I finally got some photos uploaded to Flickr.  If you’re interested, you can link from the right hand column.




The most popular wine farms in South Africa are closer to Cape Town than Napa Valley is to San Francisco.  As long as you’re not driving, it’s an easy day trip to visit 3 or 4 in a day.  Recently, I hopped in the car with my flatmate and did just that.  All of the names appear to be of some derivation of Afrikaans, like Rust en Vrede or Stellenzicht.  Rain or shine, is impossible not to be impressed by the natural beauty of the Cape.  Heading

the grapes grow in bunches shaped like the continent

southeast on along the mountain ridge, we followed the path of the blazing sun as it peaked high above and lighted our way like a halo.  The landscape is layered, vines cleaving to dramatic peaks, and clouds shielding an immense sky.  The land and the climate impose themselves on you much more than northern California. The

Stellenzicht Wine Farm

wind gusts and guffaws, cooling and creating a false sense of security from the effect of the raging sun.  I may be oversensitive to the extreme clime, but the red wines tastes drier and the white wines crisper.  Conforming to the typical South African paradox, my day is blemished only by my cringe of conscience as we sped back into Cape Town, past the blocks of township shacks in the distance.

Recent Events

Complications with internet access and complications with class work load leave me needing to condense several events into one post.  My professors were unsympathetic to my blogging responsibilities…

  • Conflict in Africa.  This time, instead of learning about it, I’m teaching it.  I’ve switched volunteer organizations so that instead of teaching English, I’m working with a university organization to teach Rugby in Khayalitsha, the largest township in Cape Town (with as many people as in the city proper).  The kids come to play in the grey slacks and maroon sweaters of their school uniforms, usually removing their black dress shoes to play barefoot.   They have started teaching me the various “click” sounds (which are not easy), while I’ve pretended to teach them something about rugby.
  • I tend to underestimate the wind in this city; I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.   Yesterday was beautifully sunny, so I decided to multi-task by going to the beach to enjoy the sun while trying to get reading finished for class.  FAIL.  Going to the beach on a windy day is like being a part of Ishtar.  If Lawrence of Arabia could have been filmed here.   My textbook will forever be leaking grains of sand and I got FRIED.  My head is peeling brown splotches.  (gross.)  Walking to the car was a comedic experience.  If I had made a silent movie, it would gone viral on YouTube.
  • Not indifferent to the politicizing surrounding it, a discarded Cadbury wrapper lay crumpled upon one of the desks as I peered down from the gallery.  No matter how much Max Weber tried to prepare you for the monotony of the political process, a visit to Parliament still seems significant.  The room screamed out in ochre hues, the desks of light, yellowish wood, the leather chairs in beige, and the fading carpet a strange yellow with a multi-colored pattern in the center.  Water waitresses circulated and politely took orders.  Heckling and catcalls and private conversations from the half full assembly spiced the speeches.  The occasional speech in Xhosa or Afrikaans rustled three or four to reach for their translators.  There were a large number of large women in traditional dress.  Two-thirds of the horseshoe of seats were reserved for the ANC, while the rest seemed a conglomerate of white parties.  Topics included the readiness for the World Cup and maintenance of Robben Island.  I enjoyed the air conditioning for awhile and tried to make eye contact with the members before giving up and heading home.
  • Attended Ash Wednesday service at St. George’s Cathedral, Desmund Tutu’s former church.  Good sermon, nice ashes, impressive use of 3 languages in the liturgy.  Too long, too verbose, non-contemplative.  (For a completely different Ash Wednesday experience, chew on this).  We left early, had a coffee, then caught a performance of “Infecting the City,” a free public arts project consisting of a wide range of performances at various venues across the City Bowl.  We saw “Dancing Jesus,” a guy with a fake beard and a wig tap-dancing wildly to a re-mixed hymn.  It formed a remarkable juxtaposition with the stately liturgical service.
  • One of my housemates, Kasia, had a fairy tale themed birthday party at the house recently.  While several others actually rented costumes ranging from Shrek to Alice in Wonderland to Peter Pan (tights and all), I used my niece, Alex’s, stuffed frog to create my outfit: the frog who turned into a prince.It was a very interesting party, as it boomed on through the French doors from the patio into my bedroom at 3 am on a school night…I have a badly-placed room in a badly made house.  I’m next to the stairs and the patio (which serves as our living room/beer parlor) and below a girl who apparently does step aerobics when she wakes (before me) every morning.Pre-party preparations required the frying of chicken, which Nicole and Kasia taught me how to do.  They, of course, found my ignorance hilarious, since the one thing everybody knows about Kentucky is KFC.


Photo by:

This restaurant is so famous across Cape Town that it even gets the white people to go to the townships.  The reputation is well-deserved.  There is a deli cooler in the front room filled with steaks, boerwoers, ground beef, hearts, etc. from which you select what you would like to eat.  Then, they send you to the back room to get the meat cooked.  The room is wall-to-wall grills, and you hand your meat to one of the grill-masters.  Meanwhile, you can choose from two side items: pap and steamed bread.  Pap (Ugali for you Kenyans out there) is a rice-mush that you could plug tires with.  The bread is to dip in the barbeque sauce. There was not a vegetable in sight.

Please don’t ask for cutlery, you’ll embarrass me.  You eat with your hands.

It was reminiscent, of course, to the barbeque of the American South.  Lots of meat and carbs.  The dipping of the bread in barbeque sauce, in particular, reminded me of the Birmingham restaurant Dreamland.

Train to the End of the Earth

The train lurches forward on the track with considerable effort, in great contrast to the scene unfolding  just out of arm’s reach beneath its windows.  The view into and across False Bay shimmers with the blazing sun, my first glimpse of the Cape’s beautiful white beaches.  The tracks hug the coastline for the last quarter of its route, maybe 20 km., and affords a bird’s eye view of the chiseled pools of tide water, dangerously but magnificently-perched restaurants, and beach games of cricket or rugby.

The journey south along the Cape would be worth it for this alone, but my trip today offers more.  First it is a chance to get out of the city and expand my view of South Africa.  Not that I’ve really gone so far, but I’ve broken the geographical constraints of the Jammie shuttle to school and experienced some of the freedom I desire.  Furthermore, I get to experience the dreaded, infamous, much maligned train—“Ride it, and you will surely die!”

The main purpose of my trip is to visit the penguins at Boulder Beach.  Simon’s Town is home to the only penguin species that breeds in Africa (one of two species that breed outside of Antarctica).  Much smaller than the photogenic Emperor Penguin, there must have been 400-500 inside the park.  They socialize in couples and stay monogamous.  For more on penguins and other cute animals, check out this reactionary website.

The best part of the visit was the beach where you can swim with the penguins.  A unique experience of which I wasn’t able to partake, unfortunately, due to my poor choice of attire.  I did manage to get into their kitchen, take a beer from the ‘fridge, and hang out on their sofa.  I’ve got the pictures to prove it.

Back on the train, the air rushes in the window and pleasantly past my face while Xhosa clicks in one ear.  Squeezed between a large Xhosa mama and the wall, my knees touch with those of the man in the facing seat.  Three teenage boys behind his right shoulder hold onto handrails and stare through the open train doors to salute the setting sun as the train pounds its way toward twilight.  I close my eyes, appreciating the soft breeze and for the first time, feel like I’m in Africa.

Beginning of the Semester

Class begins on Monday.   After a week of pre-registration, registration, and orientations, I am looking forward to settling into some kind of routine.

Class Roster

  • Conflict in Africa
  • Transitional Justice
  • Political Ethics
  • International Protection of Human Rights

The culmination of these classes is supposed to be 100 pages of thesis…

Additionally, I’ve joined several student societies:

  • Ubunye: a service society that visits the townships 1/week to tutor in schools.
  • Wine.soc: a social group dedicated to learning more about vinification.
  • The Ultimate Frisbee Team