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TOUCHED BY TEA

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One of the things that’s struck me about South Africa is the sense of good manners by everyone I meet. From my LA sensibilities and skepticism -“Why are you talking to me?” this deserved further investigation. Rather than a stuffy set of societal rules that one must adhere to, I find that the easy-going politeness of Cape Town creates a friendly atmosphere in which it is easy to talk with strangers. These warm ways of engagement baffled me at first amidst a rather bewildering assortment of different knives, saucers, teacups and teaspoons. A part of my rather brief but pointed “cultural crash course” prior to arrival involved lessons in fork-and-knife usage. I was rather appalled, as one who has actually formally been trained in business meal etiquette, to find my skills so unrefined.
It wasn’t until a couple of meals with locals did I surreptitiously observe the difference between tongs-up and tongs-down. For of course, a civilized person must ‘place’ the food into one’s mouth, not ‘shovel it’. When I describe this to my new breakfast table friends, they laugh. “Well how do Americans eat breakfast?” they ask. “Do they shovel away?” Of course not, don’t be silly! We head through McDonald’s drive-through and gracefully unwrap our Sausage McMuffins in our fists, genteely biting our way through while driving one-handed to the office and talking politely on speakerphone with mouthfuls for our conference call.

But nuances aside, there’s cultural attitudes towards hospitality that goes far beyond simply being ‘polite’. Recently, I was invited to dinner by a fellow guest from Namibia, Martina, staying at Beulah Lodge. “Only if you have enough food!” I said. Little did I know this would be the last thing to worry about, as my generous hosts turned out entire sides of mutton brai, farmers sausage, tender roasts to feed an army. She shared with me about how she’d grown up cooking for a family of 17. Her father would always take just two bites from his plate, and then share it with someone else, until eventually the plate got passed through the whole village.

“So I began to cook more, for more people. And we share everything. All I ever wanted, was to cook enough food so my father could have a full plate to eat. And that meant filling the plates of all the others.”

The open-hearted sharing of hospitality honors ones guest, rather than highlight the division between the one giving, and the one accepting. A small custom I’ve observed at Beulah Lodge is that for everyone who comes through, is given a little touch of comfort in the grace of this great tradition called afternoon tea. This isn’t reserved simply for guests and patrons. Just the other day, the Lodge’s handyman came in to fix a long litany of things broken. Along the way, one of the maids prepared him a little tray filled with tea and tiny goodies, a brief oasis of peace and joy as he sat in the garden before going along in his full day.

When simple gestures help bring a touch of the Eternal life into common day occurrences, we begin to understand why the Bible characterizes Hospitality not as a function, but a gift. For those who want to learn more about how they can use their gifts to bridge divides and bring His presence into our daily spaces and activities, I recommend checking out Heartistry by Lyn Johnson.

CAPE TOWN: ARE YOU IN THE X-ORDINARY BOOK?

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Calling all Capeys! We are getting rapidly scheduled up with over 30 fellow Cape Town residents who have been mentioned in Brett Johnson’s book, X-Ordinary: The miracle  of ordinary people in God’s business …

… Also known as the X-Ordinary Vagabond’s raison d’etre for the next few months.

We have, over time, discovered that only 20% of South Africans open their email. If you do not know if you are mentioned in the book, check your email for a communication! 

  • If you have not received an email, or
  • Not sure if you are in the book, but believe you should be, and
  • Have a great story of God working through business, or
  • Are in need of prayer, or
  • Want to feed, play with, I mean pray with or otherwise occupy the X-Ordinary Vagabond’s time at a local hotspot and can pass a criminal record check, then…

… Book yourself onto my public calendar! Open from now until 4/2 until further notice. I will also be reaching out shortly to the many of you recently met to catch up and have some rooibos tea – I haven’t forgotten!

Upcoming visits:

  • TENTATIVE 3/20-3/21 Friday- Saturday: The Strand,
  • 3/23 Monday: Beulah Lodge, Pinelands
  • 3/24-3/25 Tuesday + Wednesday: Southern Suburbs
  • 3/26 Thursday: Somerset West + The Strand
  • 3/27 Friday: Beulah Lodge, Pinelands

VOWS IN THE FOREST

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 Having grown up hiking the streams and hills of California, I never thought of myself as some sunshine-deprived “city girl”. Surely not, as a card-carrying REI member! Never mind that survival gear shopped for include the thickest possible sleeping mats and Packtowl travel bathrobes – which happen to also double as essentials of the X-Ordinary Vagabond lifestyle. I considered myself well equipped for living in rustic wilderness, just roll me and my Tumi suitcase towards the rugged path of nature.
Little was I prepared, when suddenly whisked away from Beulah Lodge and my daily scrumptious English breakfasts (X-Ordinary Vagabond-in-style), to visit Rep’s next South Africa Venture location: Beloftebos, a Garden of Eden nestled within the rambling countryside of Stanford. Just a two hour journey along stunning coastline away from the bustling neighborhoods of Cape Town. After the half hour drive down gravelly country roads, the insubstantial of city life passes away and one encounters an evocative land so robust in its nature, the difference can be tasted.farmhouse
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To my chagrin, I discovered that urban dwelling with its efficient distribution of produced goods has deprived me of delectable delights that simply had never tasted so… real before. Upon arrival at our cottage, a lavishly furnished 4-bedroom house dressed in farmland shabby chic, we sat down to an unexpected gifting: A cream-topped carafe glistening chilled. “Freshly squeezed”, I came to one of those existential ponderings – Can one have truly lived life without ever having tasted real milk before?
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With acres and acres of wheatfields, grazing cows and napping sheep as far as the eye can see, Beloftebos is a working farm that also shelters an exquisite fairytale woodland for weddings that only nature and imagination can conceive.  Only after talking with the understated owners, Andries and Coias de Villiers does one uncover the loving hands and romance that created a venue that is now renown as one of the top wedding locations in South Africa.
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Beloftebos, which means “Vows in the Forest,” was inspired long before Andries and Coia’s own matrimonial exchange beneath the ancient oak trees on the property. Originally planted 130 years ago by an ancestral uncle in remembrance of his farm-founder parents, Andries and Coia are but the newest addition to a long heritage of love and family that has cultivated this wilderness into pasturelands for five generations of de Villiers. Andries traces his faith heritage as far back as the French Huguenots, who, as refugees from religious persecution, arrived on South African soil to start a new life.
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We took a drive through winding hills to search out individual cottage gems hiding at the end of rustic dirt paths. It was here I realized that a common misperception by those of us less bucolicly-oriented, is that simple farm life is a form of rudimentary suffering. Instead, in each cottage we visited, I found depth and meaning behind every handmade piece of furniture. From carefully crafted architecture of naturally exposed woodbeams to feather-fluffy duvets covering kid-dream attic loftbeds, the touches of comfort and simple luxuries of rich butter and country bread and anachronistic iron stoves made me second-guess every Pottery Barn purchase I’d ever made.
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I cannot put it into words, the magic of Beloftebos. Perhaps the fellowship of farmers here, in their silent, serious ways attest to a distinct awareness and respect for something primally spiritual in the environment. Life is simply, more Real here. The raw beauty of the lands, the friendly warmth of a tottering red calf sucking on your fingers, the disturbingly layered aromas of fragrant fresh butter, the husky branches of heather gathered in bouquets still shimmering with morning dew – Beloftebos evokes in your heart a deep communion with land, love and covenant. One understands instinctually, that the sacred Presence of God rests here and blesses Beloftebos, the forest where eternal vows are made.
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