The past couple of days have been quite eventful:
-Surviving a 40 hour flight CHECK
-Meeting the 24 teachers I’m living with for the next five weeks CHECK
-Attending lectures on South African geography CHECK
-Almost getting left by the tour bus…twice CHECK
I shook off my sleep coma in time for our first lecture on South African geography held in a private high school in Cape Town. We were provided an in depth lesson on the lack of tourism development of the country’s hot springs. Many of the springs were thought to have healing capabilities along with elevated radon levels!!! I am not sure I will be dipping into one anytime soon, but some of the images really showed the diverse landscape of this vast country. That in itself helped me to get a clearer sense of the country and how people may have used/still use the natural environment today, radon and all.
So, we set off the next day to see some of the natural landscape the Cape offers. Unfortunately, our plan to ascend Table Mountain was foiled by the fog and clouds, but fortunately, we made our way to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek to see other parts of the Western Cape. We first stopped in Stellenbosch, about thirty minutes outside of Cape Town at the foot of the mountains, to tour around Stellenbosch University and it’s city center. We were informed that Stellenbosch University’s courses were exclusively taught in Afrikaans after Freshman year which gave many of my colleagues pause about the implications of that specific institutionalized practice. The campus was aesthetically pleasing as its’ all-white buildings with red tiled roofs flowed seamlessly into the foothills of the nearby mountains. The city center also followed suit with mostly all-white buildings and red tiled or thatched roofs that provided a sense of serenity as I walked through the streets. We soon made our way to the Stellenbosch Museum where the story of the town’s prominent families was told. As we toured their various homes, the museum brought some historical background of slaves into the picture. The museum claims that the majority of the enslaved were imported from Malaysia while only a few of the indigenous population was used to work the fileds and vineyards. The historians went onto say that the indigenous slaves were treated much better than the Malays because they were christened and freed after age 25. In my mind, being enslaved for one day or for life is still slavery.
The region is still facing similar issues apparently with the farm worker community. Many of the vineyards pay their workers a portion of their small salary with wine which is leading to a rise of alcoholism of the workers. Many said that they felt tied to the land/job because they’ve known nothing else.
Afterwards, we made our way into the mountains (and clouds) to visit the French Huguenot village of Franschhoek. The town seems to have situated itself as a tourist center for the wine country with it’s main street lined with small boutiques and restaurants and wine bars.
I was not late for the bus back to Cape Town.