Stellenbosch Update #9 (Sunday, February 17, 2008)

I haven’t given much of a description of the grocery market yet. Here’s a glimpse at the similarities and hilarious differences. The store I am shopping in is Checkers. It is a nice grocery store (at least I think it is nice). The first section you enter is a produce section. The variety is quite amazing. Of course there is the local fruit, but not everything is in season yet (so avocados are coming from somewhere else). Also, there are citrus varieties from Israel. But the most typical fruits are bananas, apples, mangoes, figs, grapes, strawberries, watermelons, and lots of pulpy fruits that I have no idea what to call. There are tomatoes and onions and potatoes. You pick your fruit, put it in a bag and someone weights it there in the produce section.

On to bakery. Here you can find all your breads and sweets. I haven’t really purchased anything, so I don’t know much about the baked goods. Mrs. de la Bat put some bread in my room and I’ve been eating that. I do know that most people don’t eat white bread. They will save white bread for grilling on the braai as a special treat. The bakery section also has pies. Not dessert pies, but meat pies. I have tried the chicken and mushroom pie, and have steered clear of the steak and kidney pie. Not all pies are alike though. The pies in the store are pretty blah. The pies at King Pie are better. And the pies at some of the eateries are really, really good (Greengate has a great chicken pie).

In addition to Doom bug spray, you can find Killem. These two brands (along with Peaceful Sleep) seem to dominate the insecticide market. One thing that would be tempting to take home are little oil containers that plug into the wall, but instead of fragrances (like at home) these emit an insect repellent to keep your room free from insects (allegedly) at night. The nice thing is that most of the brands of insect repellent actually do smell pretty decent. I wonder if the Peaceful Sleep brand is talking about the sleep of the insects or the people?

Speaking of plugs, who in the world came up with the South African electric outlet plug? It is three times the size of our US plugs. That’s a lot more material to make them and a lot more space for packing up (my computer bag has a large lump in it from the plug adapter).

OK, back to the grocery store. In some ways, the market reminds me of Hungary. For example, the milk is in bags (or in boxes on the shelf, like Parmalat). And you usually bring your own bag (otherwise you have to buy one from the cashier).

There are lots of varieties of yogurt with exotic fruits. The meat aisle just smells funny, so I avoid it. It could be because it is next to the seafood display which is usually dominated by a huge octopus.

There are many kinds of cold cereals (the Greens would be happy to find Weetabix). Muesli is abundant too. Cookies are not as diverse. More like what Ros is used to probably. Mostly UK-type biscuits. But when it comes to potato chips… wow. Many more flavors than we have. Candy is either Cadbury type chocolate or gummie types. There are also imported candies like Lindt and Ferrerro Roche. Those are pretty expensive. But the more common candy bars are the equivalent of about 50 cents.

Stellenbosch is a mixture of tourist, university, and retirement populations. It’s a lovely town, so, many people decide to retire here. And then there are all the vineyards! Just in the Stellenbosch area there are over 150. I think Christo is hoping to take me to at least a few vineyards one afternoon next week.

Sunday Evening February 17, 2008 (Trip to Capetown)

Christo and Marli, Andrea and Ricky (an American couple who just moved here and are doing Masters degrees at the university) arrived to pick me up at 9:30 am. We drove out of Stellenbosch and straight to the coast (south). I hadn’t realized how very close we were to the ocean. Then we turned west and followed the coast all the way around the bay to Capetown. We saw some scenery that cannot be fully described with words because it was so beautiful and other scenes of resettlement areas that are so hard to describe because they break your heart. I’m going to post a photo album in Facebook and comments for now and write a longer update describing the trip later.