Being on the road often gives me time to ponder things – the past, present and future. And I make a habit of stopping at least once or twice on a journey to chat to people and hear their tales, and to visit interesting, often forgotten places. In Padlangs, I share some of the thoughts and stories collected along the way.
Driving along the C41 from Okahao to Oshakati on Valentine’s Day, a bright roadside stall caught my eye.
A selection of flower arrangements, gift baskets and red roses filled a table and a sign on the roadside wished passers-by a ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’.
In an area where mahangu fields, makalani palms, oshanas, homesteads, shebeens and a motley collection of cows, goats and donkeys characterise the landscape, the lush garden of the Kasikili Restcamp is an unusual find.
It was something I could not pass by, neither was the energetic owner Loini Hamunyela, dressed for the special day in red.
I soon discovered that Loini was the brightest flower of them all.
A public health nurse by profession, she was drawn to being a florist in her later years.
She set up three florist shops in Oshakati, Ondangwa and Outapi.
And, as I later heard from people who grew up in the area, if there is an occasion to celebrate – whether that is a wedding, funeral, anniversary or simply a time to make amends with your lover – people call on Kasikili florists.
It is a name that is synonymous with flowers in the North.
Loini’s love for flowers started early.
Her father was a Lutheran pastor, who always made sure there was a flower on the table when they sat down to eat. It became a family tradition and instilled in her a deep love for flowers.
Loini gradually learned the art of flower arranging, eagerly accepting the knowledge people generously shared.
After becoming a member of International Interflora, she regularly attended conferences in the UK, Holland and Brazil, further increasing her knowledge.
In 2007, she began to plant her garden and opened her rest camp in 2011, which is a popular ‘braaiplek’, wedding, party and photoshoot venue.
Built in the style of a traditional homestead, the rest camp incorporates tradition and modern, has a room available for guests and offers meals, which can be eaten in a choice of quaint outdoor dining areas.
While we enjoyed a late afternoon drink in her peaceful garden, Loini explained how she, in turn, shares the knowledge she has gained over the years on the radio, teaching people about the different floral varieties.
According to Loini, “If you are a florist, you make floral arrangements for all occasions. There are always people who come in wanting to express their love or say sorry to someone with flowers”.
Driving past the rest camp on Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t have found a better story.
Eight kilometres from Okahao, on the day of love, I found a small story with a big heart.
Some Valentine days go by unnoticed in my busy schedule, especially when I am away from home or travelling for work, but this Valentine’s Day, thanks to the table of flowers, the Kasikili Restcamp surrounded by mahangu fields and Loini Hamunyela, will be one I always remember.
-Gondwana Collection Namibia
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