In this post I plan to wrap up my series, covering nearly four weeks of my various traipsings through Wisconsin, Minnesota, Amsterdam and South Africa (here
I took my first exam (Old Testament criticism) the Wednesday after I arrived in Stellenbosch. It was the first exam I had taken in nearly three years, since PBU courses didn’t typically require exams. I had never taken an oral examination before, so I was a bit nervous. But supposed that there was only so much Dr. Jonker could ask about each of seven books in an hour–at worst, I’d only have to talk about each book for 8.6 minutes, right? It turned out to be quite enjoyable: we sat in his office and talked about the Old Testament. He was gracious enough to give me quite a high mark–the equivalent of an A on an American scale.
My second exam was not until Monday, and so I took some time Thursday to Saturday for some sightseeing. Thursday I took a wine tour–my first ever. The hotel arranged it, and I wasn’t quite sure what it would be like. Turns out I was the only one on the tour; for about $25, my driver took me to as many wineries in the area as I wanted. At each place I tasted perhaps 7-10 wines–usually for free or a few rand. It was quite a pleasant experience; I had the same “aspiring elitist” feeling I get when I visit art museums (or do archaic things with words, such as using the diëresis)–except that I actually enjoyed myself.
I’ve posted quite a few more photos from the wine tour here
The wind was quite strong that day, and my touristy, wide-brimmed cloth hat nearly blew away several times. (I decided that looking silly was a small price to pay for avoiding skin cancer, but I was certainly not going to wear the chin-strap-thingy with the hat. I do have a tiny shred of dignity when it comes to fashion.)
During my meanderings about town, I ran across many interesting buildings and signs.
The Burgerhuis Museum is in a small Cape Dutch colonial house:
This is the Moederkerk, the oldest “Mother church” in Stellenbosch:
The University has a horticulture program and beautiful botanical gardens:
This is the store of a local eccentric who repairs–you guessed it–guns and clocks:
A strange advertisement on a car–outside the liquor store, no less:
I didn’t get an explanation on this one until later:
I had made arrangements with the brother of a friend of a friend (who was in Apollo 13 with Kevin Bacon) to see Cape Town on the Saturday before I left. Piet and his girlfriend, Colette, gave me the grand tour of the city, including a cable-car ride up Table Mountain, sushi at a fine restaurant and a hike through Kirstenbosch Gardens. I took dozens of photos, including these near the mountain:
Table Mountain runs the length of the Cape Peninsula, so from the top you can see the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the coast leading up to Namibia to the north, and the Indian Ocean to the south and east. The city is between the mountain and the Indian Ocean. The mountain, as its name suggests, is long, flat on top, and steep down the sides. It is possible to hike to the top, but we took the cable car (a much more pleasurable experience in the near 100ºF heat). The Gardens were incredible; South Africa has more species and varieties of flora and fauna of any nation on earth.
I spent nearly all of Sunday in my hotel room, reading for my Philosophy of History exam the next day. I was dismayed by how uneducated I am in the area of philosophy, but heartened by my experience earlier in the week with an oral exam. My hope was that Dr. Vosloo would focus on Ricoeur’s Memory, History, Forgetting, with which I am starting to feel reasonably comfortable. My hopes were realized, and the exam turned out just fine. I was quite pleased with a B+ grade–not bad, seven years removed from Honors Philosophy in college. More important than the grade, I feel that mastering those readings gave me a stronger theoretical foundation for the historical component of my thesis.
Helen, the owner of the hotel, drove me to the airport for my 11:50 flight Tuesday night. As I awaited the boarding call, I reflected on my first time in Africa. I didn’t come up with anything terribly introspective or brilliant–just that I had enjoyed myself but was pleased to be returning to my wife and baby. How nice it would be, I thought, to bring them here. Someday….