Friday, November 23, 2007

Stellenbosch: in my bloed...

I was back in Stellenbosch and I cannot escape the feeling: the more things change, the more it stays the same. Please hear me our before I am crucified-I love Stellenbosch... Talking to a friend, who also studied at Maties (University of Stellenbosch), we reminisced about the good old(!) days 'op kampus', 'die rooiplein' (the red-square), 'die bib' (library), die 'Neelsie'(the cafeteria), 'die Laan'. He commented that its clear that many thing have changed in Stellenbosch- we almost don't recognize 'die Bos' anymore. Many new shops (especially coffee-shops) have opened, on campus you cannot walk into a building anymore, there is strict access control and you don't see the old familiar faces - its new ones in charge now. We exchanged cellphone numbers and promised to stay in touch, but then one starts to think: what has really changed ? These (new) coffee shops, on the pavements, we so love and hate, still seems to be like something foreign, like sitting somewhere in Europe (not in Africa). As I walked down 'Kerkstraat', most of the time I had to walk in the street, instead of on the pavement, sidestepping groups of camera wielding tourists. I went for a coffee at one (next to the historic Rhenish church). My waitress simply dumped the coffee on my table, never saying anything or smiling, maybe I was too much like her ( if you know what I mean). I was invisible- maybe my color wasn't green- I don't know. Anyway, the rest of the people of Stellenbosch, black and coloured seemed to remain basically invisible... there, but also not there. Our hometown (also) still seems to favor the moneyed and smacks a taste of the neo-colonialism. I loved the family though, spending precious time with friends (old and new) and passionate colleagues, carving out strategies for youth and student work in Southern Africa. It reminded me of why this piece of Africa, with all her ambiguities and hybidity, is, to put it simply- in my blood...
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Musings.....