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Lifestyle of choice

Updated on October 2, 2019
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Elna is a former transport safety researcher. She is a consultant for social projects and works mainly in South Africa and SADC countries.

The moment she turned into the dirt road she felt her body relax. It was already dusk and she switched on the lights of the car, just in time to see the lights reflecting from the eyes of a small fox.

Anachronism of time and place and expectations

The disparity between this, her somewhat primitive home, and her classy work environment, never seemed to bother her. She worked at a research organisation with sophisticated equipment and laboratories where she had some status due to her reputation for diligence and intelligence. There never was a problem with access to resources: whatever was needed, was at her disposal. The buildings were imposing modern “green” structures of glass and concrete.

In contrast to this, her home, which she owned together with a 57ha piece of empty bushveld, was a simple square structure, with one very large kitchen, dining room, and lounge, flanked by a bathroom and two bedrooms. The floors were dull raw cement and the furniture, carpets and curtains were unmatched, uninspired and mostly handed down from parents and previous apartments.

What set this further apart from her work environment, was the fact that the home was not linked to the national electricity grid, which lit up all the smallholdings around them. She used a mixture of gas, generator, and wood to energize a strange combination of appliances. The most primitive of these was the use of a “donkey” to heat bath water – an oil drum installed at roof height above a small furnace outside the bathroom window, and stoked with wood and paper to provide 200 litres of furiously boiling water. A Lister engine drove the water pump to fill a large green tank with water necessary for household needs.

She never invited anyone from work to this home, 30km outside of the bustling city.

A research organisation has its share of eccentrics: Old cars, people walking or cycling to work in a pedestrian and cycling unfriendly city, professionals in jeans and T-shirts. These were proportionally much higher than in other corporate environments and her old Audi 100 could be a sign of a non-materialistic lifestyle. This dark, run-down house without amenities, empty food cupboards, assortment of dogs, geese, cats and haphazard vegetable garden would have lifted the eyebrows.

She loved this place – this anachronism of time and place and expectations.

She nosed the Audi into the yard. As she got out of the car, the dogs fought to be first to smell her clothes and sniff the tyres of the car. The last small group of hadedas flew high overhead, slicing open the sky with their jagged voices, letting in a slight breeze and lifting the heavy heat of the day from the darkening landscape.


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