Among zebras and other luxuries

Our retreat place looks like a honeymoon destination: everything is for two, two showers side by side, a large bathtub for two, and two sinks, mirros, an espresso machine and a king size bed with countless pillows.

There were even two zebras grazing outside my terrace when I checked in. There are complementary massages and everyone in our retreat is slotted in for a one hour massage. Twelve masseuses have been summoned to get us all done before the retreat ends on Thursday.  I don’t think I have ever had this kind of treatment in any retreat.

We are in the Valley Lodge and Spa near the ‘Cradle of Mankind,’  It is one of eight South African World Heritage Sites. It is the world’s richest hominin site, home to around 40% of the world’s human ancestor fossils. It is a place where tourists go; I am so close but there won’t be any time to visit it as I will have a plane to catch on Thursday when our retreat ends.

A South African outfit called Affordable Adventures has been engaged to provide opportunities for getting to know each other outside the workplace, bonding, laughing and integrating. I am mostly observing and am struck by the creativity of the exercises. Last night, in pairs, people painted small panels that, together, created a 1.5 by 2 meter visual related to our work. The panel painting required coordination with adjacent panels without knowing the final end product. Today we learned gumboot dancing, a traditional form of dancing and singing that entertained the workers at the South African mines so far away from their homes and families. Everyone got a pair of (too large – slaps better) gum boots (we call them rubber boots in the US) and a bandana. Three experienced dancers/singers and drummers tried to teach us a very complex song and dance, requiring constant slapping of our boots.  This was a challenge for most of us and produced some very good laughs. Rhythm is not quite my forte, at least not this kind of rythme.

We also worked hard – getting alignment around results and lessons learned, clarifying language and learning who is doing what. It’s instructive for just about everyone, including our CEO who was able to join us for the morning of our first day.

And now I am sitting on my spacious porch, overlooking a kind of village green where the zebras come and go as they please, actually just galloping by as I sip my glass of Pinotage.

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November 2015
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