than their effectiveness when acting in isolation from one another. Examples of it can be seen all around us here at Londolozi whether it be in the wilderness, with the animals or in the community. To my African sensibilities, it echoes something of Ubuntu. Not the computer operating system but a Nguni Bantu term, loosely meaning humanity. It is often also translated as humanity towards others.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained it as such:
“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
Nelson Mandela described it with more emphasis on compassion and generosity saying, “A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?”
I am one of the small peripheral parts that make up the magical whole that is Londolozi. Together, all the individuals, with each of their unique quirks, make up a very real community. Here I feel valued, known and deeply cared for and that is the alchemy of a place like this.
Even though you may not always feel it, the part you play in whatever avenue of life you find yourself is vital to a greater whole. Be it in your family, your business or your friendships. So keep showing up and be fully present; the effect of your presence is felt.
That said, best I turn my radio on.
“Go ahead for Christina”.