Postcard 48 from Robina: Ixopo, South Africa, Sunday, November 30, 2014

Nov 30, 2014

After Kathmandu I went to South Africa, landing in Johannesburg on November 20 and flying straight to Cape Town. Nina McNaught, a student of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s, had invited me and had set up a series of events for ten days, nearly all in Cape Town, but one weekend at the end at a retreat center in the bush out of Durban.

Driving into Cape Town from the airport. Photo Kate Macdonald.

I had been here once before (although I remember nothing of the place), in January 1968 on my way to London for the first time. I travelled with my 19-year-old sister Marie on the P&O Orient Line’s boat, The Himalaya. Not inauspicious, I suppose, given where my journey ended up a few years later.

On the deck of The Himalaya in Melbourne with friends in 1968, just before sailing.

In Australia we had the feeling of being at the other end of the earth—the right end for someone of British stock, of course, being London. When we were kids the biggest dream was to “go overseas.” We’d often go down to Station Pier at Port Melbourne to say goodbye to friends taking the big boats to Europe, which was the way you went then. Our friends on the boat would throw the traditional paper streamers and we’d catch the other end, holding on as they left the pier until, of course, the streamers would break, making their departure into the exciting unknown even more poignant. Oh, how I’d be full of such yearning!

A big boat leaving for Europe, with streamers flying.

But I did little to fulfill my yearnings. It was my mother who made it happen. Marie, the fourth sister, was the only one of us who had real plans to go to London: she worked two jobs and saved her dollars. My mother decided she wanted one of the older sisters to accompany her, but her secret agenda in having me go, I think, was to help me put my life together. I seemed as if I didn’t have a clue what to do with myself—and it was probably true. I’d studied classical singing with my mother, an accomplished musician, since I was a kid and her dreams for me were to develop the potential she was convinced I possessed. I didn’t have a penny but somehow she found some dollars—I think she sold a life insurance plan—and sent me on my way.

I think she must have rued the day she did that. I half-heartedly auditioned at a school of music in London, but it didn’t take me long to get swept up in the prevailing energy of the times: it was the 1960s and I was ripe and ready for revolution. . . If my mother was worried about me before I left, Lord knows how she coped with my next few years!


Anyway, Cape Town. It seems that there is not much Dharma there: a couple of groups and a few individuals with their own practice. Nina says that there’s a group meeting regularly now, using FPMT’s Discovering Buddhism program.

With the Shambala SA group in Rondebosch on my first evening in Cape Town. Photo Kate Macdonald.

With friends in Rondebosch. Photo Kate Macdonald.

The suburb of Rondebosch, primarily residential and site of the main campus of the University of Cape Town.

Our Karma & Emptiness urban weekend retreat at the Hout Bay Museum in Cape Town. Photo Kate Macdonald.

The view from the place where I stayed in Hout Bay. Photo Kate Macdonald.

At the Wellness Station in Plumstead, Cape Town. Photo Kate Macdonald.

There’s a lam-rim group in Durban where we had a evening together.

In Durban, at The Breathing Space in Glenwood. Photo Kate Macdonald.

And finally our weekend at the Buddhist Retreat Center in Ixopo, ninety minutes southwest of Durban, a lovely place that’s been operating for some thirty-five years I think, run by Louis van Loon, a Theravada practitioner.

Teachings at the Buddhist Retreat Center in Ixopo. Photo Kate Macdonald.

The countryside of Ixopo, a town in the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. Photo Kate Macdonald.

Louis van Loon (right) founded the Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo in 1980 and has been running it since then with his wife Chrisi (left). Photo Kate Macdonald.

With friends in Ixopo. Photo Kate Macdonald.

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