Stellenbosch #1

For those of you who don’t know, I’m spending a couple of weeks in Stellenbosch, South Africa working with my doctoral advisor, Christo van der Merwe. I’ll try to post here (and on Facebook) my updates and photos.

Day 1-2 Travel
Philly airport: free wifi for stuents allowed me to stay in touch and get caught up on some more work. Live musician (piano) in the terminal, a nice touch

United to Dulles: overfull flight, not much room for carryon luggage. Fortunately my backpack fit under the seat in front of me. A short flight, thank goodness.

Dulles: Just enough time to get to gate and work briefly, but no internet access.

SAA flight: terrific. Nice new clean plane. Seat 40C, so outside (not middle section), left side on the aisle (as you face the front of the plane). Seats were 2-4-2, so it seemed very spacious. Nice little bag of goodies, pillow and clean blanket on seat. Food was terrific. Dinner: chicken and penne with light sauce and cheese; nice fresh salad; cheese, crackers; fresh roll; frosted dense chocolate cake. Lovely SA wine with a great name: Goats Do Roam. Breakfast: scrambled eggs and potato and mini sausage (didn’t eat those, so not sure if they were good), croissant, fruit, yogurt, juice.

Sat next to Jill, originally from SA (until she was 23 yrs). She is Jewish but not “religious” (although she does go to temple about 4 times a year and is interested in going to a Torah study group), has traveled all over (“it was the sixties thing to do”), met her husband in Israel, ended up in CA and is teaching and working with pharmaceuticals. We had really interesting conversation about religion, scripture, community, etc. After our conversation she wants to read Kugel’s new book. She was also interested in the Afrikaans Yahoo group. She still has family (mother and sister) in Joburg. We hit it off well and enjoyed each other’s company. Flight seemed to go very fast. Ate dinner, watched some video (a short documentary about Mountain Gorillas and then the movie Hairspray) and then took my 1⁄2 sleeping pill and woke up 2 hours before the flight ended! Just in time for breakfast. The 15 hour flight was much nicer than any of the other transatlantic flights I’ve had, even though it was much longer.

The 2.5 hour overlay was JUST enough time to get through immigration, retrieve luggage (I think mine was the last off the plane), go through customs, walk to another terminal, check luggage to Capetown, go through security (very easy compared to US), and then get to the gate. I did pay a porter to help me with my trolley (free trolleys all over the world except in the US. $3 to use them in the US!!). I’m glad I did because even though I could have navigated it to the second terminal, he was adept at taking the whole thing up an escalator!!

Joburg to Capetown flight was mostly full, but the 3-3 economy seating was still quite comfortable. Plane was very very clean and fresh. We were served a nice dinner on the 2 hour flight. Not as nice as the international flight, but still very good (fish, veggies, salad, roll, chocolate). Plastic utensils instead of metal (as on international flight). Both flights offered SA wine (and so I obligingly tried them!)

Ended up traveling “with” two ladies part of a group traveling from UCLA Berkeley for a tour. They were on the last two flights. Very sweet. Spent some time talking while waiting in airport terminals.

Christo met me at the terminal (“man-pris” are alive and well in SA) and we had a nice drive from Capetown to Stellenbosch. It was dark, so hard to see things, but he did point out all the slums outside of the city. The street lights are really, really high on poles in the slums because some people steal them. They even steal the wire and sell the metal.

Christo drove me around the university a little to show me where I would go on Monday (the map he left me will actually be more helpful, I don’t think I will remember all the turns). My little room is quite nice. The house is in an area of Guesthouses. There is a courtyard with a gate (everyone has a security gate). The main house has a little garage, and then my detached room is next to that. It is a nice bedroom with two beds and a wall unit storage wardrobe (actually there are two, one for each bed, with a mirror and little vanity area between). The kitchenette has a sink, minifridge, microwave, hotwater kettle, some dishes and silverware. There is a bookcase between the kitchenette and the bedroom area. There is a bathroom which is actually bigger than our bathroom at home. Very simple, just bigger. A shower, no tub. Everything is white and the whole apt is tiled with white quarry tile. The door is a double dutch door, so you can open the top. There is a gate door in front of the wood door. The windows also are “gated” and the glass panels are usually open. It seems like there is not as much a difference between outdoors and indoors (and the insects agree). It was very hot and humid when I arrived (Christo said it was the hottest day so far). We did get some rain last night, which was nice. I unpacked (hurray, all the BBQ sauces made it safe and sound…even though it appears that security went through that part of the bag and repacked it) and then went to bed at 11 pm.

Sunday, Feb 10
Woke up to lots of bells at 7:30 am (actually I woke up at 6:30 but didn’t want to get up). Morning birds definitely sound different!

After a shower, I went around the block to a church (Afrikaans) and heard the last bit of the service (I didn’t have the time right for when the service began). Walked to a grocery store and purchased a few things (was able to use charge card). Nice store, much like ours. Lots of fruit in season. Got some yogurt that is “bulgarian style” –whatever that is! Best-named foreign item: bug spray named “Doom.”

First mishap of trip. I tried to get some local money (rands) from an ATM because it is Sunday and the exchange places are closed (and it was too late at the airport and we didn’t have time in Joburg). Anyway, first ATM was not working (pretty typical). Second ATM was working, but retained my card and gave me no money. Aghhh! I will have to ask Christo about how to contact the bank about that. I took down the branch information. Fortunately it wasn’t my AMEX or Visa card. Unfortunately I never planned on using my VISA card at the ATM (different bank account) and thus, don’t have the PIN number with me. So, unless I can get that other card back and working, I won’t have access to an ATM.

Walking home I got my first glimpse of the mountains. Oh my goodness. They are so close to where I am staying. Today is a little foggy due to the rain we had (and are still having) and the humidity, but I am sure I will get some good photos soon.

There is an internet café and a wifi spot, but they don’t take credit cards or american money, so I am stuck “offline” for a bit more I guess. There is a guesthouse next door with a wireless network that I can pick up. I asked about paying to be able to use that, but they said it was only for their guests.

Second attempt at ATM with my UVa Visa card… but after I started the transaction I realized I have a different PIN for that card and don’t ever use it (and therefore don’t know it!). So, the only ATM card I have is inside a bank machine until at least Monday.

Took nap in the afternoon…it poured several times, so not a great time to be out and about. Worked some on UVa stuff. I hope to be able to post that work first thing tomorrow.

Christo stopped by, picked up some books I brought for him, gave me some Rands (so I can now go out and buy some stuff or go on the internet). He is also loaning me a bicycle so that I can get around. Lovely!

Ms. de la Bat (my landlady) gave me a lift to the downtown area (actually easy to walk to, but it was nice of her to offer). I’m thankful to finally be “connected” again and will try to eat dinner somewhere too.

It has rained all day, so photos will have to wait until tomorrow. I will get my computer added to the University system Monday. Also, my student ID, etc. Christo is going to take me to see some of the town while they work on my computer. Should be able to be online again tomorrow afternoon/evening (Monday).