“I call this place Paradise. People ask if I get used to it, if I take it for granted, but I don’t. Every day I wake up grateful. I’ve been here eight years, and I still have to pinch myself to believe I’m not dreaming. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, and every hour it changes: the colors change, the seasons change, the sounds change, and the smells change. How could anybody ever take it for granted? I hope to go on living and working here till the day I die.”
Rosemarie, 73, is the manager of the Trading Post Lodge at Ramabanta. She runs it for Jennifer and Ashley Thorn, the fourth generation of Thorns in Lesotho. The original buildings were established as a trading post in the 1930s by the Thorns’ grandparents, but now it functions as a lodge.
Rosemarie’s family, like the Thorn family, is part of the history of Whites in Lesotho. Her grandfather, Reverend Sam Duby, was a tough-minded crusader for literacy. A Swiss Protestant who joined the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society in the 19th century, he came to Lesotho as a missionary and ran the book depot and printing center at Morija. Then her father took over from her grandfather, and Rosemarie was born in Lesotho. In the 1950s she moved to South Africa and became a nurse for a while; then she “was in the commercial world” and ran, among other things, a cold-storage meat-delivery business, driving trucks and serving the Black areas when other Whites weren’t even allowed to see how Blacks lived. “Apartheid was so wrong,” she says, “it will take many generations to make things come right. I always had a different perspective on it because I was born in Lesotho, but it was hard going for me in the heyday of Apartheid. I couldn’t find a place to stand, and yet I had to make a living.”
She once was in love, she says, with “the greatest man who ever lived. We were perfect for each other.” She says they adored each other for four years, and then he died. She never married, she says, and never will, “because nobody could ever live up to him, and it wouldn’t be fair to make comparisons.
“But I’ve got Paulie, and he’s as good company as you could ever hope for.” Paulie is her aging dachsund. “He’s so brave, he barks at thunder. He showed up as a stray in Ladybrand about eleven years ago, and I guess we were destined to be companions. He chose me, and he’s been my best friend all these years.”
Rosemarie drives the long dirt road to Maseru once every week to pick up supplies, and she is especially fond of the all-terrain bikers who come to the Lodge often. “They’re business executives, most of them, and they lead the most stressful lives you could imagine. But let them come out here and get on their bikes, get close to the land, become part of nature, and you can see the tension just melt off them. They often get into trouble of one kind or another, and my nursing background comes in handy. I’m like a mother to them, and I just love them all. I think of them as my boys. This land is a great challenge for them; they can’t master it, but they can learn to ride it with grace and let it master them. That’s what the best of them do.”