Witch Doctor or Medicine Lady? South Africa


Saturday, May 30, 2009 It’s time for me to wrap up my 3 weeks in South Africa at the Meerkat research farm.  This project challenged my patience, my tolerance, my creativity and my ability to adapt. And I loved every moment of it!


So fun to watch these little guys…





We settled into our own roles and we made the meerkat project work for us.  And we did have fun.  The Game Capture weekend continues to rank pretty high on my list of exciting events. And for those of you who have not asked the question – but were silently wondering – the game was being taken to other farms and parks for repopulation purposes.  I’m sorry that I did not mention that in the previous blog entry!

We got ourselves up each morning and trekked out to the main burrow to see the meercats…whether Shelton could make it or not.  We got directions for various hikes in the area and we bugged Isabel to take us to town whenever she was going. One morning we went to Samgoma Valley (home of the Witch Doctor/Medicine Lady).  It was a 5 hour hike through the mountains and valleys, and along the cliffs where they dwell.


This is a sleeping cave – someone used to live in it.


Looking out from the sleeping cave…


The people who live in these hills don’t have an easy life. They live on cliffs and must walk down that cliff every day for water.














There doesn’t seem to be anywhere they can grow their own food and it’s miles to the closest town.  Shelton says they don’t really do anything – and he’s not sure how they get food.





Walking down to the Witchdoctor’s home…








Every Witch Doctor’s home has chickens…


And the Witch Doctor herself…


The Witch doctor was a nice lady but she seemed a little put out the I didn’t know her friends from the States – John and Judy. I should have lied and said “Absolutely, they’re great friends of mine”.  Surely then she would have told my fortune.

On one of our trips to town, we visited a metal recycling shop – very cool things!








I feel pretty…oh so pretty!  Metal is me!





Another good day in South Africa 🙂

And another wonderful volunteer project! The girls and I had a great time together and we were very glad that it was just the three of us. We made a good team. We went to the lodge and asked to be taken riding…all the time.    We made dinner together each night, watched a TV program on the laptop and played cards.  We listened to the music on my laptop (and sang to almost every song) and they surprised me!  They loved every Disney song I had and knew most of the musicals too.  They loved ABBA, songs from Grease and surprisingly…all the 70’s stuff!  They were not enthralled with country music with the exception of Dolly Parton! We did our laundry and we wrote about our experiences – the girls in their diaries and me on my laptop. They peppered me with questions that I answered as best I could.

Stephanie’s question to me: “Why do you call them pants instead of trousers?”

Rachel’s response on my behalf: Because they (Americans) like the French better than the British so they adopted the short version of pantaloons.

Why do you call it candy instead of sweets? Do you have a gun?  Doesn’t every American have a gun? Are there still cowboys in Texas?  What about indians?  All Texans carry guns don’t they?

Can you tell the difference between the two of us?  (They’re both English) Do we sound different?  Can you tell that we’re from different towns?

And every night they laughed at me because in order to read, I had to put on a head lamp and my drugstore magnifier glasses.  We became comfortable with each other and our own special roles within our trio.

Near the end of my stay at Meercat Camp, two new volunteers joined us.  We talked about them for days – O.K – the girls talked about them for days.  They worried all day because they would be remaining at camp for another month after I left.

What would they be like? Would they like us?  Would we like them?  Would they be fun?  Do they have to be with us all the time? I didn’t have the answers, but reassured them it would be fine.

Then Tuesday night came around and we made extra pasta and welcomed the new volunteers to the farm when they arrived.  They were a young couple from the UK and the rules of the farm state that couples may only stay in the same room if they are married – so the young man got shipped off to the room next door and the girl was forced to climb the stairs to the top bunk above my bed. They informed us that the accommodations were not acceptable and they were not comfortable. I could only shrug and tell them that I was sure they would settle in in a day or two.

By the next afternoon – we didn’t care if they were uncomfortable or not.  We didn’t like them. Isn’t that a terrible thing to say?  Did NOT like them at all. Without belaboring this point – they were a couple of winers and complainers!  That’s worst then not being nice.  They complained about everything from the walks – to the beds – to the food – to the hikes – which they had no intention of taking!  No sirrrrree – we don’t hike!  And by the way – is this all the food there is? And they had no intention of cooking, cleaning or participating in anything. Well, then what the F _ _ _ are you doing here? Excuse me.

From Wednesday afternoon on – we gave each other lots of space.  The girls and I went on with our normal routine — we alternated dinner and clean up duties and generally avoided each other when possible.

When I left on Saturday morning, both girls were in tears and I felt like I was deserting a sinking ship. 😦


I enjoyed spending time with the meerkats and learning more about them.  The farm property was a particular joy – what a time I had hiking up the mountains!   And I’m most glad that I was able to meet Rachel, Stephanie and Shelton because after all…it’s the people that you spend time with who really make the journey what it is…an adventure.






Cheers Africa – till we meet again.

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