I have previously mentioned that this is a country of great contrast. In the past week we have done a complete 180. We arrived last Sunday in Stellenbosch for our third homestay. We stayed with a white Afrikaans family in the beautiful wine-country just outside Cape Town. The Afrikaner population represents just 10% of the SA people, but hold almost all of the country’s economic power. They live a lifestyle of wealth and luxury. The town is quaint- streets lined with cafes and boutiques. It is a student-town, home to the University of Stellenbosch. Students walk the streets in the afternoon, hoping in and out of boutiques under the warm fall sun.
I stayed with a family of five: Mini, Yohn, Andreas, Mia and Mia’s boyfriend Yohn. We also quickly got to know their watchdog Toyitoyi and Mini’s hamster, cuppie-cake. We lived in a luxurious home and ate delicious home-cooked meals. My home had a wine cellar, flat screen TV, dog without fleas, a sauna and a pool.
We spent the week learning a little Afrikaans at the University of Stellenbosch. The university has debated for the last ten years about the language of instruction. Whether to hold onto the home-language of 60% of the students, Afrikaans, or to work to integrate more English into instruction. We had multiple lecturers at the university about this topic, giving us multiple opinions and perspectives.
We had individuals speak to us about the political and cultural history of the Afrikaners. The Afrikaners held the political power under apartheid, with the Nationalists party in power. We have spent much of the semester learning about the oppressed the black side of the story. South Africans aren’t afraid about talking about race, social class or gender. It was interesting to spend the week learning about the other side. We discussed the politics of apartheid and the ever-changing Afrikaner identity how it has changed in the last 17 years post-democracy.
Stellenbosch’s main industry is wine production. The land is covered in grapes growing in hundreds of extensive vineyards. We toured two wineries while in Stellenbosch: M’Hudi wines and Somes Delta. M’Hudi imports its grapes and has them distilled by a 3rd party. It prides itself in being one of just a few wineries in South Africa that is owned by black owned. While tasting the wines we learned about the history of the company and how it operates today in marketing its unique quality. The following day we visited Somes Delta, a gorgeous vineyard with over hundreds of acres of grapes. We toured the land and learned about their community involvement in making wine. We had an elegant lunch outside while tasting nine of their wines.
Saturday evening a few friends and I took a trip into Cape Town for the 2nd annual Carnival. Long Street, the social center of Cape Town was swarmed with people, dancers, singers and floats. People lined the streets outside the bars and pubs to watch the parade. I met up with two of my Vanderbilt friends and spent much of the night on the roof of a bar, watching as the people below danced and celebrated the arts of Cape Town.