Travelogue III: Cape to College

It’s been a few weeks since my previous travelogue post, and over a month since I returned from South Africa. A quick perusal of my posts since mid-April will show that I’ve been keeping busy, preaching, playing in the band, working on my thesis, and blogging about other things. There are quite a few more interesting things to write about the trip, though, so I’ll try to finish off the travelogue in the next week or so.

I arrived in Cape Town late on Friday, April 1. Craig, a pastor friend-of-a-friend, picked me up at the airport quite late, and I slept until 11am the next morning. Craig shares a nice house in a hip section of town with another guy. He invited me to join him at an informal birthday gathering for one of his friends from church that afternoon, and then to watch a rugby match with another group of friends later in the afternoon. I had a wonderful day getting to know some of his friends, talking to “the locals” about culture, food, religion, politics–it was great fun. Craig very graciously drove me to Stellenbosch after the match–a drive of about 30 minutes.

After checking into my hotel, I got a hankerin’ for some beef late that first night in Stellenbosch. My hotel was on the southwestern edge of town, off of Dorpstraat, so I walked east toward the centre of town. It was a walk I would learn well, since the School of Theology is at Dorp and Drostdy, and the town centre is up Bird and Mill.

Once in town, I stopped in at the first pub on Dorp, De Akker. I pulled up a stool, ordered a beer and a burger, and chatted with a couple of older folks at the bar. I was surprised to find that my burger included a fried egg on the patty! I have to say, it sort of ruined the burger for me. I wondered if this were a standard South African way of serving a hamburger, but apparently it’s unique to this pub–one of the oldest in town.

Sunday morning, I walked into town again and attended St. Paul’s Church (CESA). I expected an Anglican service with traditional music, the BCP, short homily and the Eucharist. Instead, I found a band with drums and guitars (playing worship tunes from the early ’90s–my favorites!), no kneeling pads or BsCP, and no Eucharist! It was more like the PCA church I attend than the Reformed Episcopal church I’ve visited. Not disappointing, just not what I expected.

Monday I Voortrekked about the town, trying to find the International Office. The University is sort of sprawled over the eastern half of town, so I got to see quite a bit of it before I found my destination. After checking in and getting my student ID card, I walked back south to the School of Theology to meet Dr. Jonker for the first time.

We had a pleasant lunch at a local cafe. I find Dr. Jonker to be a very earnest and thoughtful conversation partner. He told me of the history of the School of Theology and its building. Apparently, the building was originally the seat of colonial government in the town, and the grounds were made into an island by digging an alternate channel for the river so that it flowed on both sides.

He also recounted his own experiences as an undergraduate and graduate student at the University, and some of his experiences growing up under Apartheid and watching its fall as quite a young man in the early ’90s. I believe he is in his 40s, and he told me of one of his black doctoral students who was the same age and grew up in essentially the same town as he had, except in the segregated black township. Having met at university as teacher and student, they realized that they had grown up in parallel worlds: attending segregated schools and churches. Dr. Jonker’s father was a police officer, and this black fellow’s father occasionally had run-ins with the police. Both Dr. Jonker and his student are grateful for their friendship that is now possible post-Apartheid.

I spent much of Monday and Tuesday studying for my OT examination with Dr. Jonker on Wednesday. The School of Theology has its own library, and I studied there quite a bit, but I also had all the books I needed in my hotel room, so I spent quite a bit of quiet time there. Being accustomed to having internet access wherever I go, I found it quite inconvenient to have no access at the hotel and no WiFi at the University (I didn’t want to pay to have my laptop or iPod Touch configured). I spent quite a few rand at the internet cafe on Bird St, mostly video-chatting with Corrie and Daniel. I felt emotionally isolated; I didn’t really know anyone, and I didn’t feel that I could speak freely to my wife in that public setting.

I also didn’t “go out” to eat very much. First of all, I was on a limited budget, and I’m quite satisfied with a loaf of bread, a wedge of cheese, a mango, an apple, and a bottle of wine. An excellent meal from the grocery store could cost me R25-R30, which is about $4. The cafés and restaurants were reasonably priced, but it’s just awkward to eat out by oneself. Plus, I was somewhat panicked about next week’s Ricoeur exam, so I preferred to eat in my room where I could read.

I needn’t have worried so much about the OT exam. I passed with flying colours, and I actually enjoyed discussing the material with Dr. Jonker. It’s so nice to have reached a period in my formal education in which I don’t have to study anything I really don’t want to; just about everything I read and write is interesting to me. Looking back, I wish I had been able to get more out of the classes I didn’t really like–but now I can just study those things as far as I wish to.

In my next (and probably final) installment, I’ll recount more of my site-seeing experiences in Stellenbosch and then in Cape Town.

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About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, living and learning in Eastern Europe…an Old Testament professor and former liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three, brother-in-law to Josh and Hannah…uncle to Marshall.
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