Stellenbosch Update #5 (Thursday, February 14, 2008)

Lots to talk about, so let’s get down to it.

Bartering. Most regular shops don’t barter, but markets and little kiosks or carts do. First thing to remember: go close to closing time, they are more desperate to make a sale. If they are packing up, all the better. The first thing they will tell you is “Looking is for free.” And then they try to start up a conversation with you, this is their way of finding out your accent or a “hook” to keep you (like knowing your name or the country you are from). I hardly ever talk at first. Finally, if I am really interested in something and they ask where I am from, I will say I am a student at the university and am going home soon and want to bring some gifts. This usually gets the “oh, you are one of us, I can give you such a deal” lines. Well, they will start out lower than for the tourists and will be willing to barter more, but they still work hard to get more from you than you should pay. I have nothing to lose, so I only offer what I really think is a good deal for me. So far I usually get down to about half of their starting price.

Flora and Fauna. Lots of plants and trees. I love the lavender bushes that line the streets, it is so fragrant. In our courtyard garden there are lemon trees and corn plants! We also have other flowering bushes, but I don’t know what they are yet. There is bougainvillea across the street. Also huge hibiscus plants. I haven’t seen any little furry things like squirrels or chipmunks. No cats, but I did hear a dog at night.

Oh, a leftover tidbit from yesterday. The shop Oom Samie se Winkel means “Uncle Sam’s Shop.” I like the name Tuinwinkel (“garden shop”) because of how it sounds. Also, I mentioned that Oom Samie had leather fly swatters. Let me assure you, these are not the wimpy fly swatters of North American variety. These leather swatters could be used as a crop for an elephant.

Interesting food items. I saw some Fanta soda in the store yesterday… it was Pineapple! The food here is very diverse. Some very European, some Malay (the brown people are descendants of Malay people), and some unclassifiable stuff. It all coexists quite nicely. Anyway, on the morning menu at the café you could choose Toast with Marmite, anchovette, jam or chees. Or you could get Savory Mince on toast. But you could also choose eggs, yogurt/fruit, or muffins/scones. So, take your pick. But always with coffee served with hot milk. They always ask if you want hot milk or cold milk.

So far I have not experienced any of the notorious roving power outages. Maybe at night when I am sleeping, but I haven’t noticed. Still, it has been typical recently since all rooms seem to have candles and torches at hand. The University has all kinds of power devices for students to buy so that their studies won’t be disturbed during outages.

Last night was quite interesting. I was reading in bed and heard a rustling in the wardrobe. I thought it might be a mouse or rodent of some kind. It was not something I wanted to encounter. In fact, it sounded like a Rodent of Unusual Size. I sat quietly with the leather swatter in one hand and Doom in the other (what else could I try?). The intruder started to rustle under the other bed in the room. OK, now I’m really not going to sleep. I make sure I have my slippers nearby. Then, it pokes out from under the bed… it is a cricket masquerading as a Rodent of Unusual Size. Yes, really. This silly little (not in size) creature had crawled in the window and was trying to return out the window to its fellow creatures who were calling in the night. Just then, thunder and lightning rolled in, so the outside creatures stopped chirping. Silly guy in my room now does not know where to go, so he hides under the bed. It starts to pour. And pour. OK, this is going to be a long night and I will probably have the RUS under the bed all night. Eventually I give up and go to sleep. At least I know it isn’t going to bite me.