Week 26 Four Courses A Statesider Needs to Understand Life in Stellenbosch

Cultural Acclimation 101: Afrikaans for Beginners Afrikaans is one of the 11 languages spoken in South Africa and the dominant language spoken at Stellenbosch University.  This course is meant to equip you with some words that are part of the everyday Afrikaans language. These handy phrases will be part of exchanges with “waitrons” [1] in restaurants, store clerks in Spar groceries, guides at the wineries and olive groves, graduate students in the lab and random natives on the street. Boerefees“Baie dankie” – phonetically “buy a donkey” is a sincere “thank-you” for something delivered above and beyond expectations. When one has been served by clerks who are huffing and puffing from running back and forth, or by store owners who come to work 365 days a year or after such life changing events as their own marriage, or to young wine guides who are nervously trying out their English with excellent results, or from sidewalk vendors who stand for hours in the hot sun for a single sale. When we get extraordinary service, we wish to say, “baie danke.” It seems the least we can say to acknowledge their efforts.

Whenever a “baie dankie” is tended, the response will likely be “It’s my pleasure’ya.” The phrase deepens to a long e on the first syllable of pleasure and lingers on the last syllable with a light uptick at the end “…plee -SURE’ya. The intent might signal that the conversation need not necessarily end, and if one chooses to say something else, that will be just fine. It is said with eye contact and a smile, and it feels really heartfelt. It is said as from a person who has decided to give you something, not someone who has just delivered a service because of a contract or expectation. A miniature verbal present, this phrase is sure to make the recipient smile back and be grateful.  If there is time, we will explore some other lekker (translation difficult but close to “awesome”) words in Africaans .

Cultural Acclimation 102 Afrikaans Road Signs A continuation of CA 101 extending to road signs that foreigners need to know are real and not to be taken as a joke….…..Kicjs y Pants…..Hellshoogte Pass….Drakensburg….Don’t feed the baboons….Please don’t hoot!……..Oom Samie Se Winkel.…..And our favorite….… Beware of Children!!! picstitch.signs Cultural Acclimation 201 Mountain Passes The course is an experiential learning course. Each class, students will explore one of the several dozen breath-taking mountain passes, write essays about what it must have been like for early inhabitants of the area to cross these on foot or with ox carts, and sing one verse from the classic John Denver song, “Rocky Mountain High.picstitch3

Cultural Acclimation 301 Cricket

Cricket

Obviously, these children know more about cricket than we do.

As we travel around the world, we are presented with a number of different human activities which are foreign to us, which defy easy description, and whose existence seems to be inexplicable. This is a pretty normal part of travel, and one of the chief joys of visiting a different culture. However, as an activity which is foreign, complex and without apparent utility, cricket is our new champion.
It’s pretty big in SA. Turn on the television, and you are likely to stumble across a match (named for “let’s light a match to this whole thing”?). Drive by a big open field, and there often will be several contests. The newspapers carry the scores and stories of matches. It is a strange sport to encounter. A large group of players, often dressed in white, arrayed around the field watching with some interest an oddly dressed player with what appears to be a wooden rug beater or archaic torture instrument facing an opposing player who backs up about a quarter mile, runs at the first player for several minutes, then skips, hops, and ducks while swiveling his arm wildly, finally releasing a ball when they are about 20 feet apart. To fans of baseball and track and field, this looks like a combination of pitching, triple-jump and discus, with a very long in-run. Because the rug beater is about a foot wide, the first player usually hits the ball, sending it flying in a wide variety of directions. This causes some of the spectators on the field to suddenly burst into action, chasing the ball. The batter looks on in amusement, hardly moving at all, as the scoreboard adds a random number of “overs” to the batting team’s score.
Mixed in with the two important players and the on-field spectators is apparently a small group of retired army officers, who wear wide-brimmed hats and suit jackets in the blazing sun, and frequently wave their arms about, looking very stern. These activities go on for as long as we have had patience to watch, but apparently up to a day or more.
Needless to say, this sport has gripped the attention of the entire country.
I suppose I should say most of the country. We sat with a couple of friends while the husband was extolling the virtues of the old-fashioned cricket. “When I was young, these matches would last for days, with breaks for tea, meals and sleep. Those were the days!” he enthused. He did allow that an acquaintance of his, on viewing the first hour of a day-long match, decided his time was better spent lying down on a bench in the back to catch up on some sleep.
There is apparently some sort of strategy in this game. The pitcher/runner/jumper/gesticulator is actually trying to hit an easy-to-miss part of the field called the “wicket”. Perhaps covered with some adhesive, this is composed of three sticks stuck in the ground, with some bits of wood laid over the top. It looks a bit like that thing you put in your garden to hold up a pot, or a sprinkler, but it didn’t quite work, being so flimsy, but you never got around to taking it out and there it is all those years later looking a bit rickety. Cricketers have made an object of worship out of this. If the hurler manages to hit the wicket and knock off some of the wood, the batter is retired, and perhaps beaten with the rug beaters to atone for his shame. Since the wicket is very thin, and the batters are quite wide (made more so by large pads), it is quite rare for the hurler to hit the wicket.
Another way for the batter to take the walk of shame is for him to hit the ball right at one of the field spectators, for that spectator to notice, put down his newspaper and catch the ball. Despite our suspicion that this ball would make a nice souvenir, the field spectator seems to throw the ball back into play, out of a sense of duty, or of not having any idea what to do with a leather ball stuffed with feathers. Apparently, no-one in the cricket world owns cats.
We have to admit that there may be some finer points of cricket that we are missing. It could be in the fine points of the habidashery habits of people on the field (caps, wide-brimmed hats and the occasional helmet against damage during the walk of shame). It’s possible that there is one moment of exquisite excitement during the days of play. Perhaps there is a contest to see who can be the last to succumb to heat stroke, with the winner’s electric bill paid for the month. Given the attention cricket gets here, there must be something. http://www.thesouthafrican.com/twin-centuries-give-south-africa-a-nervy-win-against-zimbabwe/

  [1] Waitron is either a new word coined to represent either a waitress or a waiter

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