Weekend R&R…& Students!

The weekend consisted of rest and relaxation for the most part. Saturday started with more rain, so I spent the morning reading & relaxing. Then the skies cleared, and Sheila treated me to an afternoon at a winery, or vineyard as they call them here (literally saying “vin yard”), called Hazendal, near the wine region of Stellenbosch (about 35 minutes east of Cape Town; Google it and you’ll see what a huge wine region this is).

Sheila had purchased a Groupon type of deal for wine tasting and lunch. I’m not sure of the total cost (I have to treat the next time), but I saw that it only cost R10 or about $1.50 for 5 tastes…and they are generous pours. And, even more, our waiter gave us a 6th one at no charge. He could tell I was from America, and when I told him that our region produces quite a lot of wine, he was surprised saying that he thought most wine comes from South Africa. 🙂 I guess we’re all a bit ethnocentric.

We enjoyed our cheese plate (including hugely popular fig jam) with our first few tastes, and then we had lunch. Afterward, we made our selections of what bottles to buy, though there was no pressure at all to purchase anything. We each selected three…I went with a Merlot that Reed will love, along with a red blend of Merlot, Cab, & Shiraz (R35!), and a Sauvignon Blanc. The total was R142, or ~$20, and these are very good wines (no comments, Reed, about my cheap wine tastes as I didn’t pick based on price!). You can see the lovely winery – or vineyard – with it’s traditional Dutch/Cape architecture, and some wine/food pics attached (you may notice that their logo looks a bit like Edgefield’s Black Rabbit). I also got a couple of good scenery pics from the car of their magical mountain.

Saturday night consisted of smoked salmon salads & bruschetta, a bit more merlot, and a rugby match on TV with Sheila’s neighbor, Binci (as in “inci binci spider”), joining us. Rugby is HUGE here, as is cricket…I walk by the cricket club on my way to school, as well as the rugby stadium (sponsored by DHL)…and of course football (you know, what we call soccer; Sheila supports the Arsenal [a UK team], FYI).

South Africa is still relishing in hosting the 2010 World Cup, despite the economic toll the 10 (I think) newly constructed stadiums have taken on the country’s economy. The church team saw the orange one in Nelspruit, near Kruger, which our driver said sits empty now. I got a peek of the new Cape Town stadium, and I saw the massive (favorite word here & in the UK…Reed, remember Stonehenge?) practice stadium too. Sheila said their stadium is used for rugby, soccer, and concerts, but feels the old one would’ve been suitable for the Cup (she said FIFA’s requirements resulted in the new one).

Anyway, it is rugby season in the winter, and the local Capetonian team, the Stormers, were away, taking on the Sharks of Durban. It was a big match as the Stormers sit atop the 15-team-SA-league with a record of 10-1. Unfortunately, I must be a jinx as the Sharks won 25-20. 🙁 I wasn’t really into it (shocker, I know), but I enjoyed the experience. I actually understood it by the end, and I can appreciate its much faster pace than American football…and complete lack of protective gear! Binci and Sheila clearly had their favorite players (Patrick Lambie for the Sharks and Peter Grant for the Stormers, both of whom were described as “luscious” by my local rugby enthusiasts). 🙂 Sheila and her brother actually have season tickets to the Stormers (& can walk from Sheila’s house), so they are pretty big fans I gather.

It was great to greet my students Sunday morning (of course)! Stanford picked me up at 9:45 and we made the short trek to the airport, after picking up two Brazilians who were going back home (I learned that Brazilians take a long time to say goodbye and have a LOT of luggage). I’ve included a picture of us with Stanford at the airport (don’t worry, we didn’t lose Kym; she arrived the day prior). They all looked good but said they were very tired, of course. I pray they rest well and can hit the ground running Monday morning. They have the energy of youth on their side I guess.

We drove to Plumstead where they all are staying. First we dropped off Jen with her hosts, Clive & Ursula Baatjes. Kym is at this homestay too, but she and Ursula were on a walk so I did not get to see her. Clive said she had settled in nicely and woke early this morning. Next we took Courtney and Crystal to the home of Yul & Sabine Eckardt, where we also met their 6-year-old daughter, Lauren. They had a pretty intimidating looking German Shepherd that Courtney wasn’t too happy to see. Hopefully the pooch is a nice family dog once s/he knows you’re part of the family. Finally, we delivered Kelsey and Kjersten to their hosts, Patrick & Beryl Riley, a nice older couple who had just returned from church. All of the hosts were very warm and I trust the “girls” (as the GHS staff calls them) settled in well today and got some good rest.

Sunday afternoon, Sheila drove us through Camps Bay and Bantry Bay to Sea Point, where we walked along the Atlantic for about an hour (several pictures are below). Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, was off in the distance (I’ll be taking the ferry there with the students Tuesday if the weather holds). Being a beautiful “winter” day (I’m guessing close to 70 degrees, sunny, & no wind), lots of people were out walking, jogging, and playing in the park. On our return walk, we even stopped for gelato…yum.

We drove past the Table Mountain cable car on the way, and when we returned she took us through downtown Cape Town, including the Waterfront, where I’ll be staying once my family arrives on June 21. it looks like a LOT of fun with attractions (including a wheel like the London Eye), shops, restaurants, and a working dockyard…something for everyone.

Finally, on the way back to Sheila’s, we stopped at the Cecil Rhodes memorial. It boasts a great view of the city/cape, as well as a pretty substantial granite memorial, complete with several lions, which children appear to enjoy climbing. Rhodes was a diamond and gold mine baron, and he set aside a large amount of land (i.e., where the memorial sits) for conservation. I think he was a president of SA too, though I’m not sure and my guidebook doesn’t say.

It was a great afternoon excursion, and I’m starting to get my directions figured out (though I still often feel turned around, which isn’t like me as I have a pretty good sense of direction [just ask my parents how I helped navigate the family through New York when I was 16…but don’t ask Reed how I did on our way to Normandy, France]). 🙂

When we got home, I thought I’d try to call my niece, Tess, who graduates from high school today in Vinton, Iowa. Fortunately, my timing was perfect as I got to speak with her, as well as my sister, two young nieces, and my mom. It’s a big day there, and I’m so sorry to miss it…but, the good news is Tess will be coming along with the family next month for our South Africa/Swaziland adventure. (Not a bad way to celebrate one’s high school graduation, if you ask me!)

The students and I have a very full week – probably our fullest of the four – with orientations, outings, classes, practicum experiences, and getting accustomed to this place. They (we) will be learning so much just by being in such an international setting. I feel that experiences like these are incredibly valuable, and they are certainly key in meeting Concordia’s mission of preparing leaders to transform society…we must be prepared to transform diverse segments of society, not just our own. I hope to have some exciting posts…stay tuned!

NOTE: Until welcoming my students at the airport Sunday, I had not encountered an American since the church team and I parted ways on Tuesday. Nearly five days with no Americans around…so strange. Makes me feel kind of special and weird all at the same time!