I’ll think about you

Liezl Retief
14 May 2018

This time my words won’t be poetic. All I can say is that I think about you. I realise I have been thinking about you nearly every day of my life. Throughout the year I long for your warm beauty and mystery to engulf me once more. I long for the inevitable goose bumps I will get as I journey down the familiar winding bends of the R102. I realise I know you by the smell from the dried out Kooigoed flowers, slowly being covered by Pretoria dust, ever-present on my desk. I realise that I can remember your voice, just thinking about your chirping birds or your croaking frogs or your ever-loud cicadas. This I recall with perfect memory, just like I do a certain, gone but never to be forgotten, relative who instilled this unwavering love for you in me. I realise that not a day goes by without me thinking about you. This place that is like no other, with its indescribable beauty and endless amounts of wonder. Every year you have taught me something new.

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But let me tear my thoughts away from you for a moment. A thing hard to do, especially as I sit here and breathe in your evening air for one of the last times in a while, marveling again at, how in darkness, you can sometimes be even more beautiful than you are during the day. Your fireflies, your crickets, your thundering waves. Oh how I could go on forever at your glorious beauty. However, let me instead think of that small NPO safely nestled at your entrance.

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What can I say about them? For me starting at Nature’s Valley Trust was a bit different. It was a dream I could hardly believe had finally come true. I knew the area well, having been here at least once a year since I was 18 months old. I knew I would absolutely love living in this unique place. What I did not expect is how much I would love the Trust. I knew of them of course. I had a vague idea of what they did, seeing them in action as I passed through yearly, but I had not realised how much love I would develop for this incredible little organisation and all the amazing people that keep it afloat.

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This unparalleled organisation imparted more knowledge to me in the 6 months I was with them than I ever thought possible. Form the plethora of hands-on experiences I have gained to the encouragement they gave to develop writing skills I hardly knew I possessed. Going forward I feel more whole than I have ever felt in my entire life. The people at NVT embrace your uniqueness from day one. They encourage you to challenge yourself, they are there the moment you need help. Their passion. Their wit. Their unwavering love for Nature’s Valley and their need to protect this amazing piece of our earth. These people who have crept so deep into my heart. Always with a positive outlook, always ensuring that the tasks at hand were completed all whilst ensuring a good laugh. These are but a few of the traits that put them and the organisation they work for head and shoulders above most.

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But what of the organisation itself? From day one I felt part of a team, something bigger than myself. NVT is definitely an organisation with a big impact on their surroundings. Their long-term research strategies are complemented by innovative and effective conservation efforts that are clear from the get go. This makes those gorgeous sunrises you see on the early morning beach surveys all the sweeter. It makes your soul dance as you get caught up in unexpected rain showers whilst doing marine debris surveys. All the while knowing that you are making a difference, contributing to such valuable data and aiding in the long-term protection of this gorgeous place. 

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And then, of course, there is the environmental education. I have never envisioned myself as an educator, but very unexpectedly, I found myself enthralled in instilling a love and passion for the environment in others. The smile on a child’s face when they learn the importance of identifying all manner of creepy crawlies in an estuary, the look of pure awe when they see dolphins jumping between the waves or the excitement I shared with them when they learnt exactly how to identify that elusive bird. These memories will last a lifetime for these children and what NVT is doing is creating youngsters with a great interest in protecting the environment. Implanting the gusto to protect our natural environment with the same enthusiasm with which NVT ensures the preservation of their surroundings. 

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To my sisters, my spouses, my fellow unicorns, the princesses, muses and the people who fulfilled every possible role I needed in my life, although you are scattered all over the world, I know that the bonds I formed with all of you will last a lifetime.

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To my aunt and uncle, I miss our evenings of drinking good wine and discussing life more and more each day.

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And finally, to the kings, the leaders, the porridge makers, stray dogs and ever-caring friends that stay behind, it will never be goodbye, but always see you soon. Until then, keep the laughs going as you work so hard to protect your surroundings and educate others to do the same.

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I finish this sitting in busy, dusty Pretoria, the sun shining heavily down on my sober head. You, Nature’s Valley, having faded again, once more evaporating into a lifetime of memories. It seems I am destined to miss you once again, but oh, how I will think about you. Your green rolling hills, your vast and mysterious forests, your colourful Fynbos patches and your inviting beach. You can never be far from my mind. Yes, now and forever more I will think of you. However, with one slight change. For now when I think about you, I will instinctively think about that small NGO safely nestled at your entrance. I smile at the thought, knowing with all certainty, that they are forever and always thinking about you too. #CONSERVATION! #KOOPKOOPKOOP  

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