Stellenbosch Update #10 (Posted Monday 2/18)

Before I start talking about the trip, I have two little tidbits to share. One is about bells and the other about bell-shaped things that fall from trees. Early on Sunday morning (but not on the other days) there are several times when the church bells ring. I think the idea is to get you out of bed. They start at 6:30 am. The first ringing is for about 3 or 4 minutes. Then at 7 am they ring a few times. Then at 7:30 they ring for a few minutes again. Around 8:30 some services start, so there is more ringing. And then the grand finale is at 9:00 am when they ring for about 5 minutes straight. If you are not in church yet you sure do feel guilty hearing all those bells! The second little item is about the acorns that are on the oaks here. Because it is so temperate here the oaks do not have the nice dense grain that develops in the US and in Europe. It is a rather porous wood and not highly thought of (especially for wine casks- those have to be brought in from far away). But they make up for this unfortunate circumstance with their little acorns. They have little caps that are furry. And the caps extend down about halfway onto the elongated acorn. So, they are quite comical looking. They are heavy and will fall hard on your head if you are not careful. The ground around these trees looks like it is full of furry little gnome heads.

Trip to Capetown
Our trip to Capetown was wonderful, but I wish we had more time to explore and walk around. Marli had to be back to Stellenbosch by 5:30pm, so we were on a schedule. As I mentioned earlier, we left Stellenbosch and headed south going directly to the ocean. The town of Somerset West. Here we had our first view of the ocean. We turned to the west and followed the coast traveling through towns like Muizenberg, Fish Hoek, Simonstown and Chapman’s Bay. One of the first beaches we passed was Cemetery Beach. Hmm. Probably won’t stop there. The winds were strong, so the sea was rough. They have a different term for what we call “whitecaps.” They call them “white horses.” The wind also moved a lot of moisture up into the heights and so clouds were hanging on the one side of the mountains. The large bay that we circumscribed is called False Bay. The road winds along the edge of the mountains. It carves into the mountain edge, and at some places the mountain overhangs the road. It is narrow and steep in places. There are cyclists who are trying to ride up with the traffic. Insane. We stopped once to get out and take photos and enjoy the view. I will have to look at a map and figure out which mountain peaks we were photographing and which area of the coast we were on. We stopped and ate at a little local place called “Snoekies.” This is way off the beaten path. We had terrific fish and chips, but you could also just buy raw fish to take home. The fish is battered and cooked as you stand there, so it is really fresh. At some point we crossed over the Cape peninsula and headed up the west side. The views of Table Mountain, the Twelve Apostles, Druker Island, Chapman’s Peak and Lion’s head are amazing. There is a cable car that can take you up to Table Mountain (and there are also hiking trails). We will have to save that for another visit. The architecture throughout the Capetown area is much different than Stellenbosch. Christo kept saying it was typical English. Whatever it is, it is not as beautiful as the Cape Dutch architecture in Stellenbosch.

On our final approach to Capetown we passed through Hout Bay. Houtbay is on the outskirts of Capetown and is home to thousands and thousands of people who live in a “resettlement” area. This is a remnant of the difficult past. Here people are living in a shanty town. Little tin rooms, crunched on top of one another. It looks like a giant quilt of humanity. It is very sad and depressing. There is work to regularize these informal settlements. A few miles up the road we pass one of the areas where they are trying to make things better. We see what looks like hundreds of little bathroom stalls in the middle of nothing. They are not closed in, you can see the toilets. What they are trying to do is provide rudimentary plumbing for the people to come and build around. By “build” I don’t really mean construction of a house, but another informal settlement. But at least they would have some plumbing. A little further down the way there are small multi-room houses, close together, but bigger and “nicer.” Here there are schools. And still further, as we get closer to Capetown proper we see suburban-type neighborhoods with better (but not terrific) housing. Finally, as we get to the coastal area (which is built right up onto the sides of the mountain) we see the very expensive luxury homes and tourist places. The poverty slammed right up against luxury is glaring.

As we entered Capetown we saw the great cranes that are hard at work to build the new stadium for the World Cup in 2010. The airport is being enlarged also. There are mixed feelings about the World Cup being here. On the one hand, the prestige and tourism is great. Even Christo has his house pre-booked with friends from Germany for that event! But it is expensive to do all the construction and some people fear it will be too great an economic strain.

Speaking of sports. Only Doug G. knew about the Super 14 and I must confess that with all the coverage I am beginning to be won over to rugby.

We stop at the harbor and Andrea, Ricky and I get out to do some shopping while Christo and Marli head off for an errand. Andrea and Ricky were looking for some kitchen items, so we split up and I went off looking for things to bring home. There is a large mall, an open air area, and a craft building. The mall is modern and huge (and expensive). This is where the Apple store is. There are typical touristy stores too. The craft area is a large steel building with lots of little vendor areas in it. Most are just a few feet of space. There are typical African items (which often are not made in South Africa, but all the tourists think that those kinds of items are “African” and they want to get them to take home-some are probably made in China!). But there are also some small booths that display items from community efforts. There is one from a group that takes used teabags, dries them, takes the leaves out, irons them, and then paints them. Then they make all kinds of items from them (some are put on fabric bags, others used for trays or coasters or ornaments). Some of the teabags are rolled up to make beads and then jewelry is made from them. Another group continues the traditional glass beadwork skills of some tribes and makes various items (dolls, ornaments, jewelry, etc.) After a while it all starts to run together and get overwhelming, so you look for something really different. I found a lovely fabric store that had a box of scraps that you could pick from. They weigh the fabric and you pay by the weight. They had wonderful examples of hand-carved stamps that have been used for putting designs on fabrics (too bad they weren’t selling those!)

Finally, Christo and Marli returned and we had some ice cream before heading home. It was lovely to spend time in the car talking together. Only once did Christo and I start to venture off on a piece of Hebrew minutia. Whereupon Marli quickly said (in Afrikaans), “It’s Greek to me!” and exhorted us to leave the shop talk for during the week. We quickly obliged (after Christo got in one more question). Marli told us about her family, the house at the sea where they stay every December during their academic break (the academic year begins in February), and their church. We learned that Christo is a hamburger afficionado (and Marli is not). Christo likes to shop, and when he comes to the US he thinks it is great to go to Costco and Bed, Bath & Beyond!

Oh, and what was the errand Christo and Marli went on? Well, now that he has that nice new braai, the patio furniture was looking a little shabby. They were looking to find some furniture that would fit the braai better!

One thought on “Stellenbosch Update #10 (Posted Monday 2/18)

  1. Doug Green

    Weetabix and rugby. I could survive in South Africa. Throw in some cricket and I could even flourish.

    The Hebrew class is surviving. I’m getting some tough after-class questions. I told them to save them up until you come back.


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