The Heroine’s Journey of Valerie Pixley

What is the best thing that I love about my work?  Growing indigenous trees.  It’s very satisfying to plant a little seed and watch the birth of a tree as it pushes its way out of the earth. Indigenous trees are so beautiful and learning about their traditional
medicinal uses in African culture is fascinating.  I first started growing trees in 1999 and grow 2,000 to 5,000 every year.  It’s also very important to me to grow these trees as they are vanishing in Mozambique because of human activity.

What is my idea of perfect happiness? Perfect happiness for me is to meet up with my family. We are all scattered now and live in different countries.  I live in Mozambique;
my mother, sister Jenny and niece Danielle live in Cape Town, South Africa; my brother David and his family live in London; Andrea, a niece lives in Australia and Olivia, another niece lives in Nigeria. So visits are rare and therefore very precious.

What is my greatest fear? My greatest fear is that our lovely Nhamacoa Forest will be completely destroyed by fire.  Last year, someone deliberately set fire to our forest and 50% of it was burnt. The damage was awful.  As it’s the last remnant of a once enormous indigenous forest and full of animals, birds and reptiles that fled into our trees for refuge when their habitat was destroyed, total destruction would be a disaster as the
animals would have nowhere else to go.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? I’m not at all diplomatic and this tends to make matters worse when a little diplomacy would smooth things over.  As an old Dutch friend once reminded me, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? Dr. Jane Goodall.

What is my greatest extravagance? Wine!  Preferably red.  We have wonderful sunsets here and there is nothing better than watching the sun go down while relaxing with a
glass or two of wine.  Preferably Frontera, from Chile.

On what occasion would I lie? My mother brainwashed me when I was very young not to tell lies.  So, I have become quite puritanical about this.  Today, we live in a world
of lies.  Our politicians lie, the media lies, advertising lies, the internet is full of lies and this causes a lot of confusion. I must confess, though, that lying to a corrupt official doesn’t bother me.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? I never knew what injustice and corruption was until I came to live in Mozambique.  It affects all aspects of our lives and I loathe it.  It destroys businesses and people.  It keeps people poor.  My maid’s daughter-in-law needed a blood transfusion in the local hospital and her family was told by a nurse that unless she paid the nurse a sum of money, she would not be given blood and therefore would die.  As a result, the family ran around trying to sell the few possessions they owned to pay the nurse. They didn’t know that blood transfusions are free.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work? I’ve lived in the Nhamacoa Forest since 1995 and I think the happiest time here was 2010.  I was busy writing my book “Monkeys in my Garden”; Douglas, our fantastic cook and right-hand man, was busy
helping to put the pounds onto us with his delicious meals, cakes and biscuits; we had a forest shop that was doing a roaring trade and were planning to start eco-tourism.  Unfortunately, it all fell to pieces in December 2010 when bandits attacked us.

If I could, what would I change about myself? Nothing.

What is my greatest achievement in work? Saving Nhamacoa Forest.  With my husband O’D’s help, of course.

Where would I most like to live? The Nhamacoa Forest, of course.  It’s enchantingly beautiful and endlessly interesting. The air is pure, the water is clean and it’s great to walk outside the front door and cut down a hand of bananas, pick a mango or an avocado off a tree and eat fruit which hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides. When I was young I grew up in a capital city and later lived and worked in Athens and London.  This was fine at the time but now cities make me feel claustrophobic with all the traffic,
noise and crowds.

What is my most treasured possession? I don’t have any treasured possessions anymore.  My most valuable possession was a gold bracelet given to me by Marion, my mother in law.  It was made up of 2,000 year old 24 carat gold coins with the heads of Philip of Macedonia and Alexander the Great on them. Unfortunately, it was stolen during the horrifying bandit attack on us in our house in the Nhamacoa Forest in 2010.  Although we lost everything, including all my jewellery, I regret this loss the most because of its antiquity and rarity.

What is my most marked characteristic? Endurance.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city? Chimoio is our nearest city and I’m sorry to say it doesn’t have any inspirational locations!  I do like the big markets, though.

What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city? The Ponto de Encontro.  This Indian-owned restaurant is right in the centre of Chimoio and has a good feel to it and tasty food.  The best thing, though, is the casa de banho which has gorgeous, glitzy tiles
on the walls and is spotlessly clean, not something you often come
across in Mozambique.

What books influenced my life and how? The Bible. When you live in a forest in the back of beyond, you soon discover who is most important person in the world.  Studying the Bible for many years has given me a greater knowledge of God,  of why I am here and how I should try and live.

Who are my favorite writers? African writers Peter Godwin and Pamela Jooste.  Also John Grisham, Robert Goddard, Elizabeth George and Rosamunde Pilcher.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? Christian music.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? Hercule Poirot.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? My mother.  She is an amazing woman.  At 92 and blind in one eye, with fading eyesight in the other, she still plays the piano beautifully, knits and does crosswords. And she never complains.  Also, the late
Lawrence Anthony, conservationist and author of “The Elephant Whisperer”, who saved a herd of elephant, amongst many other animals.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime? To Kill a Mockingbird.

What role plays art in my life and work? I collect contemporary Mozambican wooden  carvings and sculptures, usually by a Mozambican artist called Julinho Vasco.  He is a good artist but penniless like many others in Africa as there is little market for his work, unfortunately.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? My husband, O’D, is my greatest supporter.  He’s great with animals and should have been a Vet.  They love him, except for our Missionary friend’s dog, Megabyte, who is aptly named as he always tries to take
a bite out of O’D for some reason!

Whom would I like to work with in 2019? Dr. Johan Marais, Conservationist wildlife Vet, saving the survivors. Young people who are interested in nature and conservation.

Which people in my profession would I love to meet in 2019? Johan Marais – South African wildlife vet.

What project, in 2019, am I looking forward to work on? Eco-tourism
Where can you see me or my work in 2019? You can see my work on our website

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? Well, my passion to save a little bit of paradise in Mozambique will never end as it is part of my life.

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story? He could try inviting my sister in law, Paula Wiegminck. She’s an award-winning wild-life artist living in Perth, Australia.  Apart from Paula’s passion for painting, she is also passionate about saving rhinos from being poached into extinction.

How can you contact me? I can be contacted on Facebook or at

My book “Monkeys in my Garden” is available in paperback and eBook on
Amazon and can also be read online at
via Troubador Publishing.

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