Week 23 Stellenbosch First Impressions

About Stellenbosch week 1 stellie wines

  •  The beauty of this valley – mountains, vineyards, cloudscapes, and constantly changing shadows and illuminated valleys – cannot be overstated
  • Farmland seems so fertile despite dry climate, yet scorched earth in certain places tells a story of dangerous sparks having their way with the grasslands
  • Stellenbosch University reminds us of Stanford University in Palo Alto CA (on steroids) and the town seems like Palo Alto (tree lined with upscale shops), though some clear differences (Dutch rather than Spanish influence) and much more dramatic hills
  • Gorgeous new underground library with modern facilities.  Inner sanctum for grad students with Star Trek chairs and computers.  Free coffee, casual seating.  Big and bright, despite being underground.
  • Pea hens running happily through vineyards
  • Fynbos (native flowers that resemble cactus flowers) everywhere
  • Hooked bill birds in our garden (we think it’s a Hadeda Ibis)
  • Large old trees like eucalyptus everywhere
  • Very shy neighborhood cats in abundance–no bold Istanbul type cats.
  • Maybe it’s the dogs?  Lots of people have large dogs, like German Shepherds.
  • Flowers everywhere, bright pink, blue, yellow, white

About the People

  • So many barefoot folks in town, on the hiking trails (!!!), in grocery stores
  • All are hospitable, helpful, friendly.  Store employees to a person seem friendly and helpful.  The phrase:  “Thank you” is followed by “It’s a pleasure”, with a luxurious pronunciation of the last word.
  • Our friendly waiter at “Deli” restaurant with pet spider monkey on his shoulder
  • Neighbors
    • Neighbor 1 shirtless, barefoot, toothless – kindly helping
    • Neighbor 2 shirtless, barefoot, gives us good-hearted grief about asking for a match to light our braii (bbq)
    • Neighbors 3a and 3b  (husband and wife) waving hello through their passel of kids.
  • Co-worker who grew up in Zulu land in a missionary settlement
  • Construction worker (barefoot) ran full speed after a farm trailer filled with fresh picked grapes – grabbed a large handful, walked back to his job with huge smile on his face and popping grapes into his mouth.
  • Being called “Mama” and “Dadda” (which we were told were terms of respect) by a young black college student asking directions and Rich being called “Master” by our office cleaning staff.
  • Strong opinions delivered with a understanding that you don’t need to agree but this is the way I think
  • More different body types than we have ever seen in one spot
  • Africaans love their meat.  We were told of one Africaan friend who considered chicken his salad, picked anything green out of his food, and the only vegetable he would eat was a potato.

What’s left

week 1 dark and light

  • Regular (almost daily) power outages called “load shedding” because country’s electric power grid is insufficient for country’s needs (see our response above- candles and BBQ)
  • Church Service in 3 languages – English, Afrikaan, and Xhosa
  • Fear of violence pervades daily life.
    • We have 11 locks plus a garage door opener for our house
    • Each door at the campus is secured with ID cards that need to be swiped.
    • Everyone has a tale of being threatened or robbed, often told that those who rob are very polite others not so
  • Inequity index (GINI) 0.67 – highest of any country (US is 0.48)
  • The black/white/colored distinctions are painfully obviously deeply deeply felt in this post-Mandela corner of South Africa
    • Here in Stellenbosch, nearly all the domestic and mechanical jobs are black/colored
    • Here in Stellenbosch, nearly all the restaurant/shop/professors/business owners are white
    • Minister who grew up in South Africa speaks from the pulpit of how, despite a strong effort to expunge this, he “loathes” the part of him that still responds in apartheid-like ways to the people who surround him.
  • It seems very inexpensive here:  Rich got a haircut at the hair salon in the student center.  Wash, conditioner, cut, and a rinse after (with conditioner to prevent the stray cut hairs from flying out).  Cost?  R120, or about $10.  With tips (20 for stylist, and 10 for woman who washed my hair), came to maybe $13.
  • It seems very expensive here:  The house came with 2GB of internet access that was supposed to last us the month.  Four days later, it was gone.  The cost of our usual months usage would be about R2000 (almost $200).  Fortunately, it’s a lot less expensive at the University.

photoDid we mention that it’s gorgeous here?

This entry was posted in Around South Africa and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Week 23 Stellenbosch First Impressions

  1. cab552014 says:

    Sounds so interesting…..Lots of variety.


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