Somewhere in rural Southern Africa lies a picturesque, little town, sleepily hidden in an emerald valley surrounded by majestic, purple mountains with waterfalls cascading down steep, rocky cliffs.
Clustered with pretty, white houses and neat gardens it seems like an ideal place to forget about the outside world.
The people who inhabit this town are a strange mix of eccentric characters; farmers, mechanics, laborers and upright citizens. Among the more interesting is an old lady who plays such amazing piano she can make you fly, women who look like men and men who look like women, an ancient Koi San tribe elder name Africa who hasn’t been sober in fifty years, a woman so fat she cannot get into her car, a magistrate whose name means ‘rabbit pants’, a greasy haired man with an official expression who owns a messy grocery store and who sits in a grand office high up like a DJ’s box keeping watch over his shriveled vegetables and playing with blank papers all day long, an over-zealous traffic policeman who will stop the same person at the same place every day for ten years to ask for his driver’s license. Nothing much changes in this town and the upright’s make sure it never will.
One sunny, spring morning we paid a visit to the Fairy Sanctuary. It was a Friday and we thought it would help us wind down for Shabbat. We opened a rickety, old wooden gate and entered into an enchanted garden. A wonderfully overgrown wonderland full of pretty flowers surrounding a narrow pathway leading us to the colorful fairies’ house.
All around us were tiny fairies, perched on rocks, on pieces of gnarled, tree stumps, inside the trees and among the long grass. They were dressed in typical ‘fairy wear’, delicate and sparkly. Sweet music played from the little house and invited us to enter. Once inside, we were lost to reality. In fact, we were so far away we could hardly imagine reality. The rooms where filled with fairies, miniature worlds, millions of colored lights, shiny beads and twinkling sequins.
Our day had turned into an amazing journey into a fairy tale which had become tangible. The fairies were alive with expression, each one showing his very particular character. After exploring all the magical rooms, I walked outside and found myself in the back garden, alive with more fairies and classic red and white toadstools. I felt I needed to sit and ponder the universe on my own, so I looked for a quiet spot to contemplate.
I found the perfect place, a huge toadstool with an archway entrance just asking me to enter. Being in a playful mood and feeling like a child again, I stooped down to enter the low doorway and took a seat on the carved bench. I closed my eyes and went into a peaceful state of absolute calmness.
Then I heard my daughter call my name in a loud and excited voice, “Maiyan, come quickly, you have to see this beautiful frog.”
“Coming!”, I was loudly awakened from my tranquility and I rushed forward to get outside.
I was met by a massive thud to my consciousness. It wasn’t a bang, that is too little a word, it felt like a huge boulder had fallen from the sky and hit my forehead. Yes, I forgot to duck when exiting the solid concrete toadstool.
I saw many stars, an entire constellation and instantly lost 12 mega-bites of memory. They had to carry me away, past the disappointed fairies. Reality had rudely awoken me from my dream state and my life (which seemed awfully funny in fast motion) flashed before my eyes. I was unconscious. The toadstool had almost killed me, not the bungee jumping, not the venomous snakes while living in the wilderness, the flood, the mountain fires, the falls from a traumatised race horse, not the car accident with a drunken driver, not the bomb that went off in my street but the toadstool at the fairy sanctuary in a sleepy, uneventful, nameless town.
The Karidis are an Israeli/South African artist family who have lived and worked in South Africa, Israel, Mauritius and Fiji. These stories form part of a series of experiences of Jewish identity in extraordinary locations.