Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 19 of our Trip

I am so sorry not to have posted the promised updates.  We have been fantastically busy but I hope to make up for it by posting a few details of our trip from my journal.  I will start with this past week and work backwards!  Cape Town is miserable today, we have high winds and rain, and I have a horrible cold.   The girls had intended to go to Greenmarket,which is a street market with lots of recommended shopping.  I haven't seen them go out yet!  This rain comes for the fact that at Cape Point the very cold Atlantic ocean meets the very warm Indian ocean and boom - rain!  However, they need the rain here, they have been having limited rainfall just like Texas, and it usually rains overnight and then clears up into blue skies and perfect temperatures.   So maybe we will be able to go to the top of table mountain later today...

4 days in South Africa – 13-16 June 2011

Monday 13th

The students, except Madi, who had lost her voice, went to Salesians for their usual commitments. I, too, was unwell. Trisha had a class to teach, alone, and Lauren and Rohaise had a workshop to teach, alone. Lauren made sandwiches so that her students could have a picnic; normally the students in the workshops only get bread, which, for some students, is their only meal of the day. The school students get a hot meal before they leave for the day.

In the afternoon Collin, Lauren, Trisha, FelEsia and Alex went to Zip Zap Circus. Collin interviewed Jose, an original Zip Zap student and the others went with Zip Zap to one of the local townships. Zip Zap has an outreach program there in which they teach circus skills to children who are living with HIV but have their illness in check through the good offices of Doctors without Borders. I will let the students talk about this amazing experience.

Tuesday 14th

We travelled, at 8am, to Kersefontein Farm near Hopefield. This was to prove one of the most educationally important excursions of our time here because of our host, Julian Melck and his historic property. Also, it was Rohaise’s 16th Birthday. We were in a mood of high excitement and the driver played traditional Afrikaner music for us as we travelled. Having stopped for sandwiches in the small country town of Malmesbury, we arrived at the farm at about 11am. It is not possible to do the farm justice by description and so I encourage anyone who is interested to look at the website We were taken into his beautifully, and historically, furnished sitting room where we all had tea served from a silver teapot, with matching silver milk jug and sugar bowl. Then, we had some free time whilst Julian and his staff had an hour off over lunch. It was great to explore our bedrooms, Rohaise and I stayed in the house whilst the others had magnificent rooms in the guest quarters. Lauren in particular had the finest room on the farm. Rohaise, being the birthday girl, had the 4 poster in the main bedroom in the house. The Melck family have owned the farm for 7 generations, since 1770. The farm itself dates back to 1744. Amidst this wealth of history we browsed Julian’s library and the environs; we found a huge boar (male pig) asleep behind one of the girl’s rooms! Julian was then kind enough to take those who had horse-riding experience out for a 2 hour ride across his farm. I stayed behind with Lauren and FelEsia; we took a long walk out over the farm, looking at the Berg river running by and spotting the scourge of Julian’s wheat – wild boar. We were surprised to see the riders returning driving cattle into the yard! They had come back past some cows and calves which Julian wanted to count and so herded them into the corral at the farm. Having untacked and turned the horses out into paddocks in front of the house the students, including Lauren and FelEsia helped Julian to cut the calves from the mothers so they could be counted. They all had a fabulous time.

Having discovered that Alex hunts wild pigs at home Julian offered to talk some of us, who wished to, out over the farm in his pick-up. He gave Alex a rifle and told him to shoot any boar, without babies, of a certain poundage. Unfortunately for Alex he had never shot boar from a moving vehicle before and so he wasn’t able to bring home dinner (Julian eats all that he shoots). The rest of us enjoyed an amazing drive over the farm at sunset. Having stopped to check on his lambs it was back to shower and change for dinner. We had all packed something smart so as not to disgrace the magnificent dining room! Julian, who used to fly in the SA Air force display team, had fitted out one of his farm buildings as an Officers Mess. We went there before dinner and thence to eat wonderful mushroom soup with home- made bread followed by wild boar and Malva pudding, which is an old Afrikaner dish similar to bread and butter pudding with a caramel sauce. Even two of our 4 vegetarians felt able to try the wild boar which was superb. Over dinner we discussed South African and US politics, farming as a global issue, human rights and law. Julian talked about how his income fluctuates depending on the price of wheat in Russia, Australia and the USA. He said that he gets wheat prices sent daily from Kansas so that he can budget. This was a good example for the students of the global market at work. We also discussed human rights. Julian had been at law school during apartheid and talked about what he studied as ‘human rights’ then. We also discussed the case brought by civil society against the health minister in which the courts required the government here to recognize that AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease. Julian shared with us that his staff though coloured never vote ANC because they are frightened of their culture disappearing. Also, he told us that most of the farm workers were the descendents of workers who had lived and worked on the farm for as many generations as his family had owned it. I think all of the students were taken aback by the fact that he would ring a bell for waiting service during dinner. Further, he shared with us that with farming employing less and less people he would not be able to employ all of the children currently on the farm. That amounts to a major problem for those kids because youth unemployment here is about 50%. Julian ensures that they all go to school but the future must be frightening for a young coloured kid from a farm in rural SA. After supper we all retired to the Mess where we continued to celebrate Rohaise’s birthday with Julian encouraging dancing by playing lots of party music. It was a wonderful, safe location for everyone to unwind after the many sad and difficult things we have seen during our first 14 days here.

15th June

Breakfast at 9.30am in Julian’s breakfast room which was decorated with dried flowers, examples of all the species found on his farm. The night before he had told us that Nelson and Gracia Mandela had been to visit the farm specifically to see his wild flowers. Breakfast was another feast with Kersefontain honey and milk. A classic English breakfast was served but many of the students were subdued either from 2 hours on horseback, or dancing, or both!

After breakfast we all retired to read, write journals and relax, except Alex who went out with Julian and brought back 5 wild boar for future guests’ dinners. I tried to walk but was driven back by high winds and rain; it was lucky that we had ridden the day before.

Lunch was yet another marvelous meal. This time we had fillet steak with lovely vegetables followed by floating islands. Julian told us that he sends his cooks away to Cape Town to cookery school so that the high standard of cuisine at the farm can be maintained.

Over tea Julian showed me a book “Human Rights and the South African Order” printed in 1978. It was very interesting to the students because it showed the level of censorship in Apartheid SA. The book was published by Princeton University Press and had, originally, contained a review on the back cover by a banded person. Thus before it could be sold in SA the review had been cut out of the back cover and a plain piece of hard paper put in its place – talk about experiential learning!

All too soon it was time to leave. We enjoyed our drive back with various points of interest being pointed out by our driver and a very long Afrikaner joke being told. We all fell into our beds, happy but tired. For many, St Bedes feels like home!

16th June

Today is a National holiday in honor of the people killed at Soweto. Thus, we have taken the time to catch up on learning, writing essays, doing research etc. Some of us have been discussing books which have been influential upon us. We are unsure whether the Salesians will be open tomorrow but if they are not we will go to the castle, District 6 museum and Bo Kaap.

I have learned how to pronounce two things in Afrikaans “Kaap” is pronounce Karp and means Cape, “stead” is pronounced stud and means town. Thus, Cape Town in Afrikaner is Kaapstead pronounced Karpstud. Also, I know that a pad is a road. The language, which is based on Dutch, seems difficult because of the way both vowels and consonants are doubled up.

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